Sarah Palin, Preparing To Run

[ Posted Monday, July 6th, 2009 – 16:55 UTC ]

While it is so easy to slip into double meanings when talking about Sarah Palin (for example, I considered "Waiting For The Other Naughty Monkey Double Dare Red Shoe To Drop" as a title today... ahem), the title I did choose starts out as a literal one. Because I finally got around to reading Palin's most recent interview, in Runner's World magazine. And the article is accompanied by seven photos, not (as one may have expected) of Sarah Palin actually running, but instead of Sarah preparing to run. We'll get into double meanings later, but first, let's examine these preparing-to-run photos.

Most of the photos are just of Palin stretching or doing yoga, in running clothes. One prominently features her son Trig. But it's the last one that really gave me pause. It shows Governor Palin (we can still call her that for another few weeks) in what is close to a classic beauty queen pose (one leg slightly bent at the knee, hand on hip), in a bright red shirt and what I assume are black running shorts. But it's everything around Palin that really makes the photo.

Unlike the other photos, which were shot outdoors near the lakeshore (where she reportedly does her actual running), this one is posed in what appears to be her living room. Prominent behind Palin is a small banner with a star on it, in honor of her son's military service overseas. This is attached to a picture window which shows the lake, and a small part of her seaplane and dock. A pair of fuzzy booties really should have been moved a bit to the side by the photographer, as they appear to be growing out of Palin's hip (this is basic portraiture -- pick a neutral background so things aren't growing out of a subject's head or other parts of the anatomy). And Palin is awkwardly clutching what appears to be a Blackberry-type PDA (although, in my admitted ignorance, it may be some sort of fancy running computer). Clutching this object is what spoils the classic model's pose, and makes her stance look forced, but maybe Palin herself wanted it in the shot. And there's one more thing about that photo that leaps out at you.

The power outlet behind her has only one socket child-proofed. Seems like locking half the barn door.

No, I'm kidding, of course. The most prominent thing in the photo (other than Palin herself) is the American flag draped over the desk stool Palin is leaning upon. Much more than the PDA in her hand, this is what causes this photo to scream "Posed!" at me. Because only a cursory look reveals that that flag was just taken out of a box, and has never flown anywhere. You can easily spot the creases in it, and if you looked closely enough you could probably spot a price tag on it somewhere.

Accompanying this photo is the following quote, from the interview with Palin:

It doesn't matter your background, your demographics, your race, your political affiliation, it's such a uniting, healthy, fun, awesome activity. It cracks me up going to some running event and seeing some dude who campaigned so hard against me, or a lady who's been blogging some mean comments about me. But we're all there together and we're smiling and we're having a good time because we're going to do something healthy and active. We need more of that.

To be fair, it's a longish interview, and politics only came up once or twice, when the interviewer asked Palin political questions (this quote is in response to the question: "Is running nonpartisan?").

The whole interview is interesting, mainly because Palin just doesn't give many such long and in-depth interviews. Of course, it is centered around running (consider the audience), but Sarah's "I just gotta be me" spirit peeks out here and there. She gets in a few digs at McCain's handlers (they refused to schedule a half-hour or hour for her to run every day during the campaign), and even one at McCain's expense ("I used to joke around with John McCain during the campaign about coming jogging with me. And once I asked him what his favorite exercise was, and he said, 'I go wading.' Wading. He lives on a creek in Arizona, so he goes wading. That cracked me up.").

But there's also a few read-between-the-lines candid moments in the interview as well. Perhaps Palin was posed for the preparing-to-run photos (rather than actual photos of her running) because she is wearing makeup for the photographer. As she puts it: "When I run, I'm totally incognito because I'm not wearing the trough full of makeup. I can go running through a mob of tourists and they don't recognize me."

But on a larger scale, there are a few other quotes that bear reprinting here.

Well, I appreciated the fact that in running I needed guts more than anything. I could do fine just being really determined. I was thankful that I didn't need a whole lot of skills to run.

. . .

I feel so crappy if I go more than a few days without running. I have to run. No matter how rotten I feel before or during a run, it's always worth it to me afterwards. Sweat is my sanity. A great frustration I had during the campaign was when the McCain staff wouldn't carve out time for me to go for a run. The days never went as well if I couldn't get out there and sweat.

. . .

I'm always running about 10 degrees colder than everyone around me; I'm always cranking up the heat. I think because we do have so many cold days here, it's such a luxury and a pleasure to go somewhere warm. I think you guys who get a lot of warm weather take it for granted and you shouldn't. I thought that was a great part of the campaign -- we'd be out there at events or up there on stage just sweatin' like pigs, and I loved it.

