To my surprise, there's still a lot of uncertainty among political commentators over whether Governor Palin has committed political suicide by resigning her office. I shouldn't have been surprised, simply because I know that the media needs material and can't let this issue expire after a weekend. But to me it seems a no-brainer that Palin has shown herself to be a quitter unworthy of the responsibilities of higher office. Some people even dispute the quitter label. On "Morning Joe" today Mika Breszinski dared suggest that Palin is only being called a quitter because she's a woman -- this after prefacing the observation by denying that she's a feminist -- when a male governor would be credited with doing something exciting to shake up the political scene. That might earn the reporter Idiot of the Week instantly, but there'll probably be many opportunities to top her this week.
Uncertainty about the Alaskan's future reflects uncertainty about the future of the Republican Party. Since many observers agree with me that Palin is sure to end up on television, they wonder whether she could use a talk show to gain a higher profile than her office-holding potential rivals and win the 2012 nomination on the raw strength of celebrity. This talk follows from the presumption that Rush Limbaugh is actually the most influential and possibly the most powerful Republican in the country. Limbaugh has never bothered testing his supposed power in any kind of election, however, and it does not follow that ratings are convertible into votes. In any event, were Republicans to nominate Palin because of some yet-to-be-revealed prowess as a talker, would they be any better than they accused Democrats of being last year when they nominated Senator Obama, as his critics saw it, mainly on the strength of his oratory? And even if this career track proves a sure path to the nomination, none of it would refute the argument that she is a quitter. The only way she could have beaten that rap was to say explicitly on July 3 that she was stepping down early in order to run for President. Then she would have won points with people who feel that they don't get their money's worth from officeholders who spend their time running for another job like Senators Obama, McCain and Clinton did last year. She's blown that opportunity, and her babbling about the burden of legal expenses allows everyone to speculate that she resigned to avoid being prosecuted for something. That's an idea that will never go away.
In my view, Palin is finished as a politician. If she isn't, something's wrong with the country. But she isn't finished as a celebrity, and the last week or so has shown us that the American news media is about celebrity more than anything else. For all I know, there may be media people, though not necessarily Mika Breszinski, who want her to run now, on the assumption that any other Republican is boring. That might be true, but Republicans claim not to listen to the media, so they shouldn't start now.