Returning to the political stage this week to endorse Donald Trump, Sarah Palin showed that she is, well, still Sarah Palin. With every sentence a mouthful of gobbled words, misplaced modifiers and mixed tenses, all delivered in a high pitch, she accomplished the parlor trick of missing the point while going too far:
“He’s got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debate on his sleeve, where the rest of some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide. They didn’t want to talk about these issues until he brought ’em up. In fact, they’ve been wearing a, this, political correctness kind of like a suicide vest.”
Suicide vest references aren’t as bad as allusions to the Holocaust but they’re still not advisable. There were more unparseables as she took after President Barack Obama, returning as always to his early career as a community organizer:
“With the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, ‘No, America would apologize as part of the deal,' as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, ‘Thank you, enemy.’”
By giving the former Alaska governor so big a stage, Trump may be conceding that he’s never going to get anyone serious to endorse him.
But Palin should also be a reminder that political careers can end just as quickly as they rise. A supernova who exploded and dissolved as a vice-presidential candidate, the controversial governor who randomly fired people she didn’t like and pushed the Bridge to Nowhere quit her office 17 months early. She set about launching the Mamma Grizzly brand, featuring her husband, the First Dude, and their band of unruly children: the Kardashians, but with a penchant for dressing moose and catching salmon.
In a short time, her opinions weren’t as sought after and she faded from television. These days, news comes from tabloids covering her family’s brawls (the latest incident: the arrest on Tuesday of her son Track for domestic violence and possession of a firearm while intoxicated).
It’s hard to measure her political popularity now. Had the Trump event in Norwalk, Iowa, on Wednesday morning drawn a huge crowd because she was supposed to be there? (Inexplicably, she was a no-show at that rally but turned up with the Donald in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the afternoon.) Is the Trump gambit the equivalent of an off-Broadway tryout to reprise her role as a vice-presidential candidate?
Trump probably doesn’t believe the Republican ticket lost to a community organizer in 2008 because the running mate couldn’t name a Supreme Court nominee or a newspaper. Instead, he may blame the non-war hero John McCain for the debacle.
In Alaska, Palin’s star has collapsed upon itself. When she talked about running for the seat of Sen. Mark Begich, D, in 2014, one poll found her favorability rating in the state was upside down: Only 39 percent approved of her. A Public Policy Polling survey found that 54 percent of likely Alaska voters had an unfavorable view of their former governor.
Regardless of his motivation for bringing her on, Trump is unwittingly acknowledging the debt his seemingly unstoppable ascent owes to Palin. She laid the ground for Americans to embrace a candidate almost entirely lacking knowledge of the issues and running mostly on personality. He doesn’t need Palin to sell him to his crowds. He does need to thank her.
Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist.