Tuesday, 07 July 2009

Sarah Palin's Swan Song?

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Sarah PalinSarah Palin’s July 3 resignation from the Alaska governorship created a wave of publicity and hand-wringing among liberals in the major media who counseled that Palin was politically finished with the resignation. Of course, these are the same liberals who said she was finished anyway after the November presidential election.

But it looks like the media liberals have a point.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post sarcastically wrote, “The main thing I'd point out about Sarah Palin's dazzlingly incoherent farewell is that it's pretty clear she wrote it herself. The proof is in the punctuation.” And the resignation speech was full of odd punctuation, as well as odd grammar.

Palin’s speech seemed determined to confirm the conclusions of Vanity Fair National Editor Todd S. Purdum in a vicious August issue article, where he concluded that “the caricature of Sarah Palin that emerged in the presidential campaign, for good and ill, is now ineradicable. The swift journey from her knockout convention speech to Tina Fey’s dead-eyed incarnation of her as Dan Quayle with an updo played out in real time, no less for the bewildered McCain campaign than for the public at large.”

The Vanity Fair piece was otherwise a mishmash of fact and dubious character allegations designed to finish the Alaska governor’s political future. She is a power-hungry, truth-evading, back-biting, small-time politician from out in the sticks, Purdum says. Just ask him, or his numerous anonymous sources.

Maybe Purdum’s effort worked, and Palin’s resignation is the fruit of his style of “journalism.” But the Vanity Fair piece is pretty much just the reaction of Manhattan social liberals to politicians like Palin. It’s a bit like Perez Hilton’s reaction to former Miss California Carrie Prejean’s answer to his question on the oxymoron “same-sex marriage.” Prejean expressed a general social conservatism that wasn’t especially thought out (in part because she wasn’t the “hating bigot” liberals vilified her for being) and wasn't especially embarrassing. But Prejean's words typified what most coastal liberals think of conservatives on social issues. Conservatives are ignorant, social liberals say, and Palin fits their mold of what an uninformed social conservative talks like.

Palin is known for vaguely conservative positions on social issues, and even defended Prejean. Palin says she's unequivocally pro-life, and that she stands for what used to be called chastity before marriage. Such positions are an outrage to the left, and draw the heaviest criticism when they are somewhat vaguely expressed. Eloquent spokesmen are generally ignored because social liberals don’t want to give voice to a thoughtful supporter of traditional morality.

Palin said that she was leaving office to spend more time with her family, which is certainly a worthy goal. It also happens to coincide after a precipitous drop in the price of gasoline, which served as nearly 90 percent of the state’s revenue. So her resignation will make it easy for her to avoid having to make tough fiscal decisions for her state during the recession.

Palin may be a social conservative, but she did not govern as a fiscal conservative, and for that reason alone it’s probably not a bad thing for her to leave the national political scene.

In her resignation speech, she bragged that “we also slowed the rate of government growth,” but the reality is that Palin presided over a 30-percent increase in state spending in less than four years, increasing Alaskan state spending from an inherited $10.78 billion in fiscal 2006 to a projected $14.15 billion in fiscal 2010. Even the leftist Boston Globe crowed last year during the election campaign that “Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska has also presided over a dramatic increase in state spending in the last two years. Still, she can accurately claim that her state is in good fiscal health, thanks to an explosion of revenues from state taxes on oil industry profits.”

The Globe added back on September 13, 2008 that “until a few years ago, the state government struggled financially for years because of low oil prices. But that's all changed.” Yeah, but it has changed back again. And Palin’s resignation as governor may be her chance at a comeback. She can claim to be a fiscal conservative without having any memories of her cutting “vital” social programs. She can do that, it should be added, if people forget about the budgets she signed as governor.

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