. . .

In Anchorage on the coastal trail there have been many times where I've had to stop right in my tracks and turn around because there's been either a moose standing there staring at me or a moose's butt plopping on over into the trail. I have to turn around and leave, or I'm going to get clobbered.

But the really relevant passages are even more fascinating, now that Palin has announced she is resigning her governorship to answer a "higher calling." The first comes when she is asked what her parents taught her about running:

They taught me self-discipline and goal setting. The self-discipline it took for my dad to train for and qualify for Boston, eating healthy and getting up in those Alaskan morning conditions where it would be 20 below. To see that example of what it takes to accomplish a goal, the determination it took, taught me so much. He used to tell us to call on the rock during a race when we were hurting and we were tired and wanted to quit. He always told us to articulate what it is we've trained for, what it is we're prepared for, and hold onto it when it hurts so bad in a race. We all have a different rock, but Dad inspired us with the knowledge that we could reach down deep and get strength from it. And that's not just a lesson when you're out there dying on the 23rd mile of a marathon but one for getting through daily life. Sometimes you've got to call upon your rock to get through the tough times.

Later, she is asked what running has taught her about politics. She replies:

Same thing it's taught me about life: You have to have determination and set goals, and you don't complain when something's hurting because no one wants to hear it. You get bummed and burned out sometimes in running and in politics, but if you're in for the long haul and you're in it because you know that it is a good thing, then you get out there and you do it anyway.

And, after talking about playing Barack Obama in basketball, Palin is asked if she could beat the president in a run (not a campaign, an actual run). Her answer:

I betcha I'd have more endurance. My one claim to fame in my own little internal running circle is a sub-four marathon. It wasn't necessarily a good running time, but it proves I have the endurance within me to at least gut it out and that is something. If you ever talk to my old coaches, they'd tell you, too. What I lacked in physical strength or skill I made up for in determination and endurance. So if it were a long race that required a lot of endurance, I'd win.

Does anyone really think, after reading that, that Sarah Palin is going to disappear off the political stage any time soon? Of course, it's easy to denigrate Palin from those quotes about "in it for the long haul" now that she's announced her impending resignation. But, if seen through the lens of her preparing for her 2012 presidential run, they make a whole lot more sense. A presidential campaign (as opposed to the "sprint" nature of her vice-presidential campaign) is indeed a long race that requires a lot of endurance.

And I have to caution those who are laughing off any future for Sarah Palin in politics right now. This includes most of the inside-the-Beltway chattering class (except, of course, for Palin's biggest cheerleader, Bill Kristol). But these same folks (or folks of their identical ilk) also laughed at George W. Bush, before he got elected. And they really laughed at Ronald Reagan when he lost the Republican nomination in 1976. An actor?!? Running for president?!? Pre-POS-ter-ous!

Even earlier, Richard Nixon himself famously gave a speech "retiring" from politics, and uttered the immortal line: "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more." This was in 1962. Within six years, he was in the Oval Office.

Now, I'm not saying that Palin is going to follow in Ronnie's footsteps (or Tricky Dick's, for that matter). But I am saying that it is way too early to write this woman off as a has-been in the world of politics. Unless, of course, a scandal breaks to explain why Palin is now stepping down from being governor. They even have a name for this not-yet-revealed and non-specific scandal in Alaska: "the iceberg." As in, the one that finally sinks S.S. Palin. But barring an iceberg-sized scandal breaking, I think Palin has set a record for the earliest presidential campaign launch in American history. Over three years before the 2012 election, Palin has thrown her hat in the ring. She will shed Alaska and soon begin making appearances for Republican candidates in the 2010 midterm congressional elections. She will quietly build up favors, and give speeches to adoring crowds. She will make a bunch of money, and she will (more importantly) be working behind the scenes to line up deep-pocket Republican donors as well. And soon after the dust settles from the midterms, she will launch her formal campaign.

Democrats will read these speculations with some glee. Lining up Sarah Palin against Barack Obama in 2012 would seem to be a fairly easy ride to Obama's re-election. But three years is a long time, and a lot can happen. The real question at this point is whether Palin could win Republican primaries, and the Republican nomination. Which is not so farfetched a scenario as her winning the general election, one has to admit.

And nobody should doubt that she's going to at least make the attempt. As in the Runner's World photos, I truly think Sarah Palin is not running, but is definitely preparing to run. Palin herself put it best: "You get bummed and burned out sometimes in running and in politics, but if you're in for the long haul and you're in it because you know that it is a good thing, then you get out there and you do it anyway."

