All the chatter about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin remaining a shining and still ascending star in the Republican Party is pretty difficult to take seriously. Palin may be the current darling of social conservatives, but six months ago so was ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has quickly receded back to "Mike Who?" Like Huckabee, who marginalized himself by staying in the GOP primary race far too long and with some tasteless comments that raised questions about his judgment, Palin comes out of the campaign with some self-inflicted scars so severe it is unlikely she will be an important force in national politics two years from now, much less the presidential race of 2012.
Palin exudes charisma and charm, but not leadership. Her lack of command of major policy issues -- domestic and foreign -- is a shortcoming that can't be cured with briefings, but only with experience that she won't find as the chief executive of Alaska. Some are touting Palin as the titular head of the populist and "anti-intellectual" wing of the party -- but really ... that's a position and title for someone who can lead a party out of ignominy and back into respected national leadership? Some time in the Senate could provide that type of seasoning and education, but that's not something likely to happen in the next few years.
But she has some other more glaring problems: For a candidate whose chief asset is her aura of genuineness and everyday mom, Palin has caused herself some real problems. Her insistence upon pointing to her supposed opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere weeks after it was clear she had supported it until Congress killed it was not a mistake or simply misleading, but was so contrary to reality that her statements bordered on the delusional. The dust-up over her purchase of some $150,000 worth of clothes at the expense of the GOP and supporters would probably not amount to much, if what happened was ever clear. Newsweek is reporting that she actually spent tens of thousands more than that and, contrary to what Palin and others have said publicly, it was her decision to purchase the wardrobe from expensive department stores. The magazine quoted one McCain aide as characterizing the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said what actually happened will be clear when the Republican Party conducts an audit.