I watched the video of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech yesterday with much discomfort — sort of the way I watch disgusting viral videos sent to me by old friends from college.

It wasn’t because I’m a Sarah Palin fan — I’m not. It was just the sheer awkwardness of the entire event: the timing, right before the July 4 weekend; the setting (in front of the lake near her Wasilla home); and, most of all, the speech itself — rambling, babbling, incoherent, full of forced, ham-handed metaphors, and topped off by the worst use of a (mis-) quote I’ve heard in recent memory.

(On that last note, others have already pointed out that the “We are advancing in a different direction” quote wasn’t Gen. MacArthur’s, it was Marine Gen. O.P. Smith’s, whose remarks came just before X Corps pulled back to Pusan during the Korean War — which remains the largest retreat in U.S. military history, whatever Gen. Smith may have wanted to call it).

Speculation abounds over the governor’s unexpected resignation. Perhaps, she’s opening up her schedule in order to gear up for a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. Maybe she’s got some significant skeletons that are about to make an appearance from the closet. Or maybe she’s genuinely had it with politics and is calling it quits.

If the first of those theories is true, Friday’s resignation has scuttled her ship before it’s even had a chance to sail. She came under fire for being a political novice during the last campaign, and quitting her office before having completed even a single full term as governor is only going to add fuel to the fire. In the case of the second — some kind of upcoming political bombshell on the immediate horizon — then she’s preemptively battening down the hatches, which would suggest a problem bigger than South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s.

In the third case, she’s probably making the right move. She was very obviously out of her depth on the national politics stage — as Mark Purdom’s piece in this month’s Vanity Fair makes clear. The resignation speech itself, as Paul Begala points out, was inane and childish, even in the text version posted on Palin’s own web site.

I fear, however, that we have not heard the last of Sarah Palin. She has her political fundraising group (“SarahPAC”), a “book” on the horizon (heavily edited by publisher Harpur-Collins, if Friday’s speech is any indication of the governor’s own literary ability), and she remains one of the Republican Party’s most profitable audience-pleasers.

And this may indeed be a role the former beauty queen is more cut out for. She’s a spokeswoman, not a politician.

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