Monday, February 16, 2009

What Sarah Palin must do next

h/t Northern Exposer at Conservative Jedi

What Sarah Palin must do next

Saturday, February 14, 2009, 07:49 PM GMT

By Tim Shipman

It has been a busy month for Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor celebrated her 45th birthday last week and continued to feature in a raft of news stories despite what now seems a calculated effort on her part to minimise publicity.

According to Republicans I've been talking to, this is the best strategy for her if she is to establish herself as a serious contender for the party's presidential nomination in 2012.

At present she is a pop culture phenomenon, rather than the serious political force that her admirers thought she would become. But that can change.

Last week she found herself still embroiled in a long-running spat with the actress Ashley Judd about her support for the aerial execution of wolves.

At the same time two screenwriters expressed interest in making a film of her life. Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Oscar-nominated film Milk, told Variety: "I'm always down for politics as humour. I'm also interested in great characters."

If they want some material on her remarkable emergence on the American stage, these filmmakers could do worse than to read Yuval Levin's recent analysis of the Palin phenomenon. It's strong on the anger that the emergence of a socially conservative female political figure unleashed among left-wing feminists.

Rightly, it points out that this was in some regards a caricature that was thrust upon Sarah Palin; certainly it was not the way she was seen in Alaska before her emergence on the national stage. Here's the key section:

"Palin's social conservatism had never been the core of her political identity in Alaska. She always expressed general support for traditionalist views in interviews and debates ... but Palin never went out of her way to raise abortion or other social or cultural issues, and in her first two years as governor had not sought to change state policies in these areas. She was a good-government reformer with social conservative leanings, not the other way around."

Mrs Palin's best prospects of future advancement will force her to walk a more elegant path between the conservative grassroots, who she needs if she is to win the Republican nomination, and political independents who were put off by the popular view of her as a gun-toting, god-fearing culture warrior, but whose support she would need to become president.

What she really needs is for Alaskan Sarah to hunt down and exterminate running mate Sarah like one of those hapless wolves.

Mrs Palin is already working to improve her image as well as cement her future.

Earlier this month she attended the Alfalfa Club dinner, a prime opportunity to rub shoulders with the Washington elite she spent much of the election campaign deriding. This is sensible. She has also set up a personal political action committee so she can dole out cash to fellow Republicans and build a nationwide network of loyalists. She laughs off claims she has been offered $11m for her life story.

I recently had a conversation with Jim Nuzzo, a Republican strategist and consultant who worked as a senior policy adviser in the first Bush White House. He was the first Republican I came across who was touting Mrs Palin's credentials as a running mate for John McCain. Indeed he phoned me to predict that she would be selected three months before Mr McCain had even met her.

Mr Nuzzo is a fan of Mrs Palin and genuinely believes she can reinvent herself as the new Margaret Thatcher, or a female Ronald Reagan, depending on your preference. But he thinks she now needs to hunker down and get out of the public eye and prepare for a dramatic and persuasive relaunch in the year before the next election.

Here's what he said when I spoke to him a week ago:

"She needs to be enough in public and elite opinion so she doesn‘t fall off the radar screen entirely but she also has to step back and allow Obama his time on the stage and not get worn out herself, not become a figure that the public gets bored of.

"The second thing is to get together with a number of experts and basically do the heavy lifting of learning all the minutiae of what Washington government is all about, with the idea that she produces a book of her ideas in three years time.

"Most presidential candidates do that. It's critical for her. She has to have a book that says: ‘These are the problems of America and this is how we solve them.' And they have to be intellectually sound enough and deep enough that people will give her a second look, while maintaining her no nonsense personal approach to politics. She has to be slightly off the stage to do that."

Mr Nuzzo is keen to stress that this does not mean Mrs Palin should take tutelage from the wise old McCain campaign sages who filled her head with nonsense during the election campaign. And he stresses that she has been the victim of both sexism and class based prejudice. But he added:

"She's got to be that much smarter and that much more in tune than her rivals. What is clear is that she is very bright and a very quick study. In a short period of time a set of advisers can get her to the stage where she is thinking creatively about the solutions to the nation's problems.

"The McCain campaign came in and treated her like an idiot and demanded that she memorise and regurgitate.

"What she needs are people who recognise that she is a brilliant woman and want to give her understanding, which is completely different from giving her a set of facts. She doesn't need someone who is going to hand her an atlas and say: ‘Memorise every capital city and spit it back at me.' What she needs is someone who is willing to work with her so she develops her own understanding of these things, that it becomes Sarah Palin's ideas, owned by Sarah Palin. It requires someone who respects Sarah Palin's intelligence."

Some of these ideas have already been offered by Newt Gingrich, who told The Hill recently that Mrs Palin could become "very formidable" in the coming years as long as she "seeks out a group of sophisticated policy advisers".

But it sounds to me like Mrs Palin should give Mr Nuzzo a call. There is evidence that they are already on the same page with Mrs Palin's decision last week to pull out of the annual CPAC conservative jamboree later this month.

Marc Ambinder has an interesting take here.

During the campaign, Mrs Palin made herself the Republican cheerleader in chief. Whoever would have thought that silence would now be a similar statement of intent.

No comments: