Apparently we are doomed this week to endure another round of Palin Peekaboo. The former half-term Alaska governor has a new book – excuse me, “book” – coming out tomorrow, and she’s slated to sign copies in some of the ’12 battleground states, including Iowa, where she’s rumored (in the British press, as circulated by ABC News and the conservative Daily Caller, but denied by Palin aides) to be scouting for campaign office space. She’ll be cheering for her daughter on some reality show tonight, her own reality show is a hit on TLC, and the ever-flinty Barbara Bush performed a public service the other day when she said of Palin, “She loves Alaska, and I hope she’ll stay there.”But I don’t intend to feed the insatiable media beast; there was quite enough of that yesterday. Today, I’m far more fascinated about the news development that has rendered Palin virtually mute. On this particular matter, nary a shrill simplistic word has escaped her lips. The blessed silence is deafening.And for that public service, we can all thank Lisa Murkowski.The Murkowski story can’t possible compete with the Palin Peekaboo, but let it be recorded, nevertheless, that Palin in the past two weeks has been politically humiliated in her own state, by the voters who know her best – and by her chief in-state political rival, who is now well poised to spend the next several years reminding Americans of Palin’s underwhelming presidential credentials.Incumbent Republican senator Murkowski, as you will recall, was ambushed in the closed Republican primary by Palin’s designated candidate, tea-party favorite Joe Miller. But Murkowski is now on track to be officially certified as the winner of the Novermber election, after having staged the nation’s first successful senatorial write-in campaign in 56 years. (Miller wants the courts to halt certification; his odds of success roughly approximate those of the Japanese soldiers who were still fighting World War II in 1946.)It speaks volumes about Palin’s political acumen that she backed one of the worst candidates in the ’10 Senate cycle. My favorite Miller story (there were so many) is the way he declared jobless benefits to be unconstitutional, while failing to disclose (until he was forced to) that his own spouse had collected jobless benefits in 2002. Palin was publicly his biggest booster, although he didn’t always reciprocate. When Miller was asked on Fox News to assess Palin’s qualifications for the presidency, he bobbed and weaved – thus prompting Todd Palin to lash out at Miller in an email that quickly surfaced online. My favorite verbatim line from the email: “Put yourself in her shoe’s Joe for one day” – which prompts me to conclude that if Sarah does go all the way, no literacy program should be entrusted to the First Dude.
Anyway, Miller’s ineptitude certainly helped spur Murkowski’s comeback, and now, with respect to Palin, she is well positioned to twist the knife. On CBS News a week ago, she said of Palin: “I just do not think that she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies. You know, she was my governor for two years. And I don’t think that she enjoyed governing.” (Murkowski’s view is in sync with the mainstream; a recent bipartisan NBC-Wall Street Journal poll reported that 55 percent of independent voters view Palin unfavorably, while only 22 percent like her.) Murkowski was more circumspect last Thursday night on the PBS News Hour, but, when asked about Palin, she said that her own senatorial victory was a signal that Alaskan voters favor a bipartisan approach, “one of unity,” as opposed to a governing style “built on fear.”Palin fans, of course, will heretofore dismiss Murkowski and banish her to the ranks of the RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), but what’s most striking about Murkowski is that she returns to Washington as an potentially independent force, freed of any obligation to kowtow to the Palin-DeMint-teaparty orthodoxy. Mindful of the fact that her write-in victory was aided by strong support from independents, Democrats, and pragmatic Republicans, she previewed her new role during her PBS interview.She plans to “work together with people that have opposing viewpoints…I don’t think that most (voters) are looking for somebody that is going to follow the litmus test of one party or another, and never deviate from it. I think they want us to think, and I think they want us to work cooperatively together. So that’s my pledge to all Alaskans, regardless of whether you are the most conservative Republican or the most liberal Democrat.”And when asked about the tea party’s clout within the GOP, she replied: “It shouldn’t be that we’re governing based on fear or anger. We should be governing based on the positive things that we can build.”It’s not hard to decode that answer. It was a declaration of moderation (at least by current Republican standards), with scant concern for Palin or the tea-party crowd. She could emerge, at least on some issues, as the Republican version of Joe Lieberman, defying the party line. And she’s free to dis Palin’s ’12 presidential creds – indeed, she’s likely to be a major go-to source – because she won’t have to face another primary challenge for another six years.But, of course, Palin’s Murkowski embarrassment is small potatoes, when compared to the latest Peekaboo reboot. Palin may be light on policy, but she is shrewd about publicity. The best way to bury a negative story is to trump it with a bigger one: the book, the tour, the hints. “Will she or won’t she?” Here we go again.