The date: July 3, 2011.

The place: The Vice President’s Office, Washington DC

The speaker: Vice President Sara Palin.

“People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing’s more important to me than our beloved (America). I am determined to take the right path … even though it’s not the easiest path. Once I decided not to run for re-election, I felt that to embrace the conventional ‘lame duck’ status in this … climate would be just another dose of ‘politics as usual.’” Etc. Etc. Etc.

With that, she’s out the door and President John McCain and the American people are in the market for a new vice president.

Back to now. And reality. The Lindsey Lohan of American politics has again come up with a rambling, somewhat unintelligible, distorted line of thinking that amounts to shooting herself in both feet.

Using a basketball analogy in her “quitting at halftime” speech must have put Kobe Bryant and Shaq to shaking their heads. Can you imagine either one, after half a game of tough play and hard elbows, walking off the floor?

It’s not surprising much of the harshest criticism for her self-serving action has come from (a) real Republicans and (b) folks in Alaska. She campaigned for a four-year contract as governor, promised to change things for the better, then walked out on her promises, party and supporters.

Palin’s shot at the media for an imagined attack on her Downs Syndrome child was one of her dumbest moments. No national media did any such thing. There was one idiot on You Tube (a private citizen idiot) who posted a caricature using his likeness. Not the media. Idiots … in office or not … are protected by free speech even if you don’t like what they say.

Remember also, from the moment McCain plucked her from her wilderness, she put her family front and center at her national debut, GOP convention and the campaign. No media outfit tracked them to Alaska and dragged them out of the house.

Palin’s excuse for walking out on her contract as governor is one more amateurish and immature action in her short life on the national stage; a blessedly short national life filled with many such moments.

There’s much speculation she’ll run for president in 2012. Not a chance. She most likely will write a confusing book and highlight the right-wing “rubber chicken” circuit for a year or two. She’ll make a few million dollars before her star burns out.

The people I feel bad for are those who put their hopes and votes in this caricature. They looked for simple answers to complex problems in a world where none exist. They wanted to believe that this was an “every man-woman” who could “speak truth to power.”

There will still be some … a very few … who’ll cling to the image of her only they see. They’ll waste both pity and angst for a person who deserted them. Though she never had a real shot of succeeding in national politics with her simplistic, disjointed thinking, she represented something they could empathize with.

Now they have another false prophet. Instead of leading them from the wilderness, she quit on them and went back into it herself.

There are still some shoes to fall in this soggy saga. There are some puzzle pieces missing. I have no idea what they are. Nor do I really care. As time goes by, we will hear less and less of her and the soap opera she lives.

Running for political office at any level, espousing what you believe and holding yourself up as someone who can make this a better world is tough, hard work. You’re always contending with opposition; opposition of ideas, political philosophy and people that just don’t like you without even knowing you.

To be successful in such an environment, you’d better be the real thing. You’d better be tough. If you’re not, sooner or later, you’ll be unmasked.

It’s a sad commentary that our politics is such a cutthroat, nasty business. It doesn’t have to be. But we’ve allowed … even encouraged … divisiveness and nastiness at all levels. We’ve made rich the voices that spout such hate. We’ve supported ignorance and false charges by calling it “free speech” rather than what it really is: hate speech.

Holding political office of any kind is a public trust. It’s hard, largely unappreciated work. An elected term is not a step toward lifetime job security. It is not something to be sought to appease one’s ego.

Palin didn’t understand that. We are better off without her.

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