In breaking news which caused the major cable news outlets to cut away from endless tape loops of Michael Jackson's final rehearsal at the Staples center, Sarah Palin has announced that she is stepping down as Governor of Alaska.
The 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate made the surprise announcement earlier today from her home in Wasilla, Alaska. In a rambling and emotional address, Palin said: "The problem today is apathy. We're fisherman. Only dead fish go with the flow."
In deciding not to "go with the flow," Palin said she didn't want to be a lame duck, and she said she can affect change from "out of government." She later corrected her remarks to "outside the governor's office."
Palin asked Alaskans to trust her on the decision, and she says she is transferring power to Lieutenant Gov. Sean Parnell. She said this is the best way to continue her administration's agenda. There is speculation that Palin will seek a Senate seat in 2010 as a warm-up to a presidential run.
She made clear she will be staying in the public eye. "I'll work very hard for others who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government and strong national security for our country and support our troops and energy independence, and for those who will protect freedom and equality and life," she said, her voice shaking as the emotion overtook her. "I'll work hard for and campaign for those who are proud to be Americans, and who are inspired by my ideals....And I don't care what party you're in or no party at all, inside of Alaska or outside of Alaska".
According to a Palin aide, she is stepping down so that she can take the fight for her issues elsewhere. In her rambling speech, she said her work will continue, but wasn't clear what it was that her work will entail. "But I won't do it from the governor's desk," she said. "I've never believed that I nor anyone else needs a title to do this - to make a difference to help people".
Democrats were quick to respond with criticism. Hari Savugan, a spokesman for the DNC, said: "Her decision to abandon her post and the people of Alaska who elected her continues a pattern of bizarre behavior that more than anything else may explain the decision she made today." The news media followed with speculation about her sudden announcement.
Indeed, in today's speech, Palin said that one reason for her decision to leave office is because of the bad press that has descended on Alaska as a result of the "mean-spirited" battering she and her family has suffered at the hands of the press.
Bad press has followed her since the beginning of her run for vice-president. Most recently, in this week's Vanity Fair, anonymous John McCain campaign workers blamed her "narcissistic personality disorder" for sabotaging the campaign. Todd Purdum, the writer of the Vanity Fair piece, described Palin's public life as "an unholy amalgam between 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Northern Exposure'," a cult comedy-drama from the 1990's about life in Alaska.
In Purdum's profile, he quoted Palin as saying "Believe me, Alaska is a microcosm of America." Purdum countered with "Believe me, it is not." The article is the talk of Washington this week, but the media has pretty much been having a field day at Palin's expense since she burst onto the national scene.
Keith Olbermann, on his MSNBC political talk show, featured the now-famous video of Palin's pardoning-a-turkey photo-op standing directly in front of a man engaged in the act of slaughtering turkeys. It was hard to listen to what Palin was saying as turkeys were being shoved into a grinder right behind her.
More recently, Palin's famous feud with David Letterman gave the media a chance to keep Palin in the news just as interest in her seemed to be subsiding. In his Top 10 segment, Letterman joked about Palin's trip to New York: "She bought makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look." He went on to joke about her trip to Yankee Stadium by saying, "her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez." The next night he made another joke about her visit to see the Yankees, where she sat next to Rudy Giuliani and her 14-year-old daughter Willow. "They had a wonderful time. The toughest part was keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter." The reference to the ex-New York governor who got caught with a prostitute was the last straw, and Palin came out firing, as did her husband Todd, who called Letterman "perverted."
Letterman let the feud build up for a week as he saw his ratings soar past Conan O'Brien's "The Tonight Show." "Late Show With David Letterman" was in second place for years when he was opposite Jay Leno. Letterman spent the week of the feud making half-hearted apologies in between jokes as he watched his show go to the top of the ratings. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd hit the talk show circuit and milked the publicity for all it was worth. Letterman finally made a full apology and the media went back to other matters.
The Letterman feud seemed to change the tide of public opinion toward Sarah Palin. While many tuned in to Letterman's show to see his response to Palin's over-the-top reaction, most people thought Letterman had crossed the line, including his fans. The fact that Letterman gave a heart-felt apology, saying that he wasn't referring to Palin's 14-year-old daughter Willow, but was joking about Bristol, who is 18, didn't go over well with even some of Letterman's fans. Letterman got a pass however, as he asked the public to look at his record, and they did, letting Letterman settle back into his routine of coming in a close second to "The Tonight Show."
Talk show hosts and pundits generally said that Sarah Palin had milked the Letterman feud for political gain, and the were probably right. Joan E. Dowlin, in the Huffington Post, wrote that Palin's acceptance of Letterman's apology was "a triumph not just for the Governor, but for women and girls across the country". Dowlin went on to say: "If we can learn anything from the Palin-Letterman feud, it is that speaking out for rights of all people is not just a freedom but our responsibility. Seeing all the unrest and oppression in Iran puts everything in perspective, and I for one am glad to live in a country where we can even have this conversation". Dowlin wrote that on June 18, and since than the situation in Iran took on explosive proportions, with the videotaped killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was watching a demonstration in Tehran. The news spread quickly through the Internet and made Agha-Soltan the face of oppression in Iran.
The media focuses on what the public wants to know, and the death of Michael Jackson put all other news on hold. Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina dodged the media spotlight for much of the week after his extra-marital affair with a woman in Argentina hit the news the day before Jackson's death, and it was picking up steam. Sanford got a reprieve because of Jackson. The country forgot about Neda Agha-Soltan. Farrah Fawcett died, but tributes to her were put on hold. The same for Ed McMahon before her, and Billy Mays and Sky Saxon after her. I still haven't figured out who Billy Mays and Sky Saxon are, but now, with the focus on all things Michael Jackson, I never will.
Today, Friday, a day before the 4th of July holiday, started out as a slow news day. A minute-and-a-half tape of Michael Jackson's last rehearsal was running over and over, as news commentators just broke the news about his funeral, which they announced would be held next Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Sarah Palin broke the Jackson tape loop by announcing in a trembling, emotional speech: "So Alaska may progress, I will not seek reelection as governor". What she will do is anybody's guess. She said the decision to step down as governor of Alaska was made awhile ago. But one thing's for sure, she waited until the time was right to make her announcement. If she had given her speech one week earlier, nobody would have been watching. Michael Jackson was the biggest news event of the century. And with the new way news is spread today at the speed of thy Internet, Michael Jackson's untimely death may have been the biggest news event ever. And it's not over.
After Palin's speech, the media cut away to the videotape of Michael Jackson's last rehearsal. His comeback tour has been canceled, but the full tape of Jackson's final rehearsals are in the can. Look for the biggest selling DVD of all time.
In the meantime, Sarah Palin went back inside her house, where her view of Russia is obscured, and on July 16 she will become a private citizen. Hopefully, she'll fade into obscurity, but probably not. She has her eyes on the 2012 presidential race. Michael Jackson will still be in the news, but a lot can change between now and 2012. As she weighs her political options, Palin's best hope is to sign a book or movie deal. In politics, there are no guarantees. There's one thing I do know. Sarah Palin will never become president of the United States of America.