AP Photo/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Robert DeBerry
Published Friday, July 3, 2009 | 2:33 p.m.
Updated Saturday, July 4, 2009 | 8:25 p.m.
Outgoing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Saturday laid the groundwork to take on a larger, national role after leaving state government, citing a "higher calling" with the aim of uniting the country along conservative lines.
A day after surprising even her closest friends by announcing she would step down as Alaska governor more than a year before her term was up, the controversial hockey mom was still keeping details of her future plans under wrap. But in a statement posted on Palin's Facebook account, she suggested that she had bigger plans and a national agenda she planned to push after she resigns at the end of the month.
"I am now looking ahead and how we can advance this country together with our values of less government intervention, greater energy independence, stronger national security, and much-needed fiscal restraint," she said.
Palin also cast herself as a victim and blasted the media, calling the response to her announcement "predictable" and out of touch.
"How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country," the statement said. "And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."
Palin's personal spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton, confirmed to The Associated Press that the Facebook posting was written by the governor.
The abruptness of her announcement and the mystery surrounding her plans has fed widespread speculation. But Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein on Saturday warned legal action may be taken against bloggers and publications that reprint what he calls fraudulent claims.
"To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as 'fact' that Governor Palin resigned because she is 'under federal investigation' for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation," Van Flein said in a statement. "This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law."
Palin has kept a low profile since her abrupt announcement Friday at a hastily called news conference at her home in suburban Wasilla, outside Anchorage. All of her public communication since then has been on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, or through statements released by her office.
At the same time, Palin informed her spokesman David Murrow early Saturday that someone using the name "exgovsarahpalin" on Twitter was spreading a false rumor that there was to be a party at her suburban home in Wasilla, outside Anchorage. Palin was afraid her home would be mobbed, and security was dispatched, Murrow said.
With only a few weeks before she steps down on July 26, and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell takes her place, the governor spent the Fourth of July weekend in the state capital, Juneau, but was only spotted briefly on the sidelines of the city's parade.
She had been invited to ride in a convertible, as she did last year, but never told organizers whether she would attend.
Juneau parade director Jean Sztuk said officials drew up banners in case Palin showed and was willing to take part.
As the last of the parade's clowns and marching bands headed past her, Sztuk gave up on Palin. "What governor wants to be at the end of the parade?" she asked.
Her low-profile and vague Internet messages left mounting questions about her plans for the future shrouded in mystery. Will she lay the groundwork for a 2012 presidential bid? Will she find a high-profile place in the private sector, maybe on the speech circuit? Will she drop out of the limelight and focus on her five children?
Her constituents, for one, wanted to know, especially in Juneau, where she has struggled to win over residents.
"I think she owes it to Alaskans to tell us why," said state Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, the son of Alaska's first governor, Bill Egan.
Egan, hosting a 50th anniversary statehood ceremony, said he was disappointed Palin decided not to finish out her term, which was scheduled to end in 2010.
"It's sad she abandoned us at this critical time," said Egan, who was appointed by Palin to an open seat on the last day of the legislative session in April, after a protracted battle with Senate Democrats.
Palin's departure can't come soon enough for Laurel Carlton, a waitress at the Capital Cafe in the Baranof Hotel, where the city's political movers and shakers meet every morning before walking a few blocks to the Capitol.
"I think she has a game plan that's not Alaska, and hasn't been for awhile," Carlton said.
She noted Palin has a book deal, and seems headed for the national stage.
"If you're really not going to stay and do your job every day, you should leave anyway, and so the sooner the better so somebody can step in and actually do the job," Carlton said.
And as far as Carlton is concerned, Palin doesn't need to explain why she's leaving.
"We don't care. We just want her gone," she said.
Palin, whose popularity in Alaska has waned amid ongoing ethics investigations, gave many reasons for stepping down: She didn't want to be a lame-duck governor; she was tired of the tasteless jokes aimed at her five children, including her son Trig, who has Down syndrome; she felt she could do more in another, still-to-be-defined role.
Sen. John McCain didn't rule out a return to politics for his former running mate, saying Saturday he believes "she will continue to play an important leadership role in the Republican Party and our nation." He gave no other details.
Even Parnell, who plans to run for re-election after finishing out Palin's term, said he was shocked at first when he learned of his boss' decision.
"But then as she began to articulate her reasons, I began to understand better," he said. "And nobody - unless they've been in her position and understood what she has gone through and dealt with and who she is as a person - really understands."