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Post Leadership
Posted at 11:42 AM ET, 09/06/2011

Sarah Palin’s presidential hem and haw

Sarah Palin speaks to supporters during the Tea Party of America's "Restoring America" event at the Indianola Balloon Festival Grounds September 3, 2011 in Indianola, Iowa. (Scott Olson - GETTY IMAGES)
And here we are again. Another week, another non-announcement from Sarah Palin. Her much-anticipated speeches over Labor Day weekend in Iowa and New Hampshire were thought to be potential platforms for the Tea Party Queen to finally bless the world with her decision on whether or not she will run for president. The drama leading up to the weekend’s events reached the near-height of ridiculousness when organizers invited, dis-invited, invited and then dis-invited again former Republican Senate candidate and Tea Party princess Christine O’Donnell, apparently over the objections of Palin’s staff.

The most absurd thing, however, is that we’re still playing this waiting game at all. Whatever bump Palin receives in media attention from the suspense she’s spinning is inevitably going to take a hit from the credibility she’s losing in the process.

I’ve said before that I don’t get why politicians insist on playing coy about running for president. Yes, there are the trial balloons that need to be sent up, the publicity that needs to be generated during the will-they-or-won’t-they period, the donors that need to be courted to make sure the campaign can get off the ground. But string that out too long, and these potential leaders of the free world can easily look indecisive, unmotivated or entirely too self-interested.

Palin has taken this gambit to the extreme. There is no one who has gotten more out of the run-up to any potential campaign; and while much of it has helped her, some of the maneuvering could very well hurt her, too, whatever she decides to do. Already a candidate many Republicans have misgivings about—some 71 percent don’t want her to enter the race—she’s only giving them more reasons for doubt. Antics that seemed merely unconventional and outside-the-Beltway can easily look self-serving and erratic.

That, of course, likely doesn’t worry Palin, because she quite likely isn’t running. But with the election just 14 months away, she’s going to have to say something, and soon. What I don’t understand is why she doesn’t go ahead and say she’s not going to run this election—blame it on her kids, on the work she can do on the sidelines, whatever—but will definitely run the next time a Tea Party-friendly candidate isn’t in office. That future prospect will keep her in the news, and will keep the mega-money speech invitations rolling in. She can always change her mind later.

At the same time, she’ll appear to be able to make a decision. Even if she already has her mind made up, her supporters could start wondering if she knows what she wants. Call me crazy, but I think a good quality for presidential candidates is to be focused on what they want to do and then be direct with voters about it. It’s time for Palin to do the same.

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By  |  11:42 AM ET, 09/06/2011

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