Just when you think it's safe to go back in the water, Sarah Barracuda comes back to bite.
As it turns out, it was the end of a chapter — not an era — when Fox News declined early last year to renew Sarah Palin's contract as a pundit. While she was later rehired, her appearances have not fueled a roaring comeback. Her first television venture, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," was short-lived. And her seal of approval, as her mixed record in Republican primaries suggests, has been no guarantee of success.
But now Palin has burst back onto the political stage with a call to impeach President Barack Obama over immigration — a double-whammy from a celebrity with a following that's ripe for mobilization. It doesn't hurt that she has also burst into Hollywood headlines with the renewal of her latest TV show, "Amazing America with Sarah Palin" on the Sportsman Channel, and her sly advice that ABC add "a punch of reality and a voice of reason" to "The View" by hiring "someone willing to go rogue." Hmmm, whom could she possibly have in mind?
If you haven't heard of the Sportsman Channel, that's understandable. It is targeted, so to speak, at a very specific audience. The scores of programs have names like "3-Gun Nation," "Antler Insanity," "Mathews Dominant Bucks," "Extreme Outer Limits," "Gun Talk TV," "Turkey Man" and "Waterfowl Obsession."
Palin's show, about the great outdoors and the people who love it, is one of the few starring women. The others include "Dressed to Kill," about a group of female hunters led by Tammy Gregory; "Larysa Unleashed," the adventures of a "Certified Public Accountant turned outdoorswoman" with a blonde ponytail and a gun; "Leading Ladies Outdoors," featuring a mother-daughter team; "Skull Bound TV," hosted by hunter and skull designer Jana Waller; and "Winchester's Deadly Passion," showcasing international hunter Melissa Bachman "with rifle, bow or shotgun in hand."
Viewership at the Sportsman Channel has been surging, especially among men, driven in large part by Palin. Still, a niche show on a niche network was not going to propel her back to the center of American politics. It took Palin's linking of impeachment and immigration on the conservative Breitbart.com website to accomplish that.
Until now, GOP frustration with Obama has centered on what conservatives see as his imperial presidency. He calls it using his pen and phone to make headway while Congress does nothing. Republicans call it executive overreach that flouts the law. The most dramatic challenge to date is not an impeachment resolution but Speaker John Boehner's planned lawsuit against Obama for allegedly overstepping his authority.
Palin doesn't disagree, writing: "President Obama's rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here. It's not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along."
But she moves into new territory when she says, in a piece published just as Obama was asking Congress for $3.7 billion to "stem the tide" at the border, that Obama's "unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, `no mas.'" (The battered wife is apparently a metaphor for the American people, and apparently we are Spanish-speakers).
Palin goes on to charge that "because of Obama's purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in," summoning the image of strangers streaming into your living room and plopping their bare or stockinged feet on the coffee table before quickly horning in on your job and government benefits. "On behalf of American workers and legal immigrants," Palin writes, "it's time to impeach" Obama.
The Palin prescription is a surefire way to inflame the tea party, but it's no path to the White House. An "autopsy" conducted by the GOP after Mitt Romney's 2012 loss warned that the party will shrink to "core constituencies only" unless it gets behind comprehensive immigration reform and dispels perceptions that it is anti-immigrant. Some Republicans have been working toward such reform for many years. Among the most prominent is Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee who picked Palin as his running mate and made her the national figure she is today.
By championing impeachment and linking it directly to immigration, Palin has tossed a few cords of wood onto an already blazing fire. McCain and other Republicans concerned about the future of their party can only hope it subsides, and make sure it doesn't burn down the house while they wait.
Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.