Sarah Palin follows in the footsteps of Susan Molinari, who 12 years ago set a precedent for other GOP leaders such as Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott, Richard Baker and Joe Scarborough. These elected officials all quit before their terms of office expired. None of them left to take another position in public service. None of them said they left because of a political scandal. Instead, they all left because they felt like it.
More specifically, Molinari left to take a job as a TV personality for CBS News. Gingrich left because he didn't want to stick around if he wasn't going to be Speaker of the House. Baker left so that he could become a lobbyist for hedge funds. Lott left because he felt it was time to do something else. Scarborough left early because he wanted to spend more time with his kids.
You would think they didn't take their commitment to serve very seriously. For them, the "honor" of serving in elected office is more like a one-way option in their favor. The voters do not have the option of changing their minds post-election, but the officeholder has the unfettered latitude to change his mind before completing his term.
Some might find this practice distasteful, as if these politicians were gaming the system while undermining the spirit of our institutional checks and balances.
The irony is that Palin, Gingrich, Hastert, Lott, Baker and Scarborough were all big fans of Bush administration's military strategy, which exploits a different one-way option at the expense of our troops and their families. An enlistee's commitment to serve can be extended indefinitely, so long as the president deems his service is necessary during a time of war. Palin, Gingrich, Hastert, Lott, Baker and Scarborough have never entertained the notion that the Iraq surge might be curtailed because continued deployments place an unconscionable burden on the men and women who signed up serve. They never gave serious thought to the idea that our troops, like Scarborough, might want to spend more time with their kids.