The problem wasn’t so much Palin as it was Alaska. She had become too big for her home state.

That’s one way of putting it. Put in the right pronouns and you can imagine Palin speaking to her bathroom mirror: “It’s not my fault! It’s … Alaska’s. They’re all jealous.” But the quote is from Matthew Continetti’s piece in the Weekly Standard giving the troops the rundown on why their hero fled. The article is a case of third-person narcissism: the writer’s engaging in borderline personality disorder on behalf of another party.

The reasons given for Palin’s quitting are 1) nobody would govern with her, 2) people say mean things about her, and 3) she’s already done everything any governor could hope to do in office. Point 1 is blamed on the national Democratic Party, which supposedly bosses around the legislators in individual states (wish it could get Congress in line). For point 2 it’s treated as a given that every charge against Palin has been refuted. Point 3 is voiced by Palin herself: “I know that we’ve accomplished more in our two years in office than most governors could hope to accomplish in two terms. And that’s because I hired the right people.”  So it’s okay for her to quit because she’s just way, way better than any ordinary governor. And you know it’s true because she says so.

Of course she also said once that she was a pitbull. Continetti sidles gently up to the sad fact that this claim was a charade:

The accusations affected Palin emotionally. A rare and necessary talent for a great politician is the capacity to ignore or laugh off the critics’ most vicious assaults. FDR had it. So did Reagan. When Palin spoke at the 2008 Republican convention, it seemed as though she had it, too. Her commanding performance gave the impression that the previous week’s falsehoods, exaggerations, myths, insults, and smears did not matter to her. Not one bit.

This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, however. Over time, the attacks on Palin–on her character, intellect, appearance, femininity, and family–clearly got to her. 

But he can’t let go of the idea that, somehow, she really is tough. Palin “knows how to win a political knife-fight,” he says after paragraphs spent lamenting that the poor lady had to deal with mean legislators and harsh words. In fact the whole “knife-fight” passage is interesting for its incoherence:

… she is a newcomer to the national arena. The bulk of her career has been at the local and state level, where the stakes and the tempers are low compared with the rock ’em, sock ’em dramas that play out inside the Beltway and on the cable channels and blogs. “Everyone else in ’08 had been in the game for decades,” John Coale said. “They all had been there. This was somebody playing for the first time.” For Palin, the hostility directed at her was novel and shocking. Because she prides herself on her unconventionality, and because she knows how to win a political knife-fight, she decided to fight back.

 So, for one thing, it turns out that Palin really was too inexperienced for the big time, even though the Standard and its buddies had been saying the opposite all along. For another, we’re told that Alaska is quite a tranquil place politically, although the rest of the piece says the state has become ungovernable because of the nasty vendettas against the governor.

A last point: in the fall we were told about Palin’s vital executive experience. Now we find out it really doesn’t matter who commands the Alaska National Guard. The point of a governor turns out to be entirely legislative: if the governor has passed, or claims to have passed, all the laws she had in mind, then there’s nothing left for her to do but twiddle her thumbs. It’s not like there are any floods for her to deal with or a state administration that needs to be run properly.

In America, we elect our executives to fixed terms on the understanding that they have day-to-day duties to fulfill and that these duties remain no matter what the legislature is up to. That would especially be the case in Alaska, where the legislature meets for a few weeks but the governor is on duty all year round. Unless she finds something better to do.

“The job had become demanding and unpleasant,” Continetti writes. Is there any other politician anywhere who would get a sympathetic hearing for that argument? Not that she could get such a hearing from just anybody. Alaska may not understand Sarah Palin, but the Weekly Standard does.

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