Commentary Magazine


Palin, Quitting, and Stability

Of all the lines of argument concerning Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska, surely there is none more disingenuous than the “she abandoned her post” line proffered today by Donny Deutsch on MSNBC and yesterday by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post (whose article was entitled “Big Girls Don’t Quit,” another example of the bizarre double standard according to which it is acceptable to deride a 45 year-old Republican grandmother by calling her a “girl”). Strangely, neither of these commentators, nor anybody else for that matter, accused, say, Govs. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas or Janet Napolitano of Arizona of “abandoning their posts” when they resigned to take cabinet jobs in the Obama administration. Nobody accused Rahm Emanuel of dissing his Chicagoland voters when he quit Congress weeks after winning reelection in November to become White House chief of staff. That these elected officials took other jobs in public service is meaningless; they all ran for full terms and decided that they wanted to do something else, so they went ahead and did something else. That’s fine, and so is Palin quitting for whatever reason she chose to quit. Being elected is not a prison sentence; just ask Barack Obama, who didn’t let his promise to Illinois voters that he would serve out a full term impede him from running for office; same with Hillary Clinton, for that matter.

Last week, the day Palin made her bombshell announcement, Jonah Goldberg wrote her an open letter urging Palin to bone up on issues and become fluent before taking the big jump into a presidential race. I’m not sure that’s the issue for Palin any longer. Her Achilles heel isn’t her failure to understand policy; she’ll be talking like a wonk in three months if she wants to. Her problem is that she seems to be one of those people who stirs up whirlwinds and dust storms. These are not all of Andrew Sullivan’s making. One reason to be oddly grateful for the loss of John McCain in November is the question of what it would have been like to have Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin get married, and then have the Vice President’s machetenesteh (the great Yiddish word for “my child’s mother in law”) busted for  running a meth lab drugs, as Levi’s mother was.

For Palin to have a serious future in national politics, she will have to achieve an image of stability in her private life that it does not now possess. It may take a decade for that to happen, as her kids grow up and make their way themselves.