I leave you, today, with lyrics from a Grateful Dead song ("Fire On The Mountain") which just seemed somehow appropriate in the frenzy of speculation which has erupted like an Alaskan volcano since Sarah Palin announced she was stepping down as governor.

Long distance runner, what you holdin' out for?
Caught in slow motion in a dash for the door.
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor.
You gave all you had, why you wanna give more?
The more that you give, the more it will take
To the thin line beyond which you really can't fake.


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


19 Comments on “Sarah Palin, Preparing To Run”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    It looks like this is one of those things that we just have to wait and see how it plays out. Is the other shoe going to drop? Is this a long-range plan to run for President? Or is this simply a way to make a bunch of money?

    Only time will tell.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Amongst the countless articles that have been and will be written in the frenzy of speculation over why Governor Palin resigned and what she plans to do in the future, this Palin essay has set the gold standard for journalistic excellence.

    There will not be a better piece written about Sarah Palin and her political future. It’s the only one I’ll read and it was a pleasure.

    As for the pictures from the Runner's World magazine interview...number one, you are extremely observant, Chris and, number two...those pictures are fabulous and I am officially jealous...I get back into my own exercise regime!

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    I'm going to answer a bunch of comments together here. I'm still having HuffPost comment problems, so I'll also be answering comments from HuffPost here (in case you were confused at some of the following replies):

    pdxsean -

    I too noticed the harsh lighting, and wondered why a backlight wasn't directed to that very white wall behind her, to eliminate the shadows. And I too thought a polarizing filter would have helped, although the window reflections aren't as bad as the shadows. But your theory that the photographer was pushed around by Palin's "I want it MY way" attitude is an interesting one. Especially the shoes -- that's such a rookie mistake.

    Nixon uttered his famous line after he had lost the presidential race to JFK and then lost a governor's race in California in '62. I had thought it was the Checkers speech, but that was much earlier... live and learn.

    PrincipaChamp -

    Ohh, you betcha!

    Heh heh.

    BMS -

    Yeah, that line flitted through my head, too, but I got it wrong (look up top on the HuffPost article, "draped in a flag" is one of the keywords I assigned...). I think you're right, though, I think "wrapped" is correct.

    Doofus -

    Your last paragraph may be true, but remember, in 1992 all the Democrats were terrified of GHW Bush (his approval ratings were sky-high after the Gulf War) and so all the "big names" sat it out. And Clinton waltzed right in to victory as a result. I'm not saying that's what will happen with Palin, but I'm not saying that it won't happen, either.

    Stan and oldgeek1-

    Yeah, time will tell if she's just cashing in (or "selling out," take your pick) or if she really is (as Bill Kristol keeps saying) "crazy like a fox."

    Elizabeth -

    Thanks for the kind words! I was impressed at the length and (relative) depth of the RW article, so I thought I'd go to Palin's own words and see if I could read between the lines. I do think a lot of people in the media truly do exhibit an "elitist" attitude towards Palin, as they do with just about any politician who talks with an accent (Democrat or Republican). Palin fans call this "hate" of Palin, but it's really not -- it's more properly labelled "disdain" or even "ridicule." I don't agree with much that comes out of Palin's mouth, but I give her the benefit of the doubt that I give any politician, and try to figure out what she is really trying to say. That's really where this article came from.

    To all -

    Thanks for commenting! I should be back up and running with comments over at HuffPost in the next week or so, sorry about the inconvenience....


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Freesia2 -

    I've been pointing out the Alaska Independence Party stuff since mere days after McCain announced her as running mate. From back then:

    "What exactly is Sarah Palin's relationship to the Alaska Independence Party — a political party that wants Alaska to secede from the union, and who claims Sarah Palin as one of their own? Is Sarah Palin's motto 'Alaska First' (as the A.I.P. has on their website), or is it John McCain's 'country first'?"

    I hadn't noticed that the mainstream media had (finally -- little late, guys) picked up on this. Got a link to a recent story?


  5. [5] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Palin is certainly not leaving politics behind forever. She's coming down to the lower 48 to build a national movement for her own coronation (and I use that word deliberately).

    Her brand is entirely built on personal charisma. She comes from the charismatic branch of right-wing Christianist politics and is entirely a creature of the fringe movement. I expect her to show up at tea parties and draw large crowds of bitter white people with nasty signs.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I still can't believe that there are people on the Left who are still hysterical over the AIP..

    Jeeeze louise..

    Do you know how many states have "Independence" parties??? Dozens.

    One of the most well-known independence movements is in one of the most liberal states in the country..

    Get over it, people. The AIP is like the VFW. It's an excuse for people and families to get together and have BBQ weekends out at the lake. Nothing more..

    As to an Obama/Palin match-up, it's not as far-fetched as people might think. Nor is Obama a shoo-in to beat Palin..

