This past Monday I met with my publisher to discuss changing the title of my forthcoming book on Sarah Palin. After batting a few names back and forth we settled on "Wild Card," unaware that just three days later she would live up to our title with a bizarre press conference in which she announced her resignation as governor of Alaska. Her rambling defense of why she felt she needed to quit wasn't quite as rambling as South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's "what I did on my weekend in Argentina" speech, but even her supporters can be forgiven for being confused by the mixed signals she was giving out. Was she a) tired of having her son Trig mocked b) tired of being investigated c) looking out for the taxpayers of Alaska by quitting so the state wouldn/t be spending any more money to investigate her or d) clearing her schedule for a presidential run?
It's anyone's guess. But what is clear to me, based on her experience in Alaskan politics, is that beneath the veneer of sweetness and mangled syntax lies a tough, canny, opportunistic, steel-eyed politician who sees opportunities on the horizon and instead of waiting for them to come her, moves toward them. So what opportunities could she be seeing on the horizon?
Whatever her current deficiencies, Palin has the luxury of having time on her side. At 45 years-of-age, she can comfortably take time to grow her stature on the American cultural and political scene by writing a bestselling book, hosting a nationally syndicated TV talk show that would position her as the heartland's answer to Oprah, rearing her children and getting into fighting trim.
In 2028, with Trig turning 20, and two decades of a daily talk show under her belt, coupled with lots of time to reflect, write and think about the great issues of her time, Palin could very well be an unstoppable cultural and political force-part Oprah, part Reagan.
While she may be compared by her supporters to Reagan, what they forget is that when Reagan was Palin's age, it was 1956 and he was still 24 years away from his moment of impact on the American presidency and from finding his voice on issues like tax cuts, Soviet Communism, and opposition to abortion, all of which fully ripened as issues and came to the fore of American public consciousness in the turbulent 1970s. Reagan spent those intervening two decades writing, listening, reading, talking and developing a philosophy of governance that he simply didn't have at the age of 45, when he was a shadow of the politician he would become.
If Palin is to be a serious political force in American politics, she too will need to take time to hone her craft and both deepen her understanding of the issues as well as sharpen her communication skills.
In my book I quote a prominent conservative commentator -- no Palin hater she -- who says this about her: "She has natural skills that can't be acquired but what she does need is book smarts which can be acquired."
Mark Joseph is a producer, the editor of Bullypulpit!.com and the author of the forthcoming book "Wild Card: The Rise of Sarah Palin"