There's No Place Like Nome

Sarah Palin Needs A Strategic Retreat

By Robert A. George
|  Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009  |  Updated 3:32 AM EDT
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Will the Real Sarah Palin Please Stand up?

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Can the nation be hers? Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former GOP vice-presidential nominee, is major contender for 2012. But, can she let go of '08 and her treatment by the press? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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She is doing herself no favors granting interviews where the feisty independent woman who can "field-dress a moose" ends up looking like an angry, resentful victim.

Are parts of the mainstream media biased against conservatives?

You betcha -- so to speak.

Do double-standards exist?

Yep. Lots of them (liberals vs. conservatives, men vs. women, white vs. black -- individuals in any one of those groups will undoubtedly identify various societal double-standards that benefit the other group).

Does playing off media bias often work for conservatives?

Uh-huh.

But -- is looking like a victim ever really attractive?

No.

Do conservatives ever like people playing the victim too much?

Absolutely not.

And that's the line that Palin is in danger of crossing.

It's easy to tell when a politician may have reached a point of diminishing returns on a certain approach: Observant rivals see an opening and pounce.

 
Palin has been consistently saying in interviews that she felt mistreated by CBS' Katie Couric in the pre-election interviews that Palin look uninformed, unable to name a newspaper that she regularly read, etc. Yet Mike Huckabee -- who may be the most media-savvy of all Republicans considering a 2012 effort -- has a different view:
Now I must say I did not think that either the Charlie Gibson interview or the
Katie Couric interviews were unfair. In fact, if anything, Katie Couric was
extraordinarily gentle, even helpful. [Palin] just...I don't know what happened.
I can't explain it. It was not a good interview. I'm being charitable.
Huckabee knows how the game is played. He knows that there is little to be gained -- among conservatives -- by appearing to defend the mainstream media accused of "attacking" a conservative. Unless, that is, the conservative being "attacked" is starting to appear a bit too willing to play the victim (or, in this case, gender) card. That starts looking unseemly. Besides, it's only a matter of time before someone asks: "If you hate the media so much, Sarah, why are you doing all these interviews?"

And, consider this: As popular as Palin is among some conservatives, she is just as divisive among others. National Review's Kathleen Parker wasn't the only conservative who found Palin not quite her cup of tea. The Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald also wrote harsh columns about Palin as a diversity pick -- and her apparent inability to speak in coherent sentences.

 
Indeed, it is fair to say that there is a cultural split among conservative women of a certain age when it comes to Palin.A friend of mine -- a pro-life politically active Catholic conservative professional woman in her '50s, a long-time admirer of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher -- can't stand Palin. Statements by other conservatives favorably comparing Palin to Reagan and Thatcher send her up the wall. She finds Palin's playing the victim patently offensive. Like Huckabee, she thought the Couric interview was in no way out of bounds.

Sarah Palin must understand that this is the environment in which she is competing. It's not because of the liberal media that she should step back a moment. It's because conservatives and the Republican Party (which are not one and the same) need a proper post-election cooling-off period to assess what needs to come next. Palin's continued presence makes that very difficult -- it forces people to replay the past election over and over again.

Palin would be much better off just stop doing the media stops. Instead she should just tend to her responsibilities as governor of Alaska, prepare for a re-election run in 2010 and then -- perhaps while doing a little campaigning out of state next year for some other candidates -- start re-introducing herself to the national audience.

With some distance, the public will be happy to see a returned Sarah Palin.

Otherwise, she'll just suffer from that old chestnut, "How can we miss you, if you don't go away?"

 
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots and dabbles in stand-up comedy.

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