With a challenge to the media and Washington, and a list of her achievements for the state, Sarah Palin stepped down as Alaska governor, but gave few clues about where she is headed.
“It is because I love Alaska this much, sir, that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical politics-as-usual lame duck session in one’s last year in office,” said Palin, who was the state’s youngest and first female governor.
“With this decision now I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right and for truth. And I have never felt you need a title to do all that,” Palin told a cheering crowd at a state picnic on Sunday.
But her farewell address in Fairbanks, Alaska, less than a month after she abruptly announced her resignation on July 3, provided little insight into her plans upon leaving office.
In the weeks since her shock announcement, she has citing a variety of reasons for the decision, including what she said were financial constraints caused by a slew of lawsuits and ethics complaints she has fought.
The former vice presidential candidate, who shot to national and international prominence after Senator John McCain picked her as his running mate last year, is expected to write a book.
Palin, 45, has also said she will travel the country campaigning for candidates who share her political ideology.
Her speech on Sunday included a recap of her time as governor and struck many of her customary notes, including praise for her fellow Alaskans and the military.
She also issued challenges to the media, who she told to “quit making things up,” and to those she said are “hellbent, maybe, on tearing down our nation.”
To Alaskans, she issued a warning: “Stiffen your spine to do what is right for Alaska when the pressure mounts.”
“We can resist enslavement to big central government that crushes hope and opportunity,” she said. “Be wary of accepting government largesse ... Melting into Washington’s powerful caretaking arms will just suck incentive to work hard and chart our own course right out of us.”
But Palin’s own course remains the biggest unanswered question. She has been touted as a possible adversary for US President Barack Obama in 2012, but she has also been plagued by ethics probes, legal bills and doubts about her ability to govern.
And even her husband dodged the question when he was asked over the weekend about her plans for the future.
“We’ll play it by ear,” said Todd Palin told Politico, an Internet newspaper, in a brief interview. “We’ll take a little breather and go from there.”
Palin says she has run up more than half a million dollars in legal fees stemming from the two dozen ethics complaints against her, which she calls “political absurdity.”
Her supporters set up a fund to help cover the legal costs, but an independent investigator’s preliminary report said the fund itself may have constituted a state ethics law violation, Alaska news reports said.
Her popularity, while unquestioned among a portion of Republicans, is less assured in the larger electorate, with 53 percent of Americans saying they have an unfavorable view of her in a recent poll.
Only 40 percent see Palin in positive terms — her lowest approval rating since McCain tapped her as his running mate, said a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Friday.
Additionally, 57 percent of poll respondents said she does not understand complex issues, with just 37 percent saying she does.