Commentary Magazine


Palin Should Be More Honest About Her Reasons For Not Running

As a general rule, my view is the less said about Sarah Palin these days, the better. But she gave an interview to Fox’s Greta van Susteren that did catch my eye. Governor Palin, in discussing whether or not she would run for the presidency, said this:

Does a title shackle a person? Are they, someone like me who’s maverick – you know I do go rogue and I call it like I see it and I don’t mind stirring it up in order to get people to think and debate aggressively and to find solutions to the problems that our country is facing – somebody like me, is a title and is a campaign too shackling? Does that prohibit me from being out there, out of the box, not allowing handlers to shape me and to force my message to be what donors or what contributors or what political pundits want it to be. Does a title take away my freedom to call it like I see it and to affect positive change that we need in this country? That’s the biggest contemplation piece in my process.

Where to begin?

How about with the observation that the argument that titles like president/presidential candidate shackles a person just doesn’t hold together. Ms. Palin complains that a run for the presidency would “prohibit” her from getting her message out because “handlers” would “shape me and … force my message to be” what others would want it to be.

But where is it written in stone that a candidate has to accede to the wishes of her “handlers”? Self-confident candidates – and I’ve known a few in my time — would simply ignore advice that they consider limiting. Indeed, one of the great opportunities afforded to those running for president is to inject certain issues into the public conversation and to get people to debate solutions to our challenges (think Ronald Reagan and supply side economics). Having worked in the White House, I can report to Ms. Palin that, based on my observations, the title “president” is not limiting or shackling in the least. President Lincoln didn’t find it so. He was actually able to advance some fairly significant ideas during both his various candidacies and his presidency. The presidency, in fact, allows an individual to shape history in a way that few others can ever hope to experience.

That isn’t a reason by itself to run for president. Ms. Palin may well have other interests. The grind of a campaign may no longer appeal to her. Neither might the pay cut. I get all that. But justifying a decision not to run for president by insisting that she’s better than the process – that she’s too “rogue,” too “independent,” and too much of a “maverick” to be constrained by a campaign and the office of the presidency – is embarrassing. It also reveals, I think, a deep-seated insecurity. Ms. Palin knows full well she wouldn’t do well running for president (give her points for self-awareness), but she feels the need to try to place a cloak of virtue around herself to explain it.

Governor Palin should be more honest with us, and with herself, for the reasons she won’t run. Because the idea that she can influence events more as a Fox News analyst (which may be a great gig) than as president of the United States is quite silly. She can’t possibly believe that. Can she?