In fairness, Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the â€œTrig Trutherâ€ stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.
This isnâ€™t an original or new observation, In fact, back in July 2009, I wrote: â€œThe tragedy of Sarah Palinâ€™s recent press conference announcing her resignation as governor of Alaska flows from the sense that so much potential has been wasted.â€
The trouble with taking the easy way out is that it doesnâ€™t last forever. The people who truly last in this business donâ€™t rely on shortcuts or good looks or gimmicks; they survive on work ethic, wit, and intellect. (Thatâ€™s why, no matter how grandiose he gets, Newt Gingrich will always have a gig. Newt will always be interesting, because he will always have something to sayâ€”something to contribute.)
I had dinner a couple of months ago with a politician of a different political philosophy than I. Â This was a big part of our talk. Â Governments and politicians that can engage with their critics are far more successful in the long term (think Peter Lougheed or a Bill Davis) than those that treat all criticism as a personal attack that must be defeated.
Of course more troubling are the personal attacks, even if they have a hint of accuracy. Â What do you do about them? Â Some can shrug them off while others are changed by them. Â Palin was changed by them. Â I was never a fan but I agree that instead of fixing her flaws, she has doubled down on them, something that too many politicians do.