Today in Alaska, state officials are releasing tens of thousands of pages of emails Sarah Palin sent or received as governor from 2007 to 2009. To imagine what this trove may contain, imagine what might show up in your own email (or that of your intimates). There may well be moments of high courage and eloquence. But there will also be other moments.
Now, guess which kind of moments would prompt the most conversation among your friends, neighbors, family members and co-workers. Not to mention people imagining you as president.
To prospect for such nuggets in so vast a mine, various news organizations are planning to enlist their audiences in the hunt. The Washington Post and the New York Times are among those inviting users of their websites to zero in on portions of the cache and report back on their findings. It may be a seminal moment in journalism history: the tipster meets crowdsourcing.
But first we must ask: What effect will this have on Sarah Palin's rumored run for the White House?
Here's one guess at that one: It will have little or no effect because Palin is not running anyway. If the emails prove to be an ammo dump for Palin's rivals and critics, they may well wind up as the scapegoat for a decision already dictated by reality and revealed by any number of signs.
There are at least five good indicators out there already that the Palin campaign we see from time to time is not about the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
1) The wall of negative numbers has grown too tall. Palin has always been controversial, from the moment she entered local politics in Wasilla. She may have given the Republican ticket in 2008 all the life that it had, but she also cost McCain his "experience" argument and gravitas. Her trajectory since then has been downward (especially with her resignation as governor in 2009). National polls released this month have shown her with near-universal name recognition but with 60 percent of those who know her saying they would never vote for her for president. Needless to say, no one has ever climbed anything like such a wall to win a nomination, let alone a term in the Oval Office.
2) The bus tour of the Eastern seaboard that began Memorial Day and tormented the news media in the Washington-New York corridor for a week did indeed return Palin to the center of the national political conversation, but not on the terms she expected. Instead of whipping up a frenzy of demand for Palin to run, it hardened the lines of the pro-Sarah, anti-Sarah divide. Perhaps that was its true aim. Division is the dynamic that drives the Palin brand in the celebrity space. It did not help that she timed her visit to New Hampshire to upstage the party's frontrunner, Mitt Romney, on the day he announced his candidacy. This kind of stunt convinces people who do politics for real – both as pros and as volunteers — that Palin does not get it.
3) When in New York, Palin ate pizza and talked politics with Donald Trump, the faux candidate of the spring. Trump has shown himself a Potemkin politician in the past, feinting toward an independent candidacy and backing off after achieving the buzz he wanted. He knows that we in the media are mad for personalities in politics (especially in New York). But he is as likely to take vows and join a monastery as he is to compete in the Iowa caucuses. Most grown-ups have learned not to take him seriously except as a publicity master. So with whom does Palin mange when in Manhattan?
4) Another key stop in Gotham was a visit with Palin's boss, Roger Ailes, the guru behind FOX News. Palin knows the central role FOX has played in her political and media careers, and she knows an active candidacy would end her current relationship with the cable giant. Ailes lowered that boom on Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich when they got in the race. He didn't have to oust Mike Huckabee, though, because Huck knew which side of the bread was buttered and decided not to run. Palin no doubt observed the distinction. After her tete-a-tete with Ailes, her commentator role continued. This alone indicates no candidacy is in the immediate future, and we are now nearly halfway through the year when real candidates have to get it together.
5) The aftermath of the Paul Revere gaffe was as amazing as the event itself. Anyone can make a mistake on camera. Some of us remember Al Gore in the first Democratic debate of the 1988 campaign saying his most admired president was James Knox (he later explained he had meant James Knox Polk, the Tennessean who was elected in 1844). And there have been plenty of others just as wince-inducing. But Palin, given the opportunity to explain herself by Chris Wallace on FOX Sunday, chose instead to insist that Paul Revere WAS warning the British and that he DID ring bells. Her confusion in initially recasting the famous story of Revere's ride (which warned colonial militia of an impending British attack) was unfortunate. Her decision to insist upon her interpretation suggested she had moved full time into Sarah World. The fans who went on the Wikipedia page to alter its account to match hers were further evidence of what this kind of thing leads to. It does not lead to 1600 Pennsylvania.