Alex Massie

Sarah Palin Resigns! Madness!

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Perhaps it's appropriate that Sarah Palin concluded her incoherent, rambling, puzzling resignation statement by quoting General Douglas MacArthur's absurd line that "We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction." After all, MacArthur was a a megalomaniac who believed black could be turned white merely by saying so. The General was a great showman, but a poor strategist who was fortunate to even be given a command, let alone permitted to hold on to it for as long as he did. Flair might be important, but it's not enough.

Palin's resignation certainly gives her time to spend in Iowa and New Hampshire and the rest of the Lower 48 in advance of a 2012 presidential campaign. But that campaign would have been more credible had she completed her term as governor. Even then, a single term as governor of a small and strange state a long way from anywhere offered little by way of proof to substantiate Palin's claim that she had the necessary experience to be a national contender. Standing down before the end of that term seems a pretty good way to ensure that her task is more, not less difficult.

That in turn makes one wonder if there's something else going on, some scandal or calamity waiting to be unearthed. That would at least explain this decision, even if it didn't also make one wonder why Palin remains determined to perform on the national stage.

So perhaps it really is just a reckless, baffling gamble. She only had another year to serve, after all, and could then have stepped down to concentrate on her own future. Bill Kristol is, perhaps unsurprisingly, about the only person endorsing what he terms a "shrewd gamble".

Perhaps it is, but right now that seems improbable. Just because everyone thinks this a disastrous miscalculation doesn't mean it can't actually be a disastrous miscalculation.

MacArthur's most famous line was, of course, "I will return". Sarah Palin obviously plans on doing so too but the question is whether anyone will really be listening. We'll be watching, for sure, because her career and personality exert a terrible, magnetic fascination, but listening? Only maybe.

Is she a more serious, credible contender today than she was yesterday? No. So why'd she do it? It  - and the reasons she's given - don't make any sense unless, that is, she really does think that the usual rules of politics don't also apply to her.

Comparisons with Richard Nixon's reinvention in the 1960s seem awfully overblown. Nixon, after all, had been Vice-President and a high-profile Congressman. He had a record. Palin is trusting that her personality will sweep all before it. That strikes me as being a losing bet.

Still, one thing seems pretty certain: henceforth no-one should ever be surprised by anything Sarah Palin does because we should know that anything can, and probably will happen, no matter how little sense it may make.

UPDATE: On the other hand Andrea Mitchell says Palin wants to quit politics altogether.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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