Astounding. Risky. Quitter. And that’s what fellow conservatives had to say Sunday about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her decision to step down with 18 months left in her term.
Democrats left it to Republican and conservative voices to assess what Friday’s unexpected announcement by Palin means for her and a possible run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. For example, Vice President Joe Biden called it a personal decision, offering no analysis of why she did it. By contrast, those on the political right acknowledged that they didn’t know what to make of it. Karl Rove, the “architect” of George W. Bush’s successful presidential campaigns, said the resignation left many of Palin’s fellow Republicans “a little perplexed.” “It’s a risky strategy,” Rove told “Fox News Sunday.” “Astounding,” was the pronouncement by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and conservative columnist George Will said Palin was declaring herself a quitter. Palin, who was Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential candidate in the 2008 election, said she already knew she would not seek a second term and decided against being a lame duck governor for the next 18 months.
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She also complained that too much time and too many taxpayer dollars were going toward fighting ethics investigations and that the mainstream media were continuing with unfair attacks on her and her family. Some analysts believe that Palin will seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and that her resignation is intended to free her to prepare. Rove, whom Bush dubbed “the Architect” for managing his successful presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, said stepping down now won’t lessen the media spotlight on Palin. In fact, he said, leaving the governor’s office takes away her platform for controlling her agenda and message. “The media, if she wants to run for president, is going to be following her for the next 3½ years,” said Rove, who called the move unclear and therefore a potentially harmful strategy for a politician. “Effective strategies in politics are ones that are so clear and obvious that people can grasp. … It’s not clear what she’s doing and why.” Grassley told the CBS program “Face the Nation” that he had “no insight into why she did it.” “I would think, if you want to run for president — and I’m not sure that’s got anything to do with what she’s doing — that the forum of a governorship would be a better forum than just being a private citizen,” the veteran senator said. Will told the ABC program “This Week” that he had “no idea why she did this.” “The one that rings most hollow is, she doesn’t want to put Alaska through the terror of [her] being a lame-duck governor,” Will said. “If she is just weary of it, one can understand that. Still, she made a contract with [voters] to serve out her term. And she said, in her own words, she now is a quitter.” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska criticized Palin’s decision as abandoning the state’s voters. Palin defeated Murkowski’s father the gubernatorial election in 2006. But Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, also on the Fox program, said Sunday that Murkowski’s statement disappointed him because it failed to recognize all that Palin has accomplished in her 2½ years in office. “She doesn’t need a title to effect change and bring some hope to people who need it,” said Parnell, a Republican who stands to become governor when Palin steps down this month. Palin had no public appearances Sunday, but she encouraged her followers via Twitter to ignore the pundits. “Critics are spinning, so hang in there as they feed false info on the right decision made as I enter last yr in office to not run again,” her Twitter message said. In an Independence Day message to supporters, Palin said she was leaving office for a “higher calling.” “How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it’s about country,” Palin said in a statement attributed to her on her Facebook page. “And though it’s honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make. But every American understands what it takes to make a decision because it’s right for all, including your family.” Palin said her administration had “accomplished more during this one term than most governors do in two.” “We have accomplished so much, and there’s much more to do, but my family and I determined after prayerful consideration that sacrificing my title helps Alaska most,” she said. “And once I decided not to run for re-election, my decision was that much easier. I’ve never been one to waste time or resources.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, noted that Palin will remain in the media spotlight regardless of whether she is governor. “The challenge that she’s going to have is that there will be people who will say, ‘Look, if they chased you out of this, it won’t get any easier at other levels,’ ” Huckabee said. “It could be a brilliant strategy. The point is, we don’t know.” Huckabee called a presidential campaign “brutal” and said a Republican primary will ratchet up the pressure on Palin. “When your opponents within your own team spend millions of dollars to redefine you, it’s very, very difficult,” Huckabee said.