    If the economy keeps on tanking and the Obama Administration continues to do absolutely nothing worthwhile to fix it, then there would be a real Presidential Race, even if the GOP puts up Rush Limbaugh as it's candidate...

    The economy just might be Obama's Katrina..

    @Osborne Ink

    Her brand is entirely built on personal charisma.

    And Obama's wasn't??

    Think about it. Obama is where he is today ONLY because of his personal charisma.. As CW mentions, Reagan was the long-shot but got to the White House based on his oratory skills. He went on to be the BEST American President since Washington. But Washington had a harder job.

    Don't underestimate personal charisma or star quality. Both Hillary and McCain did and that's why they are where they are and Obama is in the White House.


  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:


    The power outlet behind her has only one socket child-proofed. Seems like locking half the barn door.

    If you look at the carpet area where Sarah is standing, it appears there was some sort of table or something sitting there. My guess is that it was a table with a lamp or clock or something that required a plug. They unplugged the item and moved the table to make room for the picture. Hence the socket without a cap.


  8. [8] 
    sproul wrote:

    Nice analysis, as usual. One thing to add: though it seems laughable now that Palin could beat Obama, if the economy doesn't turn around by 2012 (which I think is a real possibility), our guy will be vulnerable, maybe even to a knucklehead like her.

    Keep up the fine work.

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, more comments to answer, both from here and HuffPost. As a change-up, I'll take the local comments first...

    sproul -

    Predicting the future 3 years out is a fool's game. I keep falling back on "a lot could happen" to sum this up. Game-changers happen all the time in politics, and by their very nature they are sometimes unforeseeable. We'd all do well to remember this basic truism.

    Michale -

    Yeah, but why did the AIP escape the microscope during the campaign? If you compare the coverage Michelle Obama got for one comment (the "proud of my country" thing) to the non-coverage of Palin and the AIP, the difference is stark.

    And, I think you'll agree, I NEVER underestimate charisma in politics. I have an enormous healthy respect for the power of charisma.

    Although in that line about Reagan, you misspelled the word "worst" as "B-E-S-T," maybe I should help you out and edit your comment. heh heh.

    Yeah, you're right -- the power outlet comment was a cheap shot. But it was intended to be a joke anyway, so no harm no foul as far as I'm concerned....

    Osborne Ink -

    See above comment about respecting the power of charisma. The most interesting scenario, one that assumes so much that I didn't even include it in the article, is that Sarah Palin forms a third party. This may split the GOP between the Christian Right and the financial conservatives (who are libertarian on social issues). Fascinating, as Spock would say. But I still feel it's too early for such rampant speculation (although it is happening with a frenzy on the right side of the web right now).

    OK, on to the HuffPost comments...

    tcagle -

    See above comments about a third party run for Palin.

    Bigcha -

    Heh heh. Your last line was funny! But I have to caution you -- remember Reagan's "there you go again" in his debate with Carter? OK, quick quiz -- what was the issue Reagan was slapping down, which Carter had just brought up? Do you remember? I sure didn't (until I did a story about what Reagan did for the AMA back in the early 60s, when he cut an album full of scare tactics against Medicare). Carter was right. He was making a valid point, which could easily have been fact-checked by the media. The media, instead, focused in on "there you go again." So smarts, even good debate smarts, doesn't always win out against charisma. Now, I'm not saying Obama wouldn't likely wipe the floor with Palin in a debate, but it's not always guaranteed, that's all.

    MMJones -

    Far be it for me to tell you what to subscribe to, but I have to at least give Runner's World credit for actually interviewing Palin instead of just going for the soundbite -- something that's pretty rare.

    LeftRight wrote:

    Dear God,

    PLEASE let Sarah run and have to debate Obama!!!! I promise that I'll NEVER ask for anything else ever again!!!

    Heh heh. Funniest comment yet! Just had to share that over here for readers...


    justchill and deegee99 -

    I was wondering if anyone would notice that Dead bit at the end. I saw a blog post on HuffPost with part of the title "Sarah Palin is a long-distance runner" or something similar, and it triggered the memory. "Long distance runner... long distance runner... now where have I heard that before?" Glad it was appreciated!

    OK, that's it for this installment. Gotta write today's column.

    Oh, one more thing, some good news for Dan Froomkin fans -- welcome to the Huffington Post, Dan!


  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:


    Yeah, but why did the AIP escape the microscope during the campaign?

    My guess is because it's a non-issue... Granted, the MSM loves to harp on non-issues, but this is one they actually got right. "Seceding from the Union" is a movement that transcends party lines.. From Texas to Vermont, many states and regions have such organizations like the AIP... As I said, it's an excuse to have a family BBQ and get drunk at the lake.

