The inside-the-beltway pundits have been abuzz ever since Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced her intention not only to decline a second term but to resign the post in three weeks. What could she be thinking? Leaving office sixteen months early makes no sense to them. How could she do this and still expect to have a political future? She must be crazy! "Crazy like a fox," to quote Bill Kristol, conservative columnist and publisher of The Weekly Standard, one of the few talking heads to recognize the positive potential in what Palin is doing.
One commentator even clucked about the negative aspects of Palin's July 3rd announcement, comparing it to Richard Nixon's concession speech after being defeated for governor of California in 1962, in which he told the press, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more." I simply shook my head and murmured to myself, "Yeah, and who was it that was elected president six years later? Let's see...Oh, yeah. That's right, it was Richard Nixon." For five years after that humiliating defeat in California, Nixon diligently worked on behalf of Republican candidates for the House and Senate. He spoke on their behalf. He raised money for their campaigns. And it gained him a lot of good will within the party from the very people who would be choosing the 1968 Republican nominee.
Ronald Reagan did the same thing, both before and after serving as governor of California. Reagan's nominating speech for Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican Convention would help launch his own political career, and he was elected governor of California just two years later. A decade later, Reagan nearly defeated incumbent President Gerald Ford for the 1976 GOP nomination. He then spent the next three years raising money and campaigning for Republican candidates around the country. By 1980, despite a full stable of other GOP candidates, Reagan was the favorite among conservatives, who by then had taken control of the Republican Party.
Despite the pundits' yammering about this decision, Sarah Palin is now free to write a book, receive large speaking fees and pay off the legal bills incurred to defend herself against all the spurious investigations initiated by her enemies. She can further the conservative cause by campaigning for House and Senate candidates. Can't you just picture her rallying 20,000 people in support of Pat Toomey in his attempt to unseat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race next year?
We should find it refreshing when a politician is willing to step down from one job before seeking another. I know I admired Bob Dole when he not only relinquished his position as Senate Majority Leader but actually resigned from the U.S. Senate before seeking the presidency. By contrast, Barack Obama served in the United States Senate for about five minutes before announcing his intention to run for president. He then proceeded to draw a paycheck from the taxpayers while doing virtually nothing in Washington connected to his real job.
Sarah Palin's expertise on the issue of energy independence could be a crucial part of the debate over the massive "Cap and Trade" energy tax Obama and the Democrats are trying to impose on America in the coming months. As one of the most knowledgeable public officials in the country, Palin can take the conservative message to the center of the storm.
George W. Bush used to say with a grin, "I love being misunderestimated!" Sarah Palin should revel in the same feeling of lowered expectations. It can be a great advantage in politics. But then, Palin has never followed the beltway template for her next move in politics. A perfect example was when she left her position on the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission to prepare for her run for governor against a sitting Republican. Bottom line: she ruffles feathers -- especially among the liberal and the corrupt -- and she really doesn't care. Since the national news media fall into both those categories, expect them to be particularly unhinged. It's gonna be fun to watch!