The first glimpse of President Palin?

Sarah Palin flirts with the possibility of a White House bid -- but makes no promises -- on Fox News Sunday

Published February 7, 2010 3:08PM (EST)

Sarah Palin may not be running for president. But would it be okay if she flirted with the idea publicly for a few years to help keep her Tea Party-loving fans tantalized by the idea? Oh, you betcha.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace the morning after her aggressive speech to the Tea Party Nation convention in Nashville, Palin didn't do anything to dispel the hopes and dreams of whatever small slice of the electorate still wants her to be in charge of America's nuclear launch codes.

"I would," she answered, when Wallace asked her if she'd run. "I would, if I believe that is the right thing to do for our country and for the Palin family, certainly, I would do so." Wallace tried to get her to elaborate, and she did. Sort of. "It's gonna be, thankfully a lot of time to be able to make such a decision," she said, in trademark Palin syntax. "Right now I'm looking at, as I say, other potential candidates out there who are strong; they're in a position of having more information at their fingertips right now, so that the current events that we're talking about today..." Wallace cut her off, saying she certainly sounded like she was considering it.

"I think that it would be absurd to not consider what it is that I can potentially do to help our country," she said. "I don't know if it's gonna be ever seeking a title, though. It may be just doing a darn good job as a reporter or covering some of the current events." (Which is funny, because in her Tea Party appearance, she mocked the "lamestream media," and earlier in the interview with Wallace, she joked that she wasn't very good at her job as a Fox News analyst because she had "no idea" how to handicap the current GOP field. "Well, fire me, then, Roger!" she chirped in an aside to the camera and to Fox News boss Roger Ailes.)

But Wallace pressed her again, saying she definitely wasn't closing the door to a campaign. "I won't close a door that perhaps could be open for me in the future," Palin said. "I don't want any American to ever close a door in their personal or their professional lives and put themselves in a box and say, 'Heck yeah, I'm gonna do that,' or, 'No way, I'm not gonna do that,' when we don't know what the future holds."

There's still something about the scattershot way Palin appears to be picking her schedule -- such a contrast from the kind of strategic, disciplined early work that usually needs to go into a successful presidential campaign -- that makes it seem unlikely she's doing anything more than seeking fame and fortune right now. But she acknowledged that she does have a handful of advisors e-mailing her briefings every morning on what's going on in politics and the world. Is that something other potential candidates might be doing? Golly, don't ask Sarah. "I have no idea how conventionally people do this, how they try to open a door that perhaps isn't even open, and if that involves having a group of advisors send 'em emails every morning, I don't know," she said. The briefings are making her a bit more up to date than she was before she ran for vice president, she said: "I sure as heck better be more astute on these current events."

One thing she does know -- whoever gets the Republican nomination should have no problem beating the guy who's in the White House now. Unless, that is, President Obama starts a war.

"Say he played the war card," she said, casually name-checking Pat Buchanan, whose column apparently inspired this bit of analysis. "Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided to really come out and do whatever he could do to support Israel -- which I'd like him to do. That changes the dynamics and what we can assume is gonna happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be elected."

It's not so much that Palin thinks Obama would declare war on the 17th most populous country in the world just to win reelection. It's more that if he did do something like that, it would give people second thoughts about his failed presidency.

"If he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies, I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, 'Well I think he's tougher than he is today,'" she said. "And there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years."

For some reason, she bracketed "serve" with air quotes, as if to say Obama wasn't really serving at all. Which is probably exactly what most of the people who want her to take him on in 2012 would say, anyway. Palin may or may not wind up running for president. But it'll certainly be more entertaining if she does.

Unless, of course, she wins.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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