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Palin, under fire, takes to Twitter and Facebook

Princeton historian: 'It's not a Katie Couric moment.'

Posted: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

ANCHORAGE - It's the question everyone is asking: What will Sarah Palin do after stepping down later this month as Alaska governor?

The answer, however, probably won't come from her spokesman. Or a news conference. Or even a press statement. Palin, a nonconformist who often battles with the press, is showing once again she will do things her own way.

Since announcing Friday she's leaving office 18 months before the end of her term, Palin has kept a low profile and communicated with the public almost exclusively on the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook.

Both sites let her get out her message, while easily ducking questions on whether she will seek a presidential run in 2012 or go on the lucrative speech circuit.

"She can directly communicate to the base of her supporters," said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian. "She can ignore everyone else. No journalists or talking heads can intervene. It's not an interview. It's not a Katie Couric moment."

Between tweets about fishing with her family and the Juneau Fourth of July parade, meanwhile, the media and political watchers have speculated wildly about why she is stepping down and what she really has in mind for her future.

It's not surprising Palin turned to the Internet to get out her message. She's been an avid fan of Twitter for months.

"She's a big twitterer," said her chief spokesman, David Murrow. "She tweets eight or nine times a day sometimes. That's been her habit for a long time."

On Friday, she promised supporters: "We'll soon attach info on decision to not seek re-election ... this is in Alaska's best interest, my family's happy ... it is good, stay tuned."

Few details emerged.

On Sunday, she lashed out at her enemies: "Critics are spinning, so hang in there as they feed false info on the right decision made as I enter last yr in office to not run again."

Palin has hinted that she has a bigger role in mind, saying on Facebook that she wants to pursue a "higher calling" to unite the nation along conservative lines. But that raised more questions than it answered.

While dropping hints on the Internet, she's also stayed out of the public eye. She made a brief appearance Saturday on the sidelines of Juneau's Fourth of July parade.

Then she tweeted that she was going to fish with her family in Bristol Bay. On Tuesday, her spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton said the outgoing governor plans her first public appearance at a remote village in western Alaska to sign a bill boosting the state's rural police program.

Even Murrow was in the dark this weekend about the governor's plans, despite a media frenzy to follow up on Palin's surprise announcement. He didn't know why she decided to watch the parade from the sidelines instead of participating in it as she did last year.

"She never explained that to me and I couldn't even guess her reasons," he said.

Political experts say it's not surprising that Palin would turn to Twitter and Facebook, given her notorious independence from her own handlers and advisers. The former GOP vice presidential candidate has demonstrated some discomfort in the past in working closely with advisers.

"It's an erratic quality about her," he said. "She makes these decisions without explaining herself."



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