We may not have her to kick around any more, not for awhile at least. But since Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska on Sunday, the new ex-governor has been said to be exploring various options for a life after government. One such option seems almost inescapable: Her valedictory to politics, her goodbye speech formally separating herself from the political herd, was so outlandish, so over the top, so rhetorically unhinged, there’s just one place for Sarah Palin to go — and it ain’t talk radio.
Queen Malaprop of the Klondike announced some of her intentions at a weekend picnic in Fairbanks, but kept specifics about her plans private, clearly still animated by the same free spirit that’s boosted her and busted her in equal measure since she joined the McCain campaign last August.
She was all over the lot on Sunday, offering a goodbye that was as much View-Master slide narration or the talkover for a PowerPoint presentation made by a chamber of commerce.
“What an absolutely beautiful day it is, and it is my honor to speak to all Alaskans, to our Alaskan family this last time as your governor. …
“And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature’s finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it’s the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn’t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs?”
What followed was a series of “I promised/we delivered” constructions, sentences that detailed the pledges she kept while in office: fish & wildlife stewardship, energy solutions, education and school accountability … and ultimately, Palin made her farewell, a happy-trails-to-you message imparted as only she could.
“Our whole big, diverse full and fun family, we all thank you and I am very very blessed to have had their support all along, for Todd’s support. I am thankful too. I have been blessed to have been raised in this last frontier. Thank you for our home, Mom and Dad, because in Alaska it is not an easy living, but it is a good living, and here it is impossible to lose your way. Wherever the road may lead you, we have that steadying great North Star to guide us home.
So let’s all enjoy the ride, and I thank you Alaska, and God bless Alaska and God bless America.”
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The speculation about her future started almost as soon as she finished speaking. It was announced later that day that she’d accepted an invitation to speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, sometime in early August. But beyond that, speculation centered on just how big a splash Palin would try to make in the media she’s had a love/hate/hate relationship with for at least the last eleven months.
A George Washington University Battleground poll, released Wednesday, shows just how steep a climb she has to make in the mind of the public. The poll found that 42 percent of the public viewed her favorably, 47 percent unfavorably. Two percent never heard of her. Worse yet was a Fox News poll, which found that 51 percent of Americans have a negative view of Palin, compared to 38 percent who think of her favorably.
The Fox poll dug a little deeper: What did people think Sarah Palin should do now? About a third of Americans, 32 percent, think the gig for her is as a homemaker, while 17 percent see her as a television talk show host (17 percent). Smaller percentages see her as vice president (14 percent), college professor (10 percent), or president (6 percent).
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So much for what other people think she should do. Palin’s never been one to be what other people expected her to be anyway. We’re not inclined to play Magic 8-Ball about her future. But given her experience in the media spotlight, her fearlessness and the way she’s still adored by the more ideologically animated elements of the conservative right ... OK, let’s walk out on what should be a short limb:
Between now and, say, the end of October, look for the Fox News Channel to announce a new half-hour news and commentary program anchored by … Sarah Palin. The Palin program (not a bad title) will air in the spot previously occupied by Fox reactionary mouthbreather Glenn Beck, who has rather fouled his own nest in recent days. Fox won’t cancel Beck, but his show moves to the side burner in order to accommodate the Alaska phenom.
From a conservative perspective, this is right at so many levels. It returns Palin to a medium at which she’s had at least a brief professional experience (as a sportscaster for two stations in Anchorage, in the '80s). It capitalizes swiftly (if predictably) on her continued high visibility in the public eye. It would be a perfect platform to groom her telegenically for campaigns in 2012 and/or 2016. And a TV talk show would be an ideal foundation from which to erect her various political and philosophical scaffolds — a process that should, at the very least, be entertaining television.
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There’s been talk of Palin going onto a radio show, a la Rush Limbaugh. This would be a mistake. Palin would be wasted on the radio (not the same way Rush Limbaugh’s often wasted on the radio. But we won’t go there).
Her visual component of her trajectory into the culture is part of what has made her such a high-wattage feature for the Republicans. It’s way harder to communicate a wink on radio than it is on TV. And going to the medium of radio further weds Palin to the semiotics of John McCain, the phonograph to Barack Obama’s iPod in the 2008 presidential election.
For al its persistence into the current century, the medium of radio remains a medium more rooted in the past than the future. Palin should leave the radio to Rush — and Savage and Imus and the other medicated pit-bulls riding the airwaves.
That’s not where Sarah Palin wants to go. At least that’s what we think.
Image credit: Palin: Still from BBC News. Poll snapshot: From the GWU Battleground poll, July 2009