updated 7/6/2009 10:17:09 AM ET 2009-07-06T14:17:09

Guests: Chuck Todd, Ed Schultz, Jason Recher, Ron Christie, Bill Press, Mike Allen, Shannon Moore

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  And I am willing to do this so that this administration with its positive agenda and its accomplishments, and its successful road to an incredible future for Alaska. 

And I know when it‘s time to pass the ball for victory.  And I‘ve given my reasons now very candidly, truthfully.  And my last day won‘t be for another few weeks, so the transition will be very smooth.  In fact, we look forward to swearing in Sean Parnell up there in Fairbanks at the conclusion of our governors picnic at the end of the month. 

And I really don‘t want to disappoint anyone with this announcement, not with the decision that I have made.  All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics as usual.  And some Alaskans, it seemed today, maybe they don‘t mind wasting public dollars and state time, but I do.  And I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time go to waste just so that I can hold the title of governor. 

Some are going to question the timing of this.  And let me just say that this decision has been in the works for a while.  In fact, this decision comes after much consideration—prayer and consideration. 

And finally, I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous, well in response to asking, “Do you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children‘s future from outside the governor‘s office?”  It was four yeses and one, “Hell, yeah.”  And the “Hell, yeah” filled it. 

And someday I‘ll talk about the details of that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Hello, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster in Washington.  And welcome to a special edition of HARDBALL. 

Chris Matthews is off tonight. 

It was a blockbuster announcement from Sarah Palin.  You heard part of it there.  She announced, as expected, that she‘s not going to run for re-election in 2010.  But the big bombshell?  She‘s resigning from office in three weeks.  Just two and a half years into her first term, she has decided to turn over the reins of office to her lieutenant governor. 

It was a somewhat rambling news conference today.  A number of Republicans have described it as confusing, rambling, erratic, strange, bizarre.  And again, that‘s just the Republican reaction.  But of course, there‘s the consideration as to—as far as what may be really going on.  Sarah Palin talked about her family today, and perhaps a lot of speculation that maybe there are family issues that are causing Sarah Palin to take an action that would almost certainly doom anybody who had serious considerations, serious interests in running for the Republican nomination in 2012. 

This has been a remarkable spring for the Republicans, who were considering possibly a run in 2012.  We talked about John Ensign, the senator from Nevada.  He had an extramarital affair.  His political future, of course, at least he can stay in the Senate, but his presidential ambitions, no more. 

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina once talked about being a possible contender in 2012.  No more. 

Then, of course, Governor Sarah Palin, who had given every indication that she was interested in a run in 2012.  She has just signed a major book deal.  She is a huge fund-raiser for the Republican Party, and in great demand.  But today‘s announcement, if in fact she really does want to run in 2012, is simply defying the conventional wisdom to an extent that we have never seen before. 

Joining us is NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. 

Chuck, your reaction to what we saw from Sarah Palin today? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, look, the announcement

and it‘s interesting how defensive she was about the idea that this was an announcement that has been in the works for weeks.  It‘s our understanding that the decision not to run for re-election, that was a decision she made weeks ago, but the decision to step down is one that was a little—done a little more hastily, at least to any of those that are still left that are close to her. 

But one thing that I think we‘re all missing here is that whether this was the motivation or not, she is about to become a very rich woman.  Becoming a private citizen now with her celebrity status in Republican politics, she is going to be able to make money on speeches, she is going to be able to make money possibly, whether it could be a radio talk show host, a television talk show host.  All of these things that she couldn‘t do while sitting there in Alaska as governor.

She was already dealing with some ethics complaints, having to reimburse the state for travel with her family having to do with various things that had to do with politics.  So now this frees that up. 

This frees—you know, she herself said in this speech today that she wanted to go around and campaign for others.  Well, she now can do that.  Somebody else can pay for it.  Perfectly legal as a private citizen.  She doesn‘t have to worry about somebody in Alaska filing an ethics complaint, somebody in Alaska complaining that she‘s not doing her day job. 

So I think whether this was the ultimate motivation or not, don‘t overlook the financial factor.  She was not—this is not a very wealthy family, but she is going to become a very wealthy person very soon—

David. 

SHUSTER:  Great point.  And certainly she has—the field is open to her in terms of if she wants to have a television show or radio show, or she‘s certainly going to make a lot of money from her book. 

But Chuck, as far as a political future, I mean, I‘m just trying to imagine the scenario.  If she decides that she wants to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, how does she get over essentially not being able to fulfill her commitment to the people of Alaska beyond two and a half years when she‘s up against, say, a Mike Huckabee, who has some pretty tumultuous terms in Arkansas, stuck with it; Mitt Romney, who had to deal with a Democratic legislature? 

I mean, they‘re going to be able to say, look, when the going got tough, we stuck in there, and you decided, well, it was more important for you to give speeches. 

