Gov. Sarah Palin's Friday drop-out declaration hit the already thinly clad Republican Party as an icy blast from the far northwest.
Americans firmly attached to the two-party system, as well as supporters of the Grand Old Party, have to have seen her announcement as yet another blow to that party's immediate prospects. Her only real chance to establish a competitive record on the national level was a year and a half of responsible, serious governing of the State of Alaska.
The Republicans' ostensible leader is still defeated 2008 presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, 72, although he is little seen and heard from. Its two Congressional leaders, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio are not presidential material. Its most prominent spokespersons for the moment are broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, the lamentable Ann Coulter and worn-out former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The least said the better about former possible 2012 candidate, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, whose resignation is still awaited. His wife would have more appeal now than he.
The kindest comment to be made about Ms. Palin's announcement Friday in Alaska was that it provided comic relief to lead off the July 4 weekend. Other than that, Americans were looking for preoccupation at the potentially very deadly U.S. Marine thrust into the meanest part of a dangerous Afghanistan, with more casualties likely to come.
Ms. Palin was different, as she was when Mr. McCain sprung her on the country 11 months ago. She sounded stressed. The line of logic of her presentation resembled the track of a blinded sled dog on the tundra and left observers with as many possible interpretations as a study of President George W. Bush's reasons for taking the United States into the Iraq war in 2003. It is hard to imagine the afternoon's no-questions, fliply introspective press conference as a launching pad for any sort of presidential or other electoral campaign.
Unfortunately, the most fruitful parallel line of analysis would see Ms. Palin's declaration as a weapon of mass destruction aimed at the heart of the staggering Republican Party. Those who believe in America's time-honored system of political governance by two active, viable political parties have to believe that what is occurring now among the Republicans is comparable to a forest fire. Such fires burn down the old growth, but green shoots emerge from the ashes that develop into strong new trees. Alaska pines burn fast.