Gov. Sarah Palin closed her resignation announcement quoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur, saying “We are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction.” These were much like the words of Maj. Gen. Oliver Smith while directing the 1st Marine Division to fight through surrounding Chinese troops at the Chosin Reservoir in 1950 who said then, “Retreat? Hell, we’re attacking in another direction!” This is a better reference for Palin at this juncture of her political career.
Palin is certainly surrounded; largely by her own incompetence, intellectual laziness and problems of her own manufacture. Her remarks are troubling, but for the moment it is a good thing for the Republican Party that she is retreating from the national political scene. Palin is the variety of Republican that relies on subtraction and division, rather than addition and multiplication.
As to her speech; what is troubling about it is that she has adopted Ronald Reagan’s perspective that government is the problem and not the solution and is crafting a new and more potent Anti-Federalism. Palin’s remarks endorse the confusion and contradiction arising from a lack of uniformity among the states that Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist Paper No. 80. This indicates the political philosophy that can be expected from Palin in the years ahead; that government (state or federal) is incapable of delivering worthwhile solutions to domestic problems or conflicts. Palin is positioning herself as the politician who so dislikes government that she disdains her own office, preferring resignation to service.
Palin remarked in her resignation announcement that “some Alaskans don’t mind wasting pubic dollars and state time, but I do. And I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time to go to waste just so that I can hold the title of governor.” This reveals a narcissism that should make us all sleep much better knowing she is not now a heartbeat away from the presidency. Being governor of any state is about the power of the office to do the will of the people, not the ambition and ego of the officer holder.
As Palin is a national political figure this announcement today raised many questions about her future. Removing herself means she must have assessed the liability of fulfilling her term in office and decided the reward paled in contrast to the risk. Her reason for forfeiting the last 18 months of her term ranged from the familial, to the waste of time and treasure devoured by the blood sport of politics, to the stalking national media. Blaming the media is a tired tactic and will find no resonance. The bloodiness of political sport will follow her as long as she harbors political aspiration. Family – well that is a personal decision and if we never hear from Sarah Palin again then she should be left alone, but it is doubtful she is gone for good.
Palin has clearly decided on the course of the political cult of personality. It is assured her book will sell in the millions; in her speech she alluded to revelations to come later that guarantees sales success. The course she has chosen is to forgo traditional methods of building a political base: using her office to articulate and enact a vision; raising political action committee funds from special interest groups; and interjecting herself into the national dialogue on issues from the gubernatorial perch. No, she is going for something large, something mimicking Oprah, somethng about her and not the ideals she is not willing to fight for in a legislative chamber. This is a risky path that demands robust intelligence and mental stamina, traits Palin has yet to display.
The better MacArthur quote for this moment is “I shall return.” Palin is sure do so and it is the responsibility of the tolerant and inclusive men and women of the Republican Party who believe in the Federalism of Madison, Hamilton and Jay that when Palin does return she is soundly rebuffed.