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Sarah Palin reveals her biggest lesson from defeat

December 23, 2008 | 12:44 am

Looking back on the Republicans' unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign with Arizona Sen. John McCain at the top of the ticket, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin now says her role as the VP nominee was "99.9% amazing and invigorating and inspiring."

The Aug. 29 announcement of her pick was a politically stunning surprise that sucked all the publicity air out of Barack Obama's Greek-columned, triumphant Denver stadium rally 10 hours before. During the ensuing exhausting weeks, Palin learned some valuable lessons. One of them is to go with her gut more and have her own staff.

Palin's McCain campaign staff, none of them known to her, was assembled and grafted onto her family entourage. They came from McCain's crowd, Giuliani's, Bush's '99-00 campaign, even Dick Cheney's office. They were experienced politically, nationally and Washingtonly.

But Palin was not. Indeed, that was her strongest suit in a year where Change You Can Believe In won out. Being the newcomer and junior member, against all her instincts, Palin obediently followed the advice of strangers. And now, smartly, she's got second thoughts. Or has drawn some lessons from the searing experiences.

In a new interview in Human Events, Palin was asked the most important lesson she learned this fall:

"As a chief executive of a state, I am not used to that. I am used to proving my abilities by calling the shots. Then I know the buck stops with me. I made the decisions, and I’m responsible. When others are making decisions for me, as they were in the campaign, and I am the one to live with the fallout from the decisions that were made on my behalf, that is something I am not very comfortable with."

Obviously, her new staff was worried sick Palin would make an irrecoverable blunder in her early days, so they kept her from the desperately curious press, which not only silenced her but created the "why is she hiding campaign?" and left the press to be fed tons of anti-Palin information by opponents. Then, when the McCain crew did roll her out, they revealed their suicide wish by starting with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. Ann Coulter has her own take here on the Palin phenomenon.

After the financial meltdown this fall, the presidential race was likely beyond Republican grasp anyway. But think how much different the national impression and campaign could have been had Palin, for instance, already done numerous local interviews at every grass-roots stop for two weeks, creating her own positive impression with millions of grass-roots local TV viewers.

Then, she could have been served up to the anchor sharks whose goal was to make news by somehow embarrassing her. (Remember Gibson peering down through his granny glasses to inquire about the Bush doctrine and getting it wrong himself?) But millions would already have formed their own opinion.

Palin, who's up for reelection in 2010, is wisely focusing on Alaska now. She's already met with Sen.-elect Mark Begich to ensure they're on the same pro-Alaska page and publicly pointed out the advantage to the state of having one senator belong to that body's majority Democratic Party.

Palin is dismissing any talk about future office, on national or local stages. Alaska's Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is up in 2010. She's the daughter of Frank, the old establishment GOP governor that Palin overthrew in her 2005-06 insurgent primary race before beating a well-known Democrat in the general election.

That could be an interesting GOP primary battle if the governor from outside Washington decided she needed to get some experience in that place from which so much political publicity flows.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Video of Sarah Palin's Convention Speech Highlights
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