Ok, ok, stop asking. The Volgi’s take is this: Palin’s long suits are just ridiculous quantities of charisma and a devoted following among evangelicals, many pro-life Catholics, and a substantial group of conservative women. Unless she’s leaving Juneau one step ahead of the sheriff or some policy she implemented turns out to sink the Kenai Peninsula, she won’t lose those two high cards.
Thus, a couple years down the road, if it turns out her resignation left the state in good order, she’s fine. Likewise, if she eventually explains it with a powerful human-interest story, à la “my marriage was on the rocks and I had to fix it” or “the media assault on my children was too much and I bowed out for their sake; now that they’re older, I’m back in,” she’ll gain yet more centrist, conservative-lifestyle (whatever their policy viewpoints) voters. Absent scandal, she’s in the door.
However, all of these assets together can’t win her the nomination, much less the presidency. To put a winning bid for either together, she has to master a set of economic arguments to at least make her look credible next to Mitt Romney, the presumptive front-runner (and Republicans are nothing if not slavishly deferential to presumptive candidates), as well as a corpus of foreign-policy knowledge in addition to her not-trivial knowledge as a border-state governor. Her experience dealing with Canada in pipeline negotiations as well as Russia in National Guard and federal military-base matters is relevant and substantive (and far greater than anything President Obama brought to the table). That said, it has to be merely a foundation. Women candidates, like it or not, have to be extra-credible on national-security issues. The fact that she’s enthusiastically blazed away with an M4 in Kuwait is a nice visual, but she has to go farther and be able to stake out specific strong positions, on both foreign policy and economics.
The career of Margaret Thatcher is instructive. If anyone has Gov. Palin’s address, please buy her this terrific book by FotG Claire Berlinski. ASAP. It’s the sole place that I’ve seen Thatcher’s femininity handled intelligently and in the context of her career—including such piquant bits as hercoming up as a “greengrocer’s daughter” to her clouding men’s minds with her sex appeal, to playing the coquette with Gorbachëv. (I kid you not. Seriously, buy the book.)
Pursuing Alaska’s (and therefore American) interests in these cases in one thing. Having a strategic vision and enough knowledge about the governments of the world and their agendas is another thing. It’s not rocket science, by any means. It’s mostly a knowledge of human nature combined with a good deal of factual knowledge about history and culture. One does not doubt that she could master the basics and put together a great team of experts to advise her on the thorny cases out in the weeds. She appears to have little trouble coming to a decision and sticking to it—that is the basic skill a president or prime minister needs. If it’s backed up with a serious worldview and a good knowledge of the world as it is, that’s all you can ask.
Indeed, one does not want a Kissinger, Brzenzinski, or Rice as an executive—like most intellectuals, their knowledge base is an impediment to pursuing clear, direct policies. Like Prufrock, if they have any self-knowledge, they will admit, at heart:
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
Reading past J. Alfred’s ridiculous poseur humility, that is the role for intellectuals in government. Not running the show, but over at the science station, giving Captain Kirk their best advice and letting the crazy risk-taker decide whether or not to worry about Bones’s communicator left behind in Bela Oxmyx’s office or whether or not the Federation’s interests are better served by violating the Romulan Neutral Zone.
So, if she does want to play in the majors, Palin could be fine, provided she does actually sink into obscurity for a little while and provided she takes advantage of her absence from the stage to work on her stuff until she’s able to augment her strengths with some heavy-duty substance.
We’ll see. In the meantime, Flava Last at the Standard points out the most impressive Palin revelation of the last couple weeks.