Just when things seemed darkest for the journalism racket the news gods smiled — only briefly, as it turned out — and bestowed Sarah Palin upon us.

However the campaign turns out, we can’t let her go back to Alaska. She’s too much fun.

Just recently she was the cause of a great new contribution to our political vocabulary — "gone rogue." As in a McCain campaign insider’s observation that in Palin’s increasing tendency to depart from the script prepared for her the vice presidential candidate "has gone rogue on us."

The campaign seemed stunned that the woman they proudly labeled a "maverick" maybe really is a maverick.

The New York Times had a very funny account of Palin suddenly stopping to take questions from a local TV crew and her traveling press corps. The Times account of what followed:

" ‘Get Tracey,’ one campaign aide barked into his headset, calling for Tracey Schmitt, Ms. Palin’s ever-watchful spokeswoman, who rushed over to supervise the impromptu press conference. (Ms. Schmitt, looking distressed, tried several times to cut it off with a terse ‘Thank you!’ in between questions, to no avail.)"

Later that day Palin again broke free from her handlers to talk to the reporters, causing one to observe later that she was evolving "from the least accessible to the most accessible of the four candidates."

All this has led to the sort of speculation we in the dwindling band of mainstream media love. John Dickerson wrote ". . . political insiders have started asking whether Palin is simply undisciplined or is intentionally ignoring the playbook. And if it’s intentional, the question becomes: Is she putting her own political self-interest ahead of her running mate’s?"

The political pundits were ready with an answer. Roger Simon wrote in Politico, "Sarah Palin may soon be free. Soon, she may not have the millstone of John McCain around her neck. And she can begin her race for president in 2012."

We haven’t even finished the longest, most grueling presidential race in our history and already we’re talking about the next one. Palin in ’12. And why not? The right wing of the Republican party, the only wing that counts — at least until next Tuesday, loves her so she has a ready-made base.

But she can’t run from president from Alaska. Reporters will go to Iowa in January and New Hampshire in February but asking them to go to Alaska is a bit much. Besides, the time zones just kill you on deadlines.

The cell door hasn’t even slammed shut on poor old Ted Stevens and already there is speculation — and the Internet has given a tremendous boost to the groundless speculation industry — that she will appoint herself to his Senate seat if he has to resign.

Her supporters say that short of the vice presidency she would never trade Alaska for Washington, D.C. But maybe not. The flap over the $150,000 wardrobe gave rise to even more speculation. (The McCain campaign says it returned a third of the wardrobe but that still leaves $100,000 worth of glad rags.)

Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker who knows about these matters, says, "The notion that after the campaign they’ll make her give the new wardrobe back, by the way, is palpably ridiculous. Don’t we want Sarah Palin to look hot?" We do, we do.

She says no woman who has worn a $2,500 silk Valentino jacket is going to go back to wearing consignment shop clothes or, having had a personal hairdresser, to having her hair done at the Beehive in Wasilla.

Brown too thinks Palin is now campaigning for her future more than the ticket. Love her or hate her — Christopher Hitchens calls her "a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus" — in two short months, Sarah Palin has made it hard to imagine politics without her.

You betcha.



(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com.)

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