Two years ago, one of the elders of the Republican Party, former Richard Nixon aide Fred Malek, gave Palin some friendly advice on how to prepare for a presidential campaign. Malek told Palin, then still governor of Alaska, that she should do three things: finish at least one full term in office, master some tough subjects such as fiscal policy and foreign affairs (and give speeches to show it), and build a staff that could serve as the core of a campaign machine.
But Palin didn't do any of that. Instead, she has devoted herself to less-demanding activities that have kept her in the public eye and provided a handsome income besides. She wrote (or, more precisely, coauthored) a bestselling memoir that made at least $7 million. She starred in a television travelogue that earned her a reported $2 million. She makes $1 million a year from a three-year contract as an exclusive "contributor" to Fox News. And she has given dozens of speeches at rates that sometimes top $100,000 per appearance (although she agreed to do this weekend's tea party rally in Iowa for free, organizers say). That adds up to an average gross income of at least $5 million a year since she left her $125,000-a-year job as governor.
As a private citizen, Palin doesn't have to disclose any of her personal income, of course. (Her aides did not respond to a request to confirm or correct the figures above.) But as a presidential candidate, she'd be under pressure to disclose more financial details, and she'd presumably have to give up charging for her speeches and her appearances on Fox News. The sacrifice she would make if she joined the presidential race would be tangible and large.
There's nothing wrong with earning money by writing books or giving after-dinner speeches. There's nothing wrong with hesitating before jumping into the grueling ordeal of a presidential campaign.
But there's something odd about a politician who says the country is in desperate trouble and calls on others to make the sacrifice of running for office, but shrinks from doing it herself.
That's the problem with Palin: She seems to want it both ways. She wants to be in the spotlight, but only if she's the one who decides when the light is on.
"It is a sign of enormous thin skin that if we speculate about her, she gets upset," said Karl Rove, the former strategist to President George W. Bush. "I suspect if we didn't speculate about her she'd be upset — and try and find a way to get us to speculate about her."
Every week that goes by, a Palin candidacy becomes more difficult to launch. Other candidates have hired many of the campaign professionals who would have made up her staff. Donors and fundraisers have begun committing to candidates already in the race. And her standing among ordinary GOP voters has been slowly sinking; in one recent survey, 39% of Republicans said she would be unacceptable as a nominee, a number exceeded only by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Enough already. It's time for Palin to end the fan dance, let her forlorn suitors know whether she's ready to make a commitment and — if not — let the rest of the field get on with the race.