Sarah Palin greets supporters after a speech last month at a Tea Party of America event in Indianola, Iowa.
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Sarah Palin greets supporters after a speech last month at a Tea Party of America event in Indianola, Iowa.

Story highlights

LZ Granderson: After John McCain's loss, many assumed Sarah Palin would run in 2012

He says Palin's decision not to run for president is a smart move

Whoever wins in 2012 will likely face a weak economy, and will take the blame, he says

Granderson: Palin will still have a platform for her views and can live the life she wants

Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on “CNN Newsroom” at 9 a.m. ET Thursday.

(CNN) —  

Almost as soon as it was announced that Barack Obama had defeated John McCain in the 2008 general election, most pundits – and voters, for that matter – assumed Sarah Palin would be the president’s opponent in 2012.

And why not?

She didn’t just breathe life into McCain’s campaign but into the entire Republican Party. Up until then, the GOP was about as hip as a dot matrix printer. Palin represented a brand of conservative politics that was Twitterable and has since been instrumental in the rise of the tea party.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

She is charismatic.

She is beautiful.

She is a leader.

And in the view of many people, particularly liberals, she’s also a bit of an idiot.

A botched Katie Couric interview here, a “Saturday Night Live” skit there, and since breaking into the national scene, countless gaffes and misstatements.

And yet despite it all, her popularity remains relatively high, particularly among conservatives. Recent polls all show the majority in her party do not want her to run, but those surveys do not mean people, her people, do not love her.

So when she announced Wednesday she was not running for the 2012 presidency, I’m sure quite a few of her supporters were extremely disappointed.

That wasn’t my reaction. I smiled, thinking Palin isn’t dumb at all.

In fact, she’s pretty smart.

“My decision is based upon a review of what common-sense conservatives and independents have accomplished, especially over the last year,” her official statement read. “I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office – from the nation’s governors to congressional seats and the presidency.”

In other words, she can continue to influence national politics without having to be responsible for actually making a decision. She can criticize with a broad brush without the burden of contextualizing her statements with detailed, alternate solutions. She’s like a performance artist whose opinions are rarely second-guessed, whose tongue is rarely censored. She’s rich and famous and essentially has no one to answer to. Her persona is so mesmerizing that her daughter Bristol, a mother at 18, gets paid to talk about abstinence.

We should all be as dumb as Sarah Palin.

Seriously, why would she stop doing what she is doing to seek a thankless job, that pays poorly for the work that it requires? Why turn her back on a public life with little accountability to campaign for a public life in which every decision will be scrutinized.



Obama swatted a fly on television one day back in 2009. The next day, PETA issued a statement asking him to be more humane to animals.

Why would anyone leave a world of hunting moose to enter a world in which killing a fly is worthy of a press release?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Palin’s critics will say she didn’t run because she knew she would lose.

I say she didn’t run because of the chance she would win. Palin has been around the political scene enough to know it’s a whole lot easier flirting with running for president of the United States than it is being president of the United States.

That’s especially true today, thanks in part to her.

You have a better chance of seeing a herd of unicorns grazing in front of the Washington Monument than drama-free bipartisanship in the halls of Congress.

Obama’s under fire for a slumping U.S. economy as if he pointed it south or as if the rest of the planet is on solid financial footing. But Palin, who prides herself on being in touch with the heartland, knows Americans are typically not interested in those kind of sausage-making details.

They just want to eat.

So despite the fact it took decades for the country to create the environment that allowed millions of jobs to be ushered out the door, the honeymoon for a new face to turn everything around will be extremely short. In fact, whoever is elected president in the fall of 2012 will probably be raked across the coals for the high unemployment rate by spring of 2013.

This is why Palin probably decided not to run for president months ago – she was smart enough to know that while she can move the needle and copies of her book, the economy is a whole other beast. And dumping Alaska under the guise of “not putting Alaskans through that” – as she said in her resignation speech as governor – worked on the state level, Palin would certainly lose every supporter she has if she tried to walk away from the White House in similar fashion.

When you’re loved by so many unconditionally, why risk being hated by everyone for no reason at all? It just doesn’t make sense.

Bashing Palin’s intellect may be a hobby for some people, but in saying no to the White House, she showed once and for all, she’s no fool.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.