The road to resignation

THE ROAD TO RESIGNATION…. The New York Times has a detailed, 2,500-word piece today on Sarah Palin’s life since the end of the presidential campaign. It’s well reported and helps shed some light on what prompted the governor to announce her resignation halfway through her only term.

Palin told the state legislature in January, for example, that she was prepared to resume her gubernatorial duties with “optimism and collaboration and hard work to get the job done.” That, we now know, didn’t happen, but there’s no shortage of reasons to explain why.

The Times piece looks at a variety of angles, including Palin’s decision to ignore good advice, but I was especially interested in the governor’s willingness to engage in a series of feuds.

[T]o the dismay of some advisers, Ms. Palin dived into the fray, seeming to relish the tabloid-ready fights that consumed her as the work of the state at times went undone.

Her public feud with David Letterman over a tasteless sexual joke he made about one of her daughters spun into a broader fight at home with a fellow Republican over state efforts to combat sexual abuse.

She had a political aide issue a news release condemning Levi Johnston, the teenage father of her daughter Bristol’s newborn, for his assertion that Ms. Palin had known the unwed high-schoolers were having sex all along. […]

By all accounts, Ms. Palin became consumed with the complaints, no matter how small-bore — which many were — or where they came from.

This included official press statements responding to criticisms raised by local bloggers.

Not surprisingly, the desire to respond to disparagements, no matter how small, took Palin’s focus away from her day job. A Republican state lawmaker who worked in support of Palin’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006 said, “We had business to do,” but the governor wouldn’t engage. Another Republican state lawmaker added, “My only criticism of her was she probably paid too much attention” to the various fights.

In the larger context, publius’ take struck me as the right one: Palin’s “hair-trigger sensitivity was a function of her inexperience. It’s easy to forget just how meteoric her rise was…. Basically, she went from nobody to world celebrity in 24 hours. As a result, she never had time to develop the thick skin that successful politicians must eventually acquire. Indeed, one of the overlooked benefits of political experience is that you develop scars. Sure, experience helps you learn issues and the media game and all that. But it also hardens you. You learn over the years to take your blows, pick your battles, and adjust to reading savage attacks on you and even your family. You learn not to be debilitated by it.”

It led to what seems like a near-obsession with criticism, each of which demanded not only Palin’s response, but her attention. Apparently, staying “above the fray” just wasn’t one of the considered options.

The pressure, it seems, became overwhelming, and contributed to the governor’s decision to quit.