It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Gov. Sarah Palin would surprise everyone by announcing that she was quitting her job by the end of July.
(CNN) — It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Gov. Sarah Palin would surprise everyone by announcing that she was quitting her job by the end of July. Everything about her career has been a surprise. I remember distinctly when Arizona Sen. John McCain selected Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. It was, to say the least, a surprise. I had just taken the red-eye from Denver, Colorado (and the Democratic convention), and friends were calling me, concerned that McCain was going to pick Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. One friend, in particular, was pushing for a little-known governor from Alaska, of all places, who seemed to hit all the right buttons for conservatives. This governor was pro-life, pro-gun and anti-tax, had high popularity ratings in the state, and best of all, she was a woman. The thought was that she could help with that all-important female voting demographic. I was a bit skeptical at first. McCain had won the experience argument, and would sacrifice it with an inexperienced vice presidential candidate. We needed to appeal to independent voters, and I wasn’t sure how Palin would play with them. Palin gave an electrifying convention speech, which amounted to her coming-out party, and proceeded to give the faltering McCain campaign a sorely needed shot of adrenaline. But after the initial excitement, it became clear that her appeal was limited. Sure, she energized conservative Republicans, but independent voters were unimpressed and, ironically, she was a disappointment with the women voters whom Republican analysts thought she could attract.
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After the campaign ended, the blame game started, as conservatives pointed the finger squarely at McCain and moderates blamed Palin. Blind quotes in various media from top McCain campaign workers portrayed Palin as someone who didn’t understand basic geography and who used the Republican National Committee bank account for a spending spree to shop for clothes for the family. The charges hurt, because Palin has done little, if anything, to dispel them. And that is why it is a further surprise that some Republican analysts are now saying that Palin is preparing the ground to run for president. If Palin were serious about running for president, she would do something with her remaining months as governor to prove that she is a serious leader. But she is not doing that. Instead, she is throwing in the towel and keeping people guessing about her true intentions. Palin has become a media sensation because of her own personal charisma, because the Republican Party has no presumed leader, and because she has a knack for creating drama out of whole cloth. Her on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, and then sort of on-again flirtation with one of the biggest Republican fundraising dinners perfectly exemplifies this drama dynamic. First, she said she would come. Then, her office said that she wouldn’t. Then, she said she would come again, only to get herself uninvited. She finally showed up at the dinner, and had no formal role other than to be introduced, before she went back home to Wasilla. Had she just had her people tell the people back in D.C. that she couldn’t make it, it would have been no big deal. But, instead, she had a nice time confusing the media, embarrassing the hosts of the dinner and making herself a focus of another round of stories. I don’t find myself disagreeing with Palin on any big issue, and during the campaign, I was one of her most vocal supporters. But the campaign is over, and in retrospect, I made a mistake. She doesn’t have the experience, the temperament or the ability to be president. The Republican Party doesn’t do itself any favors by nominating people who pride themselves on being anti-intellectual or inexperienced. Governing is hard work. Having expertise is important. Having real experience is essential. The Republican Party seems to be going through a cleansing process. Folks who would be president are dropping like flies, quitting their jobs or otherwise getting into a bizarre scandal of one kind or another. But America has done as well as it has over the last couple hundred years because it has a vibrant two-party system that keeps the party in power honest. So, the Republican Party will eventually come back. It may take a while, but the Democrats will overreach, or under-reach, or fail or fall victim to its own scandals. I think Palin’s resignation is a good sign for the GOP. We can now move on to more serious candidates for the White House, and we can shift the focus from her reality-TV-like life to more serious issues that face the country. Palin is right: She has been a distraction. Now, it is time to focus less on her soap opera and more on where the Obama administration really wants to take this country and how the Republican Party can come up with superior alternatives that will keep America strong.