TODD:  Look, that‘s part of it.  You can become a national figure in politics without having to run for president.  And it does seem like that may be what she‘s trying to set up here. 

It is hard to imagine how she could ultimately be a successful presidential candidate in 2012.  And what I mean by successful, end up with the nomination.  But look, she has a devoted following.  There is a core group of Sarah fans out there that could propel her in certain—you know, there is a path for her to be competitive if we wanted to sit here and break down how Republican politics works—Iowa, South Carolina, some of the more conservative states where she could do well if she chose to do that. 

But, you know, again, I think this is—a lot of this has to do with frustration of being locked in there in Alaska, having to basically—you know, she herself, in some ways, saying, you know, she‘d be a lame duck.  Well, she would also be a distraction by trying to be a national figure and a sitting governor.  So in this sense, this frees her up to do that. 

The fact is, David, a year ago today, people weren‘t sure if it was Sarah Palin or Sarah Palin.  OK?  She hasn‘t even been on the national scene for a year. 

It is—as one colleague put it to me, it is as if she‘s a comet.  You know?  And this whole thing may just burn out and she may burn herself out, or she may have just extended it. 

If she decides to become a celebrity national spokesperson, well, then she may be able to extend this run for much longer than if she tried too stick and become a conventional presidential candidate and a conventional politician.  And that‘s the other thing you‘ve got to remember about her.  She is not conventional. 

So the idea, what wouldn‘t work for most people, you never know with her, it could actually work.  So I think we make a mistake by assuming she totally shouldn‘t be thought of as a factor in 2012. 

SHUSTER:  But as far as, Chuck, the meteoric rise that you refer to, I mean, it does bolster—and assuming that‘s it, assuming she wants to have this sort of national platform, regardless of whether she runs in the future, it does get to the idea that she has found this sort of celebrity, this political celebrity, the meteoric rise.  She‘s found it addictive. 

And that may be fine.  And maybe she wants to ride that and do it even more.  But that doesn‘t help her politically if she really then does want to turn and try to get people to pull the lever for her in a primary. 

TODD:  And look, David, and that‘s what seems odd here.  If she really had an ambition to be president of the United States, she‘d be sticking it out as governor and, in fact, might actually be contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate. 

You know, Lisa Murkowski‘s Senate seat is up there in 2019, and obviously we know she beat one Murkowski.  Why wouldn‘t she say I can go and beat another Murkowski? 

So I think—let‘s just not assume that that is her goal.  She does seem like she is—whether you want to call it addicted to celebrity, she certainly is very, I would say, celebrity-savvy. 

You know, this whole runners world thing.  As much as—you remember she gives exclusives to “People” magazine multiple times when it‘s had to do with her family, ever since she‘s gotten—so she does seem to be almost working the celebrity angle more so than the political angle, which is, you know, a very—she herself says she is not politics as usual.  That‘s for sure. 

SHUSTER:  Absolutely.

NBC Political Director Chuck Todd, also chief White House correspondent.

Chuck, thanks, as always.  We appreciate it. 

And again, such an amazing day politically when you think about Sarah Palin.  And to sort of put this in context for all of you, on Friday, July the 3rd, going into a holiday weekend, that is not the time that if you are a conventional politician and you want to make news, and you want people to hear about it, you don‘t do it on a Friday. 

That‘s, for example, why when there‘s bad news from an administration or from a Congress or from a governor, it often gets dumped out on a Friday night so it gets lost, and people don‘t really hear about it.  And it just makes all of the developments today that much more perplexing. 

Somebody who has worked with Governor Palin before is Jason Recher, a former senior adviser to Governor Palin.  He joins us now on the phone. 

Jason, based on your knowledge of Sarah Palin, how does what she did today fit in with the Sarah Palin that you know, and what does it say? 

JASON RECHER, FMR. SR. ADVISER TO PALIN:  You know, David, I think that—I don‘t want to steal Chuck‘s thunder, but he made a lot of good points.  But I think this is vintage Sarah Palin. 

I mean, she is a—not a conventional politician, and she does not follow politics as usual.  She follows her own lead and she follows it to conclusion.  And I think that she has had a resounding success as governor, she‘s accomplished the goals that she campaigned for, and that she wants to continue to have a positive impact on the state of Alaska and on many Americans.  And she sees that she can do that best from the outside and not from the inside. 

SHUSTER:  Well, that, then, would seem to suggest—I mean, those are two different things we‘re talking about.  Yes, she could have a positive impact on Alaska, she could certainly be a national political figure without running for office.  But if she is intending to run for national political office, it would seem that everything she did today has taken her in the wrong direction. 

RECHER:  You know, it fascinates me, all the talk about 2012.  The only people that are talking about 2012 are my fellow strategists and the media.  Governor Palin didn‘t mention 2012, didn‘t mention future political ambitions...

