Can Sarah Palin be more than a political celebrity?
She must decide whether she wants to be a heavyweight public servant or a rock star.
East Otis, Mass.
Sarah Palin's political learning curve has to be steep if she hopes to be taken seriously as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012.Skip to next paragraph
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Last autumn she sought to shore up her foreign-policy credentials by pointing out that you can see Russia from land in Alaska. It would be well if she also learned the old Russian proverb, "If you want to run with the wolves, you have to learn to howl like a wolf."
The media's treatment of the former Alaska governor and her family has at times crossed a line, but Ms. Palin's whining about it doesn't help. She should accept that harsh portrayals go with being a celebrity.
She may take some comfort in knowing that politicians a century ago had it worse. In 1884, Republican opponents of Grover Cleveland discovered that, as a young man, the eventual two-term president may have sired a child out of wedlock. Their campaign chant became, "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? He's gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha."
Palin's education ought to begin with an honesty check. She needs to come to grips with the fact that she was not Republican nominee John McCain's first choice to be vice president.
A senior McCain adviser told me that the Arizona senator really preferred Connecticut senator and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman to be his running mate. But when the McCain staff privately polled party delegates about Senator Lieberman's acceptability in GOP circles, half indicated they would walk out of the convention if Lieberman was on the ticket, and the other half said they would acquiesce but sit on their hands.
The McCain campaign scarcely had five days to find their man a running mate. Palin was effectively forced upon a reluctant Senator McCain in a risky campaign move designed to reverse Barack Obama's momentum.
Last autumn's campaign was a mere flirtation, given what may lie ahead for Palin if she decides to throw her hat in the ring. She must decide whether she wants to be a heavyweight public servant or a rock star. Republicans have a responsibility to decide not only if she can win, but also whether she has the gravitas to do the job.
Then the public has to decide how attached it wants to get to the latest political celebrity. Celebritydom is damaging – both to the stars and their admirers. It is excessively egocentric. It transgresses the classic Greek rule of self-governance, "Beware of hubris!" Pride and vanity are the Achilles' heel of those who aspire to greatness.