    It's a mountain out of a molehill situation.. But if Palin does make a political comeback, you can bet that the hysterical Left will bring the AIP molehill/mountain up..

    Again and again and again...

    And, I think you'll agree, I NEVER underestimate charisma in politics. I have an enormous healthy respect for the power of charisma.


    Although in that line about Reagan, you misspelled the word "worst" as "B-E-S-T," maybe I should help you out and edit your comment. heh heh.

    Now yer just being mean! :D

    No one can deny Reagan's legacy. He is the President who ended the Cold War (Caps Intended). His place in the history books on the side of all that is good is assured...

    Yeah, you're right — the power outlet comment was a cheap shot. But it was intended to be a joke anyway, so no harm no foul as far as I'm concerned….

    I figured it was a nitpick, but I was going for the official CW Sherlock Holmes Award... :D

    I am really glad to see some HuffPo commenters here.. I am always on the lookout for, as we termed in the military, "fresh meat"... :D


  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    Speaking of Palin :D

    Unfortunately, it's pretty obvious that Palin still lacks that cadre of trusted pros who are the invisible elves behind every successful national politician -- the assistants who gather and vet material and who filter proposals and plan logistics. In a way, this is part of her virtues -- her complete freedom from routine micromanagement and business as usual. She does her own thing with seat-of-the-pants gusto. It's why she remains hugely popular with the Republican grass-roots base -- as I know from listening to talk radio. Callers coming fresh from her rallies are always heady with infectious enthusiasm.

    .....prissy characterization of Palin's performance at the vice-presidential debate as merely "adequate." Hey, wake up -- Palin cleaned Biden's clock! By the end, Biden was sighing and itching to split.

    Michale: "Ooooo I am gonna burn for that one!! :D"


  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    I liked the next paragraph better:

    "Whether Palin has a national future or not will depend on her willingness to hit the books at some point and absorb more information about international history and politics than she has needed to know in her role as governor. She also needs a shrewder, cooler take on the mainstream media, with its preening bullies, cackling witches, twisted cynics and pompous windbags. The Northeastern media establishment is in decline, and everyone knows it. Palin should not have gotten into a slanging match with David Letterman or anyone else who has been obsessively defaming her or her family. Let surrogates do that stuff."

    Given the listed choices, I think I'll put myself in the "twisted cynics" category, just because it has a nice Twister-Sister-like ring to it.



  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:


    Fair enough..

    My Palin point has always been that she and her family has put up with abuse from the Left that would have sent the Left into high orbit had that same abuse come from the Right directed towards someone on the Left.

    Which simply re-enforces what I have always said. That, with few exceptions, the Left has de-evolved into nothing more than a mirror image of the Right. It used to be that Liberals could claim the moral high ground when it came to tolerance and acceptance of differing ideas..

    Not anymore.. These days, it's all but impossible to tell the Left from the Right based on their actions towards the other.

    As I said, there are exceptions.. But it's those exceptions that simply make the rule all the more glaringly obvious.


  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Are ya feeling the heat, yet?

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I liked the next paragraph, too. I think I may use it sometime.

    I think you should put the lot of us into that category...CW and the Twisted Cynics. Everyone will want to join!

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    Are ya feeling the heat, yet?

    Yer kidding, right?

    With the way things are shaping up (or more accurately, shaping down) it is becoming more and more likely that the 2010 mid-terms is going to be 1994 all over again.

    With Scheme & Ream becoming the largest tax hike in history that does absolutely NOTHING to curb emissions (that, apparently, have nothing to do with Global temps anyways) and health care well on it's way to being the same and doing the same 'nothing' for healthcare issues (see CW's new commentary) and with most of the House seats and 2/3rds of Senate seats up for grabs in 2010, it's a safe bet that, unless something dramatic happens that favors Democrats, their so-called Super Majority days are numbered.

    It's not as if they ever accomplished anything with a majority anyways. It's been.. what??... going on 4 years of a Democrat majority in Congress..

    To paraphrase Janet Jackson, "What have they done for us lately??"

    Naw, it's not heat I am feeling.. It's more of a warm fuzzy, knowing that something else I predicted is likely to come to pass... :D

    Don't get me wrong. In this case, I would LOVE to be proven wrong. I would love it if Democrats actually did something that would actually accomplish something that would be good for this country..

    I just don't see it happening...


  17. [17] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    A minor point -

    It's 1/3 of the Senate, not 2/3.



  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    Damn... Thanx for the correction....

    My bust... :D


  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:
Comments for this article are closed.