So long, Sarah.

Sarah Palin is threatening to sue her critics for defamation. Apparently anyone who speculates out loud about her decision to abruptly resign, who fails to take yesterday’s bizarre and rambling statement at face value, is opening himself (or herself) up to a lawsuit:

Van Flein’s letter threatening legal action specifically pointed the finger at Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore as “most notably” claiming as “fact” that Palin resigned under federal investigation.

Van Flein, asked why he singled out Moore, said it’s because she went on national television and talked about it. (emphasis mine — ed.) Moore was on with MSNBC’s David Shuster on Friday, the day Palin said she will resign.

Van Flein wrote that his letter “is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish this 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.”

The New York Times and Washington Post haven’t written anything about this, but Van Flein said he believed they were asking questions. “What I’ve been informed is that they’ve been interviewing people in Wasilla about this, and have tried to interview the governor’s parents about it,” Van Flein said.

Were Palin a figure of any authority, this would amount to an all-out attack on the very practice of journalism — and an imperial decree: Thou shalt not investigate. Had things gone differently last November, this woman would be installed at the center of the executive branch of the United States, her hands firmly grasping the controls of a much-expanded vice presidency with seemingly limitless authority. But things didn’t go differently, and Palin is, thankfully, in no position to do harm to hapless bloggers — even those who dare to “go on TV and talk about her.” She is a public figure — a person whom it is, by legal definition, nearly impossible to “defame” — and now out of office, no longer capable of enforcing any of her whims at the point of a gun.

I wonder how many of Palin’s sometime supporters will now acknowledge that this woman was grossly unqualified for her office — not merely the one she aspired to, but the one she held. She never showed even the slightest awareness of the most basic thing any public figure must know — something even Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton know: You have to take criticism. Criticism is part of the job description. And you open yourself up to speculation — even damaging, unfair, mean-spirited speculation. Because the alternative is tyranny. Imagine if Bill Clinton had tried to put the Drudge Report out of business, or sued Christopher Hitchens for libel. Imagine a world where he could.

It’s doubtful Palin would understand that. This is the same person who tried to launch a national campaign to stop a late-night talk show host from telling corny jokes about her. But she’s gone now, and good riddance.


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