A ‘FUNDAMENTAL MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF GOVERNING’…. Kudos to the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz for addressing one of the more nonsensical explanations for Sarah Palin’s resignation.

Other prospective presidential candidates have decided to leave office. Mitt Romney chose not to run for a second term in Massachusetts when he decided to seek the presidency in 2008. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty already has announced that he will not run for another term next year and is seen as a likely candidate for the 2012 GOP nomination.

Neither Romney nor Pawlenty quit as Palin did, midstream. And Palin’s explanation for stepping down was even more inexplicable. She described the abandonment of her duties almost in noble terms, saying that by leaving now she would avoid the temptation that she ascribed to others who have not run again.

“I thought about, well, how much fun some governors have as lame ducks,” she said. “They maybe travel around their state, travel to other states, maybe take their overseas international trade missions. So many politicians do that. And then I thought, that’s what is wrong. . . . They hit the road, they draw a paycheck, they kind of milk it, and I’m not going to put Alaskans through that.”

That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the responsibilities of governing. Every president becomes a lame duck in his second term. The same for governors, since many are term-limited. Do they “milk it,” as Palin put it, or do most continue working hard to the end to finish off their terms with real accomplishments?

Well said. Palin decided not to seek re-election, which was almost certainly a bad idea, but would presumably give the governor more of an opportunity to run full-time for the presidency. She’s decided, though, that half a term is not only sufficient, but also that meeting her obligations and fulfilling her duties would be a bad thing. Voters are supposed to thank her for quitting half-way through her only term, because lame-duck leaders are, she says, by their very definition, ineffective and wasteful.

In reality, Palin’s argument once again points to her confusion about the basics of government. In this case, the governor had a choice. She could be a lame-duck governor who travels around, goofs off, and kills time until the next election. She could quit after two years. Or she could roll up her sleeves, work hard, pursue the policy agenda she claims to take seriously, and do the job.

Is this really that difficult to understand?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.