The Washington Post

Sarah Palin, entertainer

Over the years, we've grappled with the best way to describe Sarah Palin -- particularly after she left office as the governor of Alaska in mid 2009.

She morphed from an unknown politician in 2006 to a nationally recognized one in 2008 and then into something else entirely after her failed bid for vice president, a reality TV star and perhaps the single most recognizable and divisive figure within the Republican party.

Palin was like nothing the political world had ever seen before -- for good and bad -- and so we created a new term to deal with everything she encompassed: celebritician. She was part politician, part celebrity. At times, it seemed as though the politician side of her was winning out (and that she might run for president in 2012.) But, in recent years, Palin's arc has bent very clearly toward the celebrity end of her spectrum.

And now with her speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Palin seems to have fully embraced another role: entertainer.

Palin's speech had all of the elements of a late-night comedy routine. The speech was larded with one-liners jabbing President Obama for his use of a TelePrompTer ("You won. We get it. Now step away from the teleprompter and do your job.") and his push to curb gun violence ("More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President. Shoulda started with yours.")  Heck, she even used a prop (a Big Gulp drink) to mock New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban oversized sugary drinks.

The crowd, not surprisingly, went wild for her. Palin remains a remarkably gifted communicator who, over the past five years, has honed that pitch.

What's clear from Palin's speech, however, is that her primary concern at this point is promoting her brand -- a sort of conservative entertainer-in-chief, the person willing to stick it to Democrats and "tell it how it is" to Republicans too. What Palin seems far less interested in is laying out a vision for what the GOP should do; contrast the speech she gave with the one delivered at the same event by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in which he sought to point the party in a direction for its future.

For those still wondering whether Palin's future lies in elected office or on the entertainment side of politics (and the culture at large), her CPAC speech made that answer crystal clear.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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