Alaska Gov. Palin Surprises State, GOP Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced last week that she's stepping down with 18 months left in her term. What does the announcement means for Republicans? Is Palin is really through with politics?
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Alaska Gov. Palin Surprises State, GOP

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Alaska Gov. Palin Surprises State, GOP

Alaska Gov. Palin Surprises State, GOP

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

We begin this week with the president overseas, Congress back in session, and a lot of political chatter about a surprise announcement from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): I really don't want to disappoint anyone with this announcement, not with the decision that I have made. All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics as usual.

MONTAGNE: And with that, Governor Palin said she is leaving her job with 18 months left in her term. Let's get some analysis this morning on this and another political happenings. Joining us, as she does most Mondays, is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So, no politics as usual. I should say so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: This Republican governor stepping aside, perhaps not the one, you know, announcement many were expecting.

ROBERTS: Right, right. A different Republican governor might have been the one we expected. It has set off her announcement. It set off a whole holiday weekend of newspaper op-eds, talk-show fest. The national media is now once again been dispatched to Alaska. It's not just that she made this announcement, Renee, but how she did it. It was Mark Sanford-like in its ramblingness, in its almost bizarre nature. And, you know, the pit bull with lipstick that she has talked about being really seemed like she was, this time, playing the victim.

And look, I think she has been harshly treated in the press. And I think there has been blatant sexism. But it goes with the territory. I mean, Dolly Madison back in, you know, the early 19th century was accused in the press of being overtly sexed and unsexing her husband. So, you know, it's there. It's going to be there. And she can't say this job is too tough and then expect people to think she's ready to be president.

MONTAGNE: Well, yeah. I mean, does Governor Palin's resignation diminish her stature even as a national political figure? Or does it, in a way, give her freedom to be more visible, speak out more freely now that she doesn't have these responsibilities that she had as a person in high office?

ROBERTS: Yeah. Well, I think in the short-term, it clearly hurts. The Republican commentators are all over her, even people who have been her biggest supporters. But yeah, you're right. Let's see what she has in store. She did send out Twitters and Facebook postings over the weekend, which in itself is just interesting, talking about a higher calling. She also, of course, attacked the mainstream medium. She has a book coming out, she - next year. She has been apparently setting up policy sessions. Maybe she has a television program.

But she has a lot to do still to show that she is a person to be taken seriously. Now, over the weekend, her lieutenant governor, the man who will become governor, Sean Parnell, said, look, she's had $500,000 dollars in legal fees. And the cost to the state of Alaska of just dealing with the records request for the ethics questions has been more then $2 million. So it's a bit much. So his explanation was actually better than hers.

MONTAGNE: And how bad is this for her party, the Republican Party?

ROBERTS: Oh, I think it's a mess, you know, that it's coming after Mark Sanford and John Ensign, right when the party could be getting some traction over public concern about the deficit in big government. They just, at the moment, look like something of a laughing stock of the party. Now sometimes that's when parties come back, sort of regroup and come back. But this is a very, very tough time for them.

MONTAGNE: And why imagine the Democrats are enjoying this disarray, and as Congress gets back to work, they've got something else to be happy about. They've got a new senator.

ROBERTS: Well, Al Franken, yes, is now joining the Senate. And, in theory, that makes 60 Democrats now. Two have been sick. But beyond that, you know, it really is harder for Democratic leaders when they have this kind of majority. They always say that it's easiest for them and they have the most power when they have a president of the - of an opposite party, because they become the brokers. This way, they look like they're weak, particularly on the left. The left starts pressuring them to enact the agenda of the left.

And they need to get all the Democrats in line in order to do that. And that's not just difficult because of personalities. It's difficult because of policies and politics. The Democrats are from different parts of the country. They have different agendas, in order both to get elected and because they believe in them. And it just is going to be very hard on these Democratic leaders.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR's Cokie Roberts.

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