July 5, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Earthquake in Alaska: Palin quits
Just when you think the Sarah Palin saga couldn't get any stranger, she shocks us again. The Alaska governor's "stealthy" Friday-before-holiday-weekend announcement that she would be leaving office later this month was obviously calculated to minimize the inevitable notoriety that such a move would cause. For the time being, there is no basis to the insinuations that she may be in legal jeopardy, possibly related to the tax evasion allegations of last February. I think most people would understand that a mother of five really would need to "spend more time with her (or his) family," which is the standard (often bogus) excuse that politicians give when they resign or decide not to seek reelection. That plus the increased cost of commuting from Wasilla to Juneau, Alaska because of gasoline price hikes might be reason enough.
The problem, however, is that Gov. Palin's announcement was very vague, and full of self-pity and finger-pointing that left people's mouths open. Huh??? It was not very encouraging to those who might want to give her the benefit of the doubt. She bemoaned the "superficial political blood sport" to which she and her family were subjected since she gained instant fame last August. See politico.com. Other than David Letterman's off-color reference to her daughter last month, I can't think of any nasty barbs that have been flung her way lately. As they say, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
Her finely-tuned adeptness in the art of playing the "victim" gave me an intriguing insight about why Palin is so popular in the Conservative Movement these days. As I have written in the past, conservatism as is presently known in this country bears all the hallmarks of "pseudo-conservatism," Richard Hofstadter's term that refers to right-wing ideological purists who are prone to falling into a trap of paranoia and self-defeatism. (See October 2006.) They are more concerned with identifying enemies than solving real-world problems, and whenever they gain power in a party or government, anyone who does not agree 100 percent is likely to be purged. What makes Sarah so special for filling the Movement's "leadership void" is that she is a woman. A man couldn't play the victim card for very long without looking phoney or wimpish, but Sarah is ideally suited for that job.
While I don't begrudge Gov. Palin's decision to step down from her public duties, I do think this proves that she lacks the basic sense of public responsibility that any elected official, especially one touted as a possible presidential candidate, should have. If the governor of a state is going to abruptly quit her job with only the flimsiest of excuses, very few if any reasonable non-partisan people are going to vote for her as president. So while she may retain aspirations for higher office, she is basically doomed as a viable national candidate for the next few years at least.
In the Washington Post, Dan Balz assumes, as do most people, that Gov. Palin "remains interested at least in exploring a presidential campaign for 2012." Nonetheless, her "judgment and political instincts were again called into question by her decision to quit." It's one thing to announce in advance that she would not run for reelection as governor (like Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota), but just abandoning her office on an apparent whim? Something just doesn't add up. As Balz writes,
Palin is entitled to resign the office. But in disparaging others to justify her course, she has left herself open to legitimate criticism that she is walking away for the wrong reasons.
Even though my initial reaction to the selection of Sarah Palin to be John McCain's running mate was very positive, I later had second thoughts and ultimately concluded she was a net liability, forcing the McCain campaign to backslide into the old habit of "energizing the base" rather than reaching out to "nonpartisan, independent-minded voters. ... It was a strategy doomed to failure." In sum, we an only hope that Sarah Palin's time out of the public eye will give her a chance to reflect and mature as she ponders her political future. Without a major adjustment, I'm afraid, she is liable to further divide the Republican Party and isolate it from the mainstream of American voters.
Fourth of July, 2009
This year's Fourth of July parade in Staunton was blessed with sunny skies and mild temperatures, just perfect. The America's Birthday Celebration in Staunton has become quite an institution over the years, a key part of what define's this small city's identity. On the down side, the parade seems to get longer and longer every year, as the organizers apparently bend over backwards to accommodate just about anyone who wants to drive their vehicle through the park. Antique tractors and hot rods, yes, but 1974 GTOs and Mustangs? NO! Well, at least it's good clean fun for the kids.
Among the elected leaders who joined the parade were Congressman Bob Goodlatte, State Senator Emmett Hanger, and the members of the Staunton City Council. I was expecting the three area members of the House of Delegates and the Augusta County supervisors, but did not see any of them.* A few local Republicans manned the GOP booth, but there was no float like in the good old days (2005).** (As far as float-building, at least, I think most people would agree that former Augusta County GOP chairman Kurt Michael played a very positive role.)
* Steve Kijak (barely visible in the photo montage below, on top of the truck) posted a bunch of photos on his blog, too. Delegates Saxman, Landes, and Cline were indeed present!
** NOTE: The missing photo on that blog post was formerly on the swacgop.org Web site, which was essentially shut down in early 2007. (See March 2007 for a partial explanation; more detail is forthcoming...) Just for old times' sakes, CLICK HERE to see it. Patrick Carne, Vivian Jones, Cliff and Erma Fretwell, Henley Folk, Ray and Carol Ergenbright were among the enthusiastic volunteers behind that big Fourth of July event four years ago.
Quite a few Democrats were in the parade as well, some of whom were holding up a banner that read: "Health care: We can't wait!" I assume they mean that action is urgently needed. Well, if the U.S. government takes over the health care system in this country, that's exactly what you're going to have to do when you go see a doctor: WAIT!
ACORN & Census 2010
Unless you don't care whether population figures are arbitrarily manipulated for political reasons next year, take a look at Stop ACORN and the Census. Those left-wing "nuts" could end up messing up the balance of power in the House of Representatives. Hat tip to Stacey Morris.
"Freedom Fest" in Vegas
There is an interesting mix of characters slated to speak at the upcoming Freedom Fest, to be held in Las Vegas. It's less about libertarian philosophy or policy than it is about free thought. Hat tip to Dan.