On the front page of the NY TIMES today, there is a long story about the constellation of reasons for Sarah Palin's unexpected resignation. The TIMES put two lead reporters on it, and three subordinate contributors -- Jim Rutenberg, Serge Kovaleski, William Yardley, Kim Severson, and Jo Becker [with none of whom I was familiar before this]. This is the sort of reporting that is only done by the much-maligned Mainstream Media, and it is a useful reminder of why bloggers and such cannot really replace newspapers. I have no reason to think that those five reporters, severally or collectively, are superior in their skills to many of the men and women who post their work on the internet, though from the depth, precision, and nuanced insight of the story, it is clear that they are, as a team, first rate. It is simply that the TIMES is willing and able to turn five reporters loose on a story and then wait the days or weeks that it takes them to complete the job.
I shan't attempt to summarize their findings, none of which qualifies as a dropping shoe or a smoking gun. I urge you to read it for yourselves. What emerges is a picture of a person who is self-absorbed, ambitious, unable to recruit or use competant aides, not serioujsly interested in the bread and butter of governance, and utterly overwhelmed by the sudden fame that was visited upon her. I think none of us who has never experienced it can completely grasp the seductiveness and disorientation of the instant celebrity that the news media can thrust upon someone in Palin's position. She was hardly new to politics, of course, having won election both in a small town and in a large but lightly populated state. Nevertheless, one gets the impression that she was able, at least superficially, to handle that level of public attention, and indeed that she enjoyed it.
What makes the story so impressive is that it is neither judgmental nor adulatory, but simply explanatory. Those, like myself, who have contempt for Palin will find in the story ample justification for our dismissal of her. Those -- and there are many -- who adore and idolize her will be able to find in the story confirmation of their belief that she has been ill-used and poorly served by those around her.
This seems to me to be what truly objective reporting should be -- not a fatuous and artificial balancing of positive and negative opinions, but an account complex and rich enough to enable us to see the three-dimensionality of the subject.
A final word about those who -- foolishly, in my opinion -- cite Richard Nixon's famous comeback as evidence that Palin may yet have a presidential future. Nixon was a pathological and dangerous man, but he was also an intelligent, knowledgeable, skilled politician who understood the complexities of Americal politics. Nothing I have seen of Palin in the past ten and a half months suggests that she has anything like Nixon's strengths. I predict that Palin will make a great deal of money and even more noise, but that her career as in elective office is at an end.