On November 11, 1962, five days after Richard Nixon told an audience of reporters that “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference,” ABC News aired a thirty-minute TV special titled The Political Obituary Of Richard Nixon, hosted by veteran broadcaster Howard K. Smith. Among those featured in the broadcast were then-Rep. Gerald R. Ford and RN’s longtime advisor Murray Chotiner, both of whom expressed their regret that his political career had concluded; former Rep. Jerry Voorhis, who mused bitterly about his defeat by Nixon in 1946; and Alger Hiss, the former State Department official who had been convicted and jailed for perjury after a House investigation led by Nixon (and whose appearance on this program led to ABC’s switchboard being deluged by angry callers).
None of the four expressed any doubt that Nixon had, in fact, given his press conference and was gone from the political stage. Yet a little over five years later not only was he back on it, but well on his way to the White House.
It’s therefore rather amusing that last Sunday, although not using the same title as the 1962 show, ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos featured a 20-minute panel discussion about the political future of soon-to-be-former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin featuring the show’s host; columnists George Will and Tony Blankley; former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd; journalist Cynthia Tucker; and Todd Purdum, whose article in the current issue of Vanity Fair is thought in some circles to have helped trigger Palin’s announcement of her impending resignation.
With the exception of Blankley, who argued that the resignation freed Palin to make a greater impact in political life in “the lower 48” and to strengthen her following, and a rather cautious Stephanopoulos, the panel seemed to take it for granted that the career of the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee has ended. Naturally, Nixon’s “last press conference” of 1962 was brought up; Blankley cited it as evidence that it’s unwise to count Palin out.
All through this week, the division of opinion has continued. The Washington Post ran two columns, side by side, by William Kristol and Richard Cohen. Cohen’s column was couched entirely in terms of the menace that might have been, treating the end of Palin’s career as a given, while Kristol, who played an important role in bringing the Alaska Governor to the notice of Sen. John McCain as a possible running-mate, made it plain that he doesn’t think she’s in the wilderness yet (other than in the literal sense, “way up north” as the late Johnny Horton would say).
As the days have gone by, several more voices have expressed the view that the political picture for Palin is rosier than many people claim. Interestingly, two of those arguing the case for her continued relevance have ties to the Nixon era. In NewsMax.com, Roger Stone, who served his political apprenticeship in the 1972 Nixon campaign, and who has probably studied the details of RN’s re-emergence from 1962 to 1968 as carefully as any historian, explains why he thinks Palin’s resignation puts her in a stronger position than before.
And in The Fix, Chris Cillizza’s often insightful column in the Washington Post, Fred Malek, a premier GOP strategist and fundraiser (and Nixon White House veteran), makes the case for Palin’s continued importance for 2012. Cillizza writes:
Malek is quick to note that he has absolutely no idea whether Palin will ultimately run for president and, even if she does, he isn’t pledging his support for her.
But, he does have some advice for the soon-to-be former governor if she wants to continue to keep her name in the mix as a national figure and/or potential presidential nominee.
Malek believes Palin should keep her hometown of Wasilla as a home base and make two of three trips a month out of the state. Those trips should include appearances for candidates — Malek said former Virginia state attorney general Bob McDonnell is very interested in Palin coming to the state — fundraising for 2010 candidates, a paid speech or two and perhaps an event for a charity of her choosing.
Should Palin really want to run for president, she would need to get “more serious on substantive stuff,” hire a speech writer, pen an occasional opinion piece to flesh out her world view and make a foreign trip (Palin recently traveled to Kosovo) every six months or so, according to Malek.
What is most striking about Malek’s remarks is his observation that Bob McDonnell, locked in a hard-fought race for the governorship of Virginia, wants Palin to visit the state. Her rallies in the Old Dominion in 2008 were heavily attended and high-spirited. Her image as a moose-hunting mom also helps in a state which has one of the highest numbers of National Rifle Association members per capita in the country.
Therefore, despite what a lot of the pundits say, I’m thinking that we haven’t heard the last of the Wasilla wonder yet.