President Barack Obama is, by far, the most popular politician in America. And there is little doubt who is No. 2.
The city of Auburn in upstate New York, population 28,574, held its first annual Founder's Day celebration June 6. The most famous of the city's fathers is William Seward, who as secretary of state purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. To commemorate the event, the city council invited the current governor of Alaska. The parade featuring Sarah Palin drew more than 20,000 people, according to press reports.
The next day Ms. Palin traveled to Long Island to speak at a fund-raiser for a charity which aids the developmentally disabled. Before that, she and her daughter, Willow, attended a New York Yankees game at the invitation of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The day after that, Ms. Palin took part in a fund-raiser in Washington, D.C., for House and Senate Republicans at which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the keynote speaker.
"An attempt to have the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate speak at the dinner ... fell through when organizers feared she might upstage Gingrich," UPI reported.
It was a rare trip outside of Alaska for Ms. Palin, who since the election has been tending to her day job, and it produced plenty of snotty commentary.
Much of it came from "GOP insiders" in Washington who speak anonymously to journalists.
"Everyone seems to have a Sarah Palin story of ignored calls, mishandled invitations or unanswered e-mail," wrote columnist Kathleen Parker, who was severely critical of Ms. Palin last fall.
The subtext of Ms. Parker's column is that her anonymous confidantes are upset with Ms. Palin because she has not hired them to work on a presidential campaign she has not begun.
This presupposes both that Ms. Palin wants to run for president in 2012, and that if she does, it would be wise for her to start now.
Both are dubious assumptions. Ms. Palin may wish to do the best job she can as governor, and to decide whether or not to seek re-election next year before deciding if she wants to run for president in 2012, 2016 or ever.
If Sarah Palin decides she's had her fill of public life, it could be because of the attention her visit drew from the likes of "comedian" David Letterman.
In his monologue Monday, Mr. Letterman "joked" about Ms. Palin's "slutty flight-attendant look," and made two awful jokes about her daughter, one implying she'd had sex with Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the other that she'd been a prostitute for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"Laughter incited by sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is not only disgusting, but it reminds us some Hollywood/New York entertainers have a long way to go in understanding what the rest of America understands -- that acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone's daughter, contribute to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others," Ms. Palin responded when asked for comment.
That many liberals found Mr. Letterman's remarks humorous speaks not only to their depravity, but to their fear. The 20,000 who turned out to see Ms. Palin in Auburn testify to the fact that she strikes a responsive chord with ordinary people no other Republican does.
Liberals and some Beltway conservatives assert Ms. Palin is stupid. She frequently is misquoted -- most recently by Dan Balz in The Washington Post Wednesday -- to make her appear so.
But I'd say she got the better of it in her exchange with David Letterman. And her brief walk across the stage at the GOP dinner Monday drew more attention than Mr. Gingrich's stem-winding speech. For someone who, according to the Washington cognoscenti, doesn't know what she's doing, she's doing pretty well.
I don't think Sarah Palin has decided whether she'd like to live in the White House. But if she does, ignoring the conventional wisdom in Washington may be the best way to get there.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The (Toledo) Blade ( firstname.lastname@example.org , 412 263-1476).