But even losing candidates often find it hard to be humble. A typical concession speech sounds like a warm-up for a Senate filibuster, as the runner-up talks about what a swell campaign he ran and all the people he wants to thank and how, if he had it to do all over again, he wouldn't change a thing. That may be the right thing to say to his wife on their anniversary, but as an assessment of his losing campaign, it rings rather hollow. Because if he wouldn't do anything different, chances are excellent he would lose again. And isn't that the popular definition of insanity? You know, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Sort of like being a Cubs fan.
But one relative newcomer to the national scene, Sarah Palin, has already recycled her political career. Being the vice presidential candidate on the losing ticket doesn't necessarily advance one's career. Just ask Joe Lieberman. But Sarah Palin has emerged from the wreckage of the 2008 McCain campaign as a political star in her own right. In fact, you might even say she's a superstar. After President Obama, what current political figure has more name recognition? Nancy Pelosi? Possibly, but her star has already fallen. Vice President Biden? He's stuck in a supporting role, without any apparent future, since Obama still looks young and healthy and Biden has auditioned for President too many times already.
Hillary Clinton? She's stuck at Foggy Bottom, and neither the news media nor the general public pays a whole lot of attention to what the State Department is doing. And when was the last time you heard the State Department praised for doing something right? Newt Gingrich still gets some self-generated ink and some face time on talk shows, but his star faded a long time, and he is carrying too much baggage, some of which belongs to Dr. Kissinger. The governor of Louisiana, what's-his-name? God is merciful and surely knows that the Gulf Coast couldn't stand another hurricane or oil spill of the magnitude it would take to get Bobby Jindall back in the news.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty? Minnesota gave us Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Not exactly happy hunting grounds for future Presidents. Rick Santorum? Sounds like the latest pharmaceutical product. ("Tossing and Turning? Can't sleep at night? Try safe, effective Santorum, the product nine of 10 doctors recommend for patients with chronic insomnia.") Mitt Romney? There may be more effective cures for insomnia, but no one looks better when putting people to sleep than Mitt does.
Palin is a star, and not just because her kid is "Dancing With the Stars" on a network TV show. And not just because "Mama Grizzly" is on Fox News all the time and is soon to be hosting a show on the Discovery channel. Palin endorsed some 50 candidates in Republican primaries this year, some of them underdogs who triumphed in part because Palin endorsed and, in many cases, actively campaigned for them. Though her name wasn't on the ballot anywhere, Palin was the big winner in Tuesday's primary.
Sure, she backed some who flopped in the general election, but who says the establishment's flunkies were going to do any better? "Who was going to guarantee Mike Castle was going to win, anyway?" Palin asked on Fox News Sunday, defending her endorsement of Christine O'Donnell in the Delaware Senate primary against Castle, the former governor and nine-term congressman backed by all the bigwigs in the state and national GOP. O'Donnell lost big to Democrat Chris Coons, but would Castle have mattered even if he won? Why in the world would she want to back a Republican like that, Palin asked, someone she described as "RINO," (Republican in name only) "cap-and-tax, wishy-washy on Obamacare" Republican. In a special election for a House seat in upstate New York this year, Palin endorsed the candidate of New York's Conservative Party against the pro-abortion, pro-"gay" marriage, pro-everything nuthouse Republican candidate picked by the party bosses and endorsed by important Republicans like Newt Gingrich. That RINO showed her true colors when she dropped out of the race the weekend before the election and endorsed the Democrat she had ostensibly been running against. The Democrat won, but at least Palin helped drive another RINO back into the political wilderness.
Palin backed Joe Miller, who pulled off an upset win over Senator Lisa Murkowski in the U.S. Senate primary in Alaska. When she learned that apparently biased reporters at the CBS affiliate in Anchorage were talking about ways to create stories to discredit Miller, Palin told Chris Wallace in a Fox News interview, "Those are corrupt b*******, Chris!" Cynics say that in politics sincerity is important: "If you can fake that, you've got it made," they say. If Palin was faking her indignation, she was doing an extremely good job of it. She did not appear to be throwing in a profanity just to show the Joe and Josephine Sixpacks of America that she is a real down-to-earth gal. It seems a good bet that she feels the same anger and frustration over biased and dishonest TV journalism as millions of other Americans do, and she voiced it in a plain, unvarnished, rough-cut eloquence that might make Mitt Romney faint.
Palin has her faults. For one thing, she appears enamored of America's military adventurism all over God's green earth and blue oceans, with her cheerful support of what mimic Tiny Fey has called "all these wars we got goin' on." In her debate with Joe Biden two years ago, Palin took issue with the concern Barack Obama had expressed about killing civilians in Afghanistan. "We're not killing civilians," she insisted. "We're spreading democracy, we're building schools." Yes, and we're killing a lot of civilians at the same time. Those are not mutually exclusive activities.
But anyone Karl Rove would dismiss for a lack of "gravitas" can't be all bad. Rove, who helped propel and perpetuate "Boy George" in the White House, can't be taken seriously as an authority on gravitas. In a Fox News interview with Greta Van Susteren, Palin discussed an article that had appeared on Politio.com in which a number of anonymous sources, said to be high in Republican Party circles, were quoted as saying Palin was wrecking the party. Both Van Susteren and Palin thought it worth noting that the alleged sources were not "brave enough" to be identified with their comments.
"And these are the same brave people that want to lead the nation and run the world, huh?" Palin said. They should "man up" and come out in the open so she could debate what they have to say, she insisted. But politicians and journalists with the long knives are generally not noted for their courage or candor. That might be one advantage Palin has over them.