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The Real Problem With Palin's Press Conference

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Reuters

Sarah Palin's July 3 press conference announcing her resignation as Alaska's governor has been criticized ad nauseam by the liberal media. It's been called incoherent, rambling, and bizarre, and, according to Maureen Dowd, the Chaucer of the New York Times, "Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy."

Aside from that brief but truly searing analysis, very few on the left have offered any real interpretations of Palin's press conference and resignation announcement. Tina Dupuy resoundingly declared on Huffington Post, "Sarah Palin hates you, you betcha! [She hates] the media and all the smarty people in it."

Also on HuffPo, that Foucaultian vessel of scholarly badinage, Francesca Biller-Safran has decided Palin is resigning to marry a moose. (Yes, really. "You're invited to the wedding.")

On CNN, Jack Cafferty found a pointed way to combat the so-called "lame duck" excuse. "She was already lame," he cackled, like an ornery old man who suspects his nurses are secretly trying to poison him.

And Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic gathers her resignation was merely a publicity stunt. "So Todd and Sarah Plus Five (Or Four) is just a newer version of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight." It's great box office for a cable channel." Of course, the parenthetical "or four" is Sullivan's way of alleging (yet again) that her Down Syndrome child isn't really hers.

So, to sum up, Palin hates the media, she's marrying a moose, and she's raising someone else's baby. But she's the crazy one?

Palin's press conference was not incoherent. In fact, there were moments that recalled William Jennings Bryan or Daniel Webster. In describing William Seward's risky acquisition of Alaska, she said, "Seward providentially saw in this great land vast riches, beauty, strategic placement on the globe, and opportunity. He boldly looked 'North to the Future.' But he endured such ridicule and mocking for his vision for Alaska. Seward withstood such disdain as he chose the uncomfortable, unconventional, but right path to secure Alaska, so Alaska could help secure the United States."

Nor was the press conference bizarre. Bizarre is Jim McGreevey declaring, "I am a gay American," as he stood beside his second wife of eight years. Bizarre is Mark Sanford offering unnecessarily personal details about a secret Argentinean love affair as an exceedingly uncomfortable media squirmed in their plastic chairs, visions of awkward tango lessons dancing in their heads.

But there was a problem with Sarah Palin's Alaska press conference. It's not a big problem, but it's a problem nonetheless that she and her supporters need to acknowledge, and it's the reason her conservative allies in the press, in the strategy rooms, and in elected office are reluctantly scratching their heads. She didn't give one reason for leaving the governor's office. She gave six.

Any marketing executive knows a message is most effective when it's uncomplicated, singularly focused, to-the-point, and gets across the "what" and the "why." What's the product and why do I need it? For Palin, we got the "what" of her message: she's resigning as governor. But we didn't get the "why." We got six.

Any one of the reasons she listed for leaving office are sound and compelling enough to stand alone. There's the cost of ethics investigations to the state of Alaska, the cost of ethics investigations to the Palins personally, a desire to fight for others outside their state, a decision not to "milk" her lame-duck status, the unrelenting attacks on her family by the press, and an urgency to spend more time with her children, especially her disabled son Trig. In a moment that should remind the Maureen Dowds of the world that she is, above all else, a mother, she said warmly, "The world needs more Trigs, not fewer."

But Palin is also a cunning politician. She knows what she's doing, and I am certain she will be just fine in the end. Her detractors on the left don't want her "solved," they want her gone. And they're mocking her press conference out of fear -- fear of the unknown, the what ifs. Where's she going? What's she going to do next? What's she got up her sleeve?

They're right to be worried. They haven't heard the last of her, and they know it. But as she advances in another direction, as she put it, quoting General MacArthur, her supporters want to know what they're fighting for. They want to know what, specifically, she wants, so that they can help her get it. If it's privacy, no problem. A 2012 nomination? No problem. A best-selling book and a way out of debt? No problem. "Trust me," she said in her press conference. They do, unconditionally, but she needs to give them a clear "why."