Sarah’s Sense Of Smell

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: if you want to understand what Sarah Palin is up to, just listen to her.

She’s not a political sophisticate, folks. She doesn’t wrap everything she says in layers of nuance and meaning. She doesn’t have secret agendas and she doesn’t spin wheels within wheels. She says what she thinks.

For the latest example, witness her declining to attend this year’s CPAC conference.

This is the one that’s gotten so much attention for its open-door policy towards sponsors: they’re allowing in the John Birch Society and GOProud (not “OutRight,” which I said before and would be an awesome alternative name gay conservatives), which has quite a few people in a tizzy. And she’s not carrying a grudge over last year’s dustup, where she was announced as attending before she said no, saying she’d never confirmed it.

No, Palin has a simple explanation for skipping: she’s displeased with the conduct of CPAC’s leaders. More specifically, CPAC head David Keene’s coupling an offer to support FedEx in a legislative battle with UPS with a request for a couple of million dollars in donations.

Anyone who didn’t see this coming ought to turn in their Junior Palintologist badges. (Me, included.) Because anyone who knows anything about Palin’s past should have connected the dots.

When Palin first ran for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, she lost. As a sop, she was given a seat on the Alaska Oil And Gas Conservation Commission. It was supposed to be a pat on the head, a place where she could quietly sit and show her loyalty.

But she didn’t play along. She found some seriously rank corruption while there, and tried to expose it. And when she was thwarted, she publicly resigned, cited precisely why she did so, and filed complaints that eventually led to quite a few powerful Alaskan politicians (Republicans, no less) losing their jobs and paying hefty fines.

Then, a few years later, Palin ran for Governor on a “clean government” platform — and won.

The lesson to be learned here is that Palin absolutely does not “go along to get along.” If she finds something morally repugnant, she will not turn a blind eye — no matter how it might benefit her personally. She might not become a crusader, but she will pointedly distance herself from it and make it abundantly clear that she finds it unacceptable.

In an ironic way, the repeated “ethics scandals” that drove her from office bear this out. The vast majority of the complaints were found to be utterly groundless, and the few where there was even a trace of substance were incredibly minor and technical. Considering how thoroughly every aspect of her life has been gone over, if there was any real dirt, it’d have come out ages ago.

With CPAC, she sees the situation very simply: Keene made an offer to support FedEx while simultaneously asking for their support. Perhaps in the eyes of the law he didn’t quite solicit a bribe or propose a quid pro quo arrangement with the shipping titan (their money in exchange for CPAC’s political clout), but the simple perception is that he did — and that’s exactly the kind of bullshit Palin fought — and beat — in Alaska.

(Palin’s too much of a Christian and a lady to openly call the defense of the deal “bullshit” and Keene “a scumbag,” but I’ve rarely been accused of either, so I can speak more freely.)

I recall vaguely at the time the Keene/FedEx mess broke thinking “oh, great, what a dipshit,” but shrugged it off as small potatoes and “the price of doing business.” I didn’t get on board some grand crusade against Keene, because I had things I thought more important.

That might have been a mistake. Tolerance for that kind of conduct is a real problem. It needs to be stomped down, and stomped down hard, whenever it rears its ugly head — no matter on which side.

It’s a lesson our current president could stand to learn. Look at the people who Obama has chosen to associate with and surround himself with, only casting them aside when they prove too much of a liability. Jeremiah Wright. Tony Rezko. Valerie Jarrett. Timothy Geithner. Van Jones. Andy Stern and the SEIU thugs. ACORN. The list goes on and on.

Not one of them would have lasted five minutes in Sarah Palin’s circle of friends and advisors, no matter how burnished their Republican credentials would have been.

So, instead of CPAC, Palin will be attending the first national convention of the Tea Party folks. A gathering of people who, quite frankly, have no use whatsoever for the national leadership of the GOP (or the Democrats, for that matter) and are looking for others who aren’t so enamored of the Inner Circles that they have forgotten simple principles and common decency and common sense.

Sounds like a pretty good match to me.

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