July 5, 2009 Op-Ed Columnist Now, Sarahâs Folly By MAUREEN DOWD WASHINGTON Sarah Palin showed on Friday that in one respect at least, she is qualified to be president. Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy. Usually we donât find that exquisite battiness in our leaders until theyâve been battered by sordid scandals like Watergate (Nixon), gnawing problems like Vietnam (L.B.J.), or scary threats like biological terrorism (Cheney). When Lyndon Johnson was president, some of his staff began to think of him as âa sick man,â as Bill Moyers told Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Moyers and his fellow Johnson aide Dick Goodwin even began reading up on mental illness â Bill on manic depression and Dick on paranoia. And so it was, Todd Purdum learned, as he traveled Alaska reporting on Palin for Vanity Fair, that the governorâs erratic and egoistic behavior has been a source of concern for people there. âSeveral told me, independently of one another,â Purdum writes, âthat they had consulted the definition of ânarcissistic personality disorderâ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders â âa pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathyâ â and thought it fit her perfectly.â The White House can drive its inhabitants loopy. So at least Sarah Palin is ahead of the curve on that one. As Alaskans settled in to enjoy holiday salmon bakes and the post-solstice thaw, their governor had a solipsistic meltdown so strange it made Sparky Sanford look like a model of stability. On the shore of Lake Lucille, with wild fowl honking and the First Dude smiling, with Piper in the foreground and their Piper Cub in the background, the woman who took the Republican Party by storm only 10 months ago gave an incoherent, breathless and prickly stream of consciousness to a small group in her Wasilla yard. Gobsmacked Alaska politicians, Republican big shots, the national press, her brother, the D.C. lawyer who helped create her political action committee and yes, even Fox News, played catch-up. What looked like a secret wedding turned out to be a public unraveling as the G.O.P. implosion continued: Sarah wanted everyone to know that sheâs not having fun and people are being mean to her and she doesnât feel like finishing her first term as governor. She can hunt wolves from the air and field-dress a moose, but she fears being a lame duck? Some brickbats over her ethics and diva turns as John McCainâs running mate, and that dewy skin turns awfully thin. Maybe thereâs another red Naughty Monkey high heel to drop â thereâs often a hidden twist in Sarahâs country-music melodramas. Or is this a reckless high-speed escape from small-pond Alaska, where her popularity is dropping, to the big time Below? Even some conservative analysts admitted that the governorâs move seemed ga-ga before venturing the spin that Palin might be âcrazy like a fox,â as Sarahâs original cheerleader, Bill Kristol, put it. Maybe, Kristol mused, she could use the 18 months she would have spent finishing her term to write her book and study up on the issues for 2012. Why not? Palin/Sanford in 2012, with the slogan: âSave time â weâre already in Crazy Town.â Palinâs speech is classic casuistry. After girlish burbling about how âprogressing our stateâ and serving Alaska âis the greatest honor that I could imagine,â and raving about how much she loves her job, she abruptly announced that she was making the ultimate sacrifice: dumping the state on her lieutenant. Why âmilk it,â as she put it, when you can quit it? âOnly dead fish go with the flow,â she said, while cold fish can blow out of town. Leaving Alaska in the lurch is best for Alaska. She can better âeffect changeâ in government from outside government. She can fulfill her promise of âefficiencies and effectivenessâ by deserting Juneau midway through her term â and taking her tanning bed with her. âWe need those who will respect our Constitution,â said Palin, who swore on the Bible to uphold the Constitution. She said she canât fulfill that silly old oath of office in the usual way because sheâs not âwired to operate under the same old politics as usual.â Naturally, she dragged the troops in, saying that her trip to see wounded soldiers overseas âfortifiedâ her decision to give up because âthey donât give up.â She refuses to succumb to the âpolitics of personal destruction.â Itâs no fun unless sheâs the one aiming those poison darts, as she did when she accused Barack Obama of associating âwith terrorists who targeted their own country.â Sometimes, she explained, if youâre the star, you have to âcall an audible and pass the ballâ and leave at halftime, âso the team can winâ somehow without you. The maverick must run free when greener pastures beckon. The musher must jump out of the dogsled when warmer climes call. As Palinâs spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton, says, âThe world is literally her oyster.â But just remember, beloved Alaska, itâs all about you.