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Post Leadership
Posted at 12:11 PM ET, 06/29/2011

Sarah Palin’s campaign liability: From movie to bus tour to indecision?


Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin greets supporters during a barbecue after the screening of the film "The Undefeated" in Pella, Iowa. Whether she will run as a Republican presidential candidate for 2012 is still an open question. (Andrea Melendez - AP)
The bus tour has come and gone. Now, so has the movie premiere.

A flattering “documentary” (from the looks of these clips, it appears more like an infomercial) about Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and one-time vice presidential nominee, had its first showing in the tiny town of Pella, Iowa on Tuesday. But despite plenty of speculation that it could “serve as a galvanizing prelude to Palin's prospective presidential campaign,” the event went off with little fanfare. Palin attended a post-premiere barbeque and had lunch at a Panera Bread restaurant with a GOP fundraiser, where politics reportedly wasn’t on the table.

Her apparent indecision whether to run or not, reports Politico, is starting to frustrate early state political players who are just ready for an answer already. (Palin told reporters Tuesday that she’s “still contemplating” the answer to “such a life-changing, relatively earth-shattering type of decision”; her daughter Bristol, meanwhile, told Fox News the same day her mother’s mind was made up.) But such perennial fence-sitting could do a lot worse than frustrate political operatives. Palin’s keep-them-guessing approach is in danger from turning what was a smart, masterful strategy for publicity into a liability of indecisiveness.

I get that playing the suspense card is good for media attention, keeping your name in the news until the last moment possible. I get that floating trial balloons is necessary to know what kind of funding, contributions and campaign infrastructure you’ll be able to attract. And I understand that running for president is an “earth-shattering” decision that’s not to be taken lightly.

But neither are the decisions to go to war with Libya, pull the trigger on a secret operation to kill Osama bin Laden, or bail out the auto industry. Whether you agree with the outcome of those decisions or not, they’re the sort of daily calls every president must make—particularly during a time of global economic recession and war. Getting months to contemplate them is simply not part of the job.

Most politicians do the will-they-or-won’t-they-run dance with the press longer than they should, though Palin has turned it into a high art. This is what I don’t get—the willingness to look indecisive and, potentially, not fully committed to the job, in exchange for a little more time with your name in the news. Unless of course, getting more publicity is more of a concern to you than what voters might think of you.

Surely this is a quaint idea, but I’d like to believe someone who truly aspires to become the leader of the free world is doing so because they have so many ideas and so much energy for change that they can’t help themselves and can’t wait to get started. Not because they’ve managed to attract enough funds, or because their political advisers say the field looks right, or because they finally talked themselves into doing so. The risk Palin faces now is that her indecision is dangerously close to just looking indecisive. And that’s hardly a trait most voters look for when it comes to making a selection for higher office.

More from On Leadership:

Was Weiner right to resign?

Why we’re really reading the Palin tell-all

Sexual misconduct by men in power

Next-generation government

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By  |  12:11 PM ET, 06/29/2011

 
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