SHUSTER:  But Jason, she‘s got a political action committee.  I mean, she‘s got a book deal.  She‘s got all the things that somebody does when they‘re trying to essentially lay the groundwork for a possible presidential run. 

RECHER:  Well, you know, I think that you need to look at why she has a political action committee.  I don‘t know that it‘s necessarily to fund a political run.  It may be to fund some of the family travel that she‘s received ethics complaints for, to some respond to some of those things. 

You know, I‘ve traveled with Governor Palin since the election, have seen no signs that she‘s hedging towards anywhere running for 2012.  I think that people need to take what she said today on face value and consider that she wants to have a positive impact and she wants to stop being a distraction for state of Alaska, as she said, with 15 kind of frivolous ethics complaints that have been filed again her, all 15 dismissed, to a cost of $2 million to the state of Alaska.  For somebody...

SHUSTER:  Well, you can say it‘s frivolous, but, I mean, the state of Alaska, for example, is still waiting to read Governor Palin‘s e-mails.  I mean, the state claims it has spent more than $450,000 searching for Palin‘s e-mail records and has not had them turned over, and is still trying to search for them.  So it‘s not as if Sarah Palin is not a player in this.  She could help the state if she wanted to by producing these e-mails and helping them figure out where they went. 

Right?

RECHER:  What you need to look at is there‘s been 15 ethics complaints filed, 15 of them dismissed.  Two million dollars from the state of Alaska has been spent on this. 

Sarah Palin and her staff have been fully and 100 percent cooperative with all these ethics complaints.  And she‘s made a decision, you know, taking that into consideration, taking other things into consideration, to step aside and become more of a positive influence from the outside. 

SHUSTER:  But Jason, how can you say she‘s been fully cooperative when the state still can‘t get her e-mails?  She has not been fully cooperative on the issue of her e-mails.  And a lot of people—go ahead.

RECHER:  I think we beg to differ on that.  She has been fully cooperative on it.  And, you know, Governor Palin has had her life turned upside down in the last year. 

If you want to talk about e-mails, look at the Democratic state rep whose son from Tennessee hacked into her e-mail, hacked into her family‘s e-mail this fall.  You know, there‘s been a lot of different things that have gone on, and I‘m sure there‘s a lot of different steps that she and her staff have to take to go back and comply with the each of the requests.  I‘m still friends with her staff, and I know they spend many hours a night going through their e-mails, getting them out there, and they‘re cooperating with these requests. 

SHUSTER:  Well, Jason, speaking of her staff, and since you point out

you make a good point, you know her staff, you know the people around her—what would convince them that it‘s a good idea—and let‘s just suppose that she legitimately wants to help the state.  She obviously felt that this was a significant move she was making. 

Why then do it on the Friday of a holiday weekend?  I mean, who‘s advising her back in Alaska who would suggest, oh, this is the way to get some good headlines or good attention? 

RECHER:  You know, I think one of the things that appeals to me the most about Sarah Palin is that she is her own person.  She‘s her own chief of staff, she‘s her own communications director. 

She follows what she feels is right and she leads from her heart. 

That‘s one of the things that really appeals to me about her. 

I‘m not sure of the timing, I‘m not sure of the internal politics of Alaska, or why this was decided on this date.  Personally, I think it‘s great.  It shows her independence as America celebrates Independence Day. 

SHUSTER:  Jason Recher, former senior adviser to Governor Sarah Palin. 

And Jason, thanks for calling in.  We appreciate it.

RECHER:  Thanks, David.

Joining us now on the phone is the man you usually see at this time, Ed Schultz, a friend of mine.  He‘s of course the host of “THE ED SHOW,” a terrific colleague. 

And Ed, you know, it‘s one of the strangest things that I think a lot of us have ever seen in the world of politics, but what‘s your take on Sarah Palin‘s action today? 

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, “THE ED SHOW”:  David, great to be with you.  What a terrible day to be away from the office.  Huh? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCHULTZ:  There‘s so much going on.

Here‘s my take.  The Republican Party is void of leadership right now.  There are no superstars.  There‘s no breakout player for the Republicans right now. 

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, throw all the same old names in there. 

But it is Sarah Palin.  When she goes on the stump, she is a superstar. 

They respond to her. 

And I think a lot of it has to do with 2012.  She is going to a political higher calling.  She knows that being in Alaska is a detriment to her national status because of the physical standpoint of where Alaska is.  She needs to be accessible, she needs to be visible, if she‘s going to lead this party out of the wilderness. 

I think this is all about 2012.  I think it‘s all about raising money. 

If you check it out right now, nobody in the Republican Party has raised any money.  They need a superstar, and this frees her up to go out there and do something for Alaska at a different level. 

And I think it‘s interesting.  When she gave her press conference today, she talked about, in a roundabout way, being fiscally responsible.  Right now, the Republicans are trying to paint President Obama as the big spender, the big taxer coming up on the horizon. 

And she