The punditocracy continues to endlessly parse and discuss the resignation of Governor Palin’s resignation. Is it a prelude to a double secret super star strategy to become president in 2012?
Her resignation speech has been variously called “incoherent” and “aimless” which seem to be standard issue critiques of anything she says by the pundits. This is of course always contrasted with the super eloquent finely parsed teleprompter scripted speech of our president, but I digress. In any event, her language, though not the polished speech of east coast university elites is, nonetheless, fairly straightforward, and remarkably like ordinary people. Indeed that is part of her appeal.
Stanley Fish in the New York Tiimes is not particularly a fan of Palin and the New York Times is clearly not friendly territory for conservatives. Even so, he comments on her resignation and the pundits response:
Both Republican governors made rambling and sometimes halting statements of about 18 minutes (is that the canonical length for this kind of thing?), and in response the commentators speculated endlessly about why they had said what they said. The one explanation they didn’t seem capable of coming up with was that they meant it, that their words were coming from the heart, from an interior that may have been fissured and rocky, but was nonetheless (dare I use the word) genuine.
Palin had barely finished speaking when MSNBC paraded analysts from both sides of the aisle (Matt Lewis and Chris Kofinis) who agreed that (1) it was a disastrous performance and (2) they couldn’t for the life of them figure out why she had delivered it. Kofinis: “It’s hard to understand why she’s resigning.” Lewis: “What she’s essentially done is guarantee that no pundit could make any intellectual defense of her.”
Later, Joe Scarborough pronounced in the same vein: “It’s hard to find a compelling reason.” The former majority leader of her own party, Ralph Samuels, chimed in, “I’ve had a million calls today from friends, all political junkies, and everyone is asking the same questions. Is it national ambition, or does she want time to write the book, or is she just tired of it. Don’t have a clue.”
Maybe he should look at the video and pay attention this time to the reasons she gives. It is true that her statement was not constructed in a straightforward, logical manner, but the main theme was sounded often and plainly: This is not what I signed up for. I’m spending all my time and the state’s money responding to attack after attack and they aren’t going to let up because, “It doesn’t cost the people who make these silly accusations a dime.”
For normal people (meaning anyone who is NOT the punditocracy), Palin’s supposedly rambling and incoherent resignation was remarkably clear. It just doesn’t seem so to those for whom politics is the beginning, middle and end of every conversation. Fish continues:
She returned to her own sport, basketball, to explain that because she had become a distraction she was going to do what a good point guard always does, pass the ball to someone (her lieutenant governor) in a better position to make the shot. And in the end she earned the declaration that “I have given my reasons plainly and candidly.”But the pundits didn’t want to hear them or, rather, they were committed to believing that the real reasons lay elsewhere, and were strategic. They couldn’t fathom the possibility that she was just giving voice to her feelings. It must, they assumed, be a calculation, and having decided that, they happily went on to describe how bad a calculation it was.
They did this even when reporting on something that might have given them pause. It was generally agreed that because the statement was structurally chaotic, even formless, Palin had written it herself. No self-respecting political operative would have produced something so badly crafted. One would have thought that this would be seen as evidence of the absence of calculation, but instead it was received as evidence of her Alaska-limited understanding of politics. (Doesn’t she know, they asked, that resigning is no way to run for president?) Rather than reasoning from what they took to be the political ineptitude of her performance to the possibility that it wasn’t political, they just continued on their merry, muckraking way.
There is more to life than politics, and for Palin, that just may be the choice she’s made. Whatever the case, that so much money should have to spent by the state of Alaska, and by Palin personally to defend herself against what amounts to frivolous ethics charges points to a serious problem in our political system. The abuse of the legal system in this way is immoral and should be criminal. Agree or disagree with Palin, the system has to change.