Sarah Palin's official farewell to Alaska yesterday was also her official notice to America that she's not going anywhere anytime soon. Predictably, her address included call-outs of various haters, like the press (and Hollywood starlets!).
Palin's particular brand of absurdist theater was in fine form, especially in her anti-gun-control sentiments:
you're going to see anti-hunting, anti-second amendment circuses from Hollywood and here's how they do it. They use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets, they use Alaska as a fundraising tool for their anti-second amendment causes.
Is she warning Alaska against Miley Cyrus? (Actually, Ben Smith thinks the "starlet" in question might be Ashley Judd, who narrated an ad attacking Palin's record on wolf-hunting.) There's plenty more where that came from — but there's also something more disturbing than sheer silliness at work in Palin's speech. Check this out:
And first, some straight talk for some, just some in the media because another right protected for all of us is freedom of the press, and you all have such important jobs reporting facts and informing the electorate, and exerting power to influence. You represent what could and should be a respected honest profession that could and should be the cornerstone of our democracy. Democracy depends on you, and that is why, that's why our troops are willing to die for you. So, how 'bout in honor of the American soldier, ya quite makin' things up. And don't underestimate the wisdom of the people, and one other thing for the media, our new governor has a very nice family too, so leave his kids alone.
This kind of anti-press guilt-trip (when you "make things up," you hurt our troops and our children!) isn't new, but Sarah Palin has become a poster child for the idea that no criticism is substantive criticism. Everyone who says something bad about her is attacking her, and not just her qualifications or her experience, but her family, her patriotism, her America. She's careful to say she's talking about "just some" in the press here, but Sarah Palin's basic refusal to engage with people who disagree with her makes her destructive to any sort of shared national discourse. Watch her respond to a heckler at about minute 7:30 of the second part of her speech. She says:
Now, people who know me, and they know how much I love this state, some still are choosing not to hear why I made the decision to chart a new course to advance the state. And it should be so obvious to you. (indicating heckler) It is because I love Alaska this much, sir (at heckler) that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one's last year in office. How does that benefit you? No, with this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, for truth. And I have never felt like you need a title to do that.
Palin sees anyone who questions her resignation as "are choosing not to hear it" in her, because to anyone who actually heard her, the decision would be "obvious." Obvious because ... she loves Alaska! And because no more politics as usual! Yeah! Watch her bask in the applause at the end of this particular bit to see her in her element — people who don't question her, because she has no real response to those questions. All she can do is criticize the questioners themselves — as inattentive, immoral, or un-American.
On CBS this morning, Ann Coulter called Palin "an amazing speaker," and it's true that she's extremely good at working a crowd — especially if she's serving them hot dogs, or, as David Frum points out, $1,200 oil-money checks. But Frum counters that she's a "divisive" force that could lead the Republican party to "ineffectiveness" in government, and I've never agreed so wholeheartedly with a Republican speechwriter.
The Awl's Alex Balk says of Palin's final official tweet, "this is the most direct, clear, and comprehensible statement she's ever made on the microblogging service." And the message — "Last state twitter. Thank you Alaska! I love you. God bless Alaska. God bless the U.S.A." — certainly makes more sense than anything she's ever said about bears. But what it basically displays is one of Palin's two great skills: pandering to her base. The other is deflecting criticism by making it seem unfair. Neither of these is what we need in a leader. David Frum says it's "impossible" that Sarah Palin could win a presidential election in 2012. Let's hope he's right.