Susan Rose

(WOMENSENEWS)–Gov. Sarah Palin couldn’t have picked a worse time to flame out than Fourth of July weekend.

Did she really think she could give up the governorship and slip out of Juneau with little fanfare? The episode continues to provide summer fodder for journalists for whom the Palin beat never seems to end.

On the night she entered our national consciousness at the Republican convention, many women I know derided her.

But I was amazed by her ability to connect with the audience. Female delegates told TV cameras about their admiration for her ability to balance career and family. Could this be the next great communicator? Maybe she stood for the same values that I, as a woman in politics, had fought for.

During her speech, she was attractive and appeared well-spoken and funny. She looked like she was about to provide a new voice for Republican women.

Stunning Debut

Surrounded by her large, multi-generational family, including her newborn son with Down syndrome, she epitomized family values. With a smile on her face, she simultaneously charmed the audience and attacked the Democratic nominee Barack Obama. It was a bravura performance!

From there, things went rapidly downhill.

Stressed by the rigors of a national campaign, the ensuing coverage and occasional managed interviews, she showed how little she knew about public policy and the world at large. With a 24-hour news cycle it didn’t take long. She tripped over her tongue so frequently that she gave new meaning to the term jabberwocky.

Comparisons to her campaign and that of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president were often made. Each was the target of relentless sexism by the media, directed at them as well as their families. In the end, it turned out to be a test of their mettle and commitment.

But after that, the comparisons ran thin.

Clinton grew as a candidate, finding her own voice and earning 18 million votes in the primary. Despite adoration from conservatives, Palin nose-dived and brought critical opposition from within the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, as Clinton continues hard at work in public service as Secretary of State, Palin has just deserted her constituents to go salmon fishing?

Is Money the Answer?

Is money simply the answer? The Internet is humming with speculation about the money she might be about to make from her forthcoming book, proposed talk show and speeches.

Palin may very well continue to be a force in Republican circles, particularly where evangelical women are found, but history, I predict, will show how she failed to be a standard bearer for female politicians.

I have spent years working to get smart and caring women elected to public office–but Palin doesn’t come close to making that grade. Her lack of knowledge and seriousness of purpose were evident throughout the presidential campaign.

Having served eight years on a California Board of Supervisors, I know how demanding the work of governance can be.

Decision-making requires preparation and study. You live in a fishbowl 24 hours a day.

Any vote cast can create controversy among constituents. The media critiques your dress as well as your policies.

All of this comes with the territory, as any truly serious female politician–whether Republican or Democrat–will tell you.

Susan Rose is a former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women and is retired from the Santa Barbara Country Board of Supervisors. Currently, she serves as vice chair of the Santa Barbara Human Rights Watch Counsel.