Sarah Palin is a sinner. She has violated several commandments and thoroughly deserves the savage beating that she is now getting from political mandarins and media elites.
If it were not for one simple fact, I would say she was through in politics.
And that fact is that if the Republicans were picking a nominee today, they would pick Sarah Palin. No? Don't believe me? Who would beat her?
Tim Pawlenty? Bobby Jindal? Haley Barbour? Mike Huckabee? Mitt Romney?
All of these men might build credible, attractive, even powerful political operations by 2012. But right now? Today?
Today, Sarah Palin would be the winner, because more than anyone else, she has won over the hearts and minds of the Republican rank and file. (And tell me that a Sarah Palin-Newt Gingrich ticket would not set conservative hearts aflutter.)
She has done this by sinning, however.
Let us list just some of the political commandments she has recently violated:
Thou shalt not surprise the media. Palin announces she is quitting her job as governor of Alaska, and she catches everybody by surprise. What is up with that? Where were the leaks and the trial balloons? Why weren't the media alerted so they could have predicted it? When you do what the media have predicted, you are "savvy." You are a "skilled" and "adept" politician. If you surprise the media, however, you are "out of control" and "bizarre" and even "egotistical." (Though I have always believed that accusing politicians of being egotistical is like accusing ballerinas of dancing on their toes.)
How badly do some in the media take to surprise? Here is CNN's Rick Sanchez on Palin's announcement that she was leaving office prematurely:
"Is there anything going on with her that perhaps may lead her to want to make this decision, and the one thing that's still left out there is, hey, could she be pregnant again?" Sanchez asked.
Could be, Rick. Or maybe it was just her time of month, because, hey, that's why woman politicians make the decisions they do, right? But you can see why some in the media were shocked and dismayed. Imagine abandoning your office!
Imagine quitting and deserting the voters who elected you! Though this is what Bob Dole did in 1996, didn't he? Dole resigned his Senate seat to run for president. I remember it. I was standing right there when he did it. And I don't recall anybody accusing him of being a quitter. Or of being pregnant.
Thou shalt not upset the pooh-bahs. The Republican Party likes to nominate the next guy in line. John McCain in 2008, George W. Bush in 2000 and Bob Dole in 1996 were all the next guys in line. They had "earned" their place in the party hierarchy. (Or, in the case of George W. Bush, his father had earned it for him.)
Today, it is hard to see who the next guy in line is, but the party mandarins, the pooh-bahs, are agreed on one thing: Sarah Palin ain't it. She is a dumb hick, a nobody from nowhere. She hunts moose with a chainsaw from the back of a snowmobile or something. Just listen to her resignation speech. It was not slick or polished or written by somebody else. She appeared to deliver it off the top of her head as if she were a real person. What a doofus!
Doesn't she know that the highest form of political communication today is to exactly regurgitate a speech written for you by a speechwriter who has crafted, vetted and polled every phrase, line and word?
But listen to Palin. Listen to how "rambling" and "disjointed" she is. Once upon a time in American politics, this was known as being "plain-spoken," but that time has gone. An entire industry of political consultants has grown up to make sure politicians are never plain-spoken.
Sarah Palin does not get this. Which is to say she is not very bright. (Or else she is pregnant, in which case, I apologize.)
Thou shalt pander to the few, not speak to the many. John Weaver, a former McCain aide, told Adam Nagourney of The New York Times that Sarah Palin now has little chance of ever becoming the party's presidential nominee. "Somebody has to explain to Republicans how this woman is going to expand her support base," Weaver said. "Yes, she is the darling of a certain element of our party. But it remains to be seen - in fact, it remains rather doubtful she can grow beyond that."
She is the "darling of a certain element" of Republicans? It seems to me that with the party collapsing to its most conservative core, that "certain element" could also be called the majority of the Republican Party. But maybe that is not enough. It is only a "certain element" of the party that finds her energizing, fresh, tough and willing to stand up to the mandarins and the media.
Clearly, Palin must "grow" beyond that base to win over ... whom? The McCain wing of the Republican Party? Find it, and maybe she can win it over. Having said all this, I do not think Palin is being crazy like a fox. I don't think she has planned out what she will do in 2012.
I think she has quit her job, is doing what she wants to do and is reserving judgment about her future. In doing so, she has made herself an outcast to the mandarins, the pooh-bahs and the elites.
So how can she go wrong?
Roger Simon is POLITICO's chief political columnist.