Hey… remember that investigation that found Sarah Palin had abused her power in Alaska by trying (along with her husband) to get her brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper? You probably do, but just barely, right? For better or worse, there’s just too much else going on with regard to the election to obsess over a minor scandal like that.
Palin seems to think differently, though. Via Progressive Alaska, the second investigation into the trooper brouhaha — you know, the one Palin initiated herself to obscure the first one — has seen fit to announce its findings on election eve. Not surprisingly, it clears Palin in every conceivable way.
But since (to put it gently) the election isn’t exactly hanging in the balance over this issue, why was it so important to get the announcement in before tomorrow night’s vote-counting? To put it simply, because the end of the 2008 race marks the first day of the 2012 campaign… for Palin, anyway.
Particularly if McCain/Palin and other Republicans absorb their expected collective defeat early in the evening, there will be hours of pundit speculation that could shape the early conventional wisdom about possible Republican contenders for the ’12 nomination. Tonight’s report is a bit of housecleaning to give Palin’s advocates one more talking point — if anyone mentions the ethical cloud over her record as governor of Alaska, they can now claim that it’s been dispersed.
And Atrios and Josh Marshall‘s skepticism notwithstanding, I wouldn’t discount Palin’s chances of mounting a comeback in four years, even if she and McCain lose in a landslide tomorrow. I wrote four years ago about the GOP’s dim prospects in 2008 because they lacked a candidate who could pull of the Reagan trick of putting an unthreatening face on the permanent Republican agenda of shoveling more money to rich people/corporations — someone who pretend to be “just folks” but also had high name recognition so their personality could overshadow their (plutocratic) policies.
Palin is not only aware of this role, she’s openly auditioned to fill it, simultaneously cultivating the support of GOP opinionmakers along with her faux-outsider image (as documented extensively by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker).
So what if she’s seen as a know-nothing object of ridicule who helped drag McCain down to defeat? Thanks to Bill Kristol and Tina Fey, she’s got the name recognition she’ll need, and four years is plenty of time for a Nixon-style reinvention. If she’s willing to do the homework of developing at least a superficial knowledge of the issues. she can position herself as being wiser but still in touch with her “hockey mom” roots.
Granted, though, that’s a big if. Her current running mate couldn’t be bothered with learning anything beyond slogans about economic policy even as the Wall Street meltdown all but handed Obama the presidency, and the GOP nominee before him — the one who’s in the White House now — well, we know all about his dislike of thinking about anything.
If Palin’s as narcissistic as McCain and Bush, she may very well flame out before the presidential cycle gets serious in 2012. But if her searing ambition is matched by any kind of work ethic, I’d say we haven’t heard the last of her.