Exit stage right

Just before your contrarian conservative columnist conceived these words, Sarah Palin earned my attention and then went off to do her outdoorsy thing.

In truth, I didn’t much take to Alaska’s governor ’til now. She is right of my more centrist conservativism. Yet I held little against her; just didn’t take her seriously. Now that she “stunned” folks with her imminent exit from the public payroll, I’ll stay tuned.

I was less stunned. Governors generally are a strange lot and hold jobs only robots would want, if you discount the perks. Imagine knowing everyone in your state is your boss and close to half or more, at any given time, think you’re wrong-headed.

Palin, even though she sometimes spews talking points, is no robot. I’m sure of that because I got to know her, up close and impersonal, reporting on her Northern Nevada appearances last year when she was No. 2 on the Republican ticket with Sen. John McCain, GOP standard bearer.

Palin’s open secret is that she lives in the moment. It’s a rare asset/liability among those who seek/win public office. She may or may not be smart (perhaps is), may or may not be a student (probably isn’t), but she certainly is herself.

She is comfortable in her own skin, as was conservative President Ronald Reagan and as is liberal President Barack Obama, though her media spotlight comfort level needs work.

Palin isn’t the programmable robot political handlers and the media minute crowd prefer.

Nor is she the reason McCain let the presidency slip away last year. McCain lost because of McCain, former President G.W. Bush and current President B.H. Obama.

McCain’s “Hail Mary” pass play to Palin fell incomplete because quarterback John strong-armed it, not because right end Sarah couldn’t catch up with the heave. To overdo this political football analogy, the air attack didn’t work because McCain had no ground game against which Obama-maniacs were forced to defend.

So what’s next for Palin? If she is smart, she will make money, become a student and bide her time. If Obama stumbles, she could run for president in 2012. If not, she certainly is young enough to wait until 2016.

This isn’t an endorsement column. For me, being right isn’t sufficient alone. You must be right, as in accurate and thoughtful, on issues as well if you want my vote.

Palin showed weaknesses last year, both as a national candidate and, from my perspective, on some issues. But not ready for prime time isn’t the greatest sin for a young politician from a remote venue—if she can learn.

She still must prove her mettle to play with the big fat cat white guys who run the GOP, let alone in the media minefield and against dem Dems.

McCain in 2008 displayed similar problems in his race. And Palin will face those obstacles again if she remains active. But quitting as Alaska governor was a plus, not a minus, in my book.

Too many officeholders cling to empty power in time-limited terms. Good actors know timing and exits are as important as entrances, as do shrewd pols.

In addition, if Palin considers seeking the presidency she must understand the lesson of being Alaska governor and McCain’s running mate. The only thing worse than not getting what you want … is getting it. It is life’s lesson/gift that keeps on giving.

Maybe she learned it and quit politics now for family and state. Whatever. But I’m here to commend her for recapturing the highest office in the land: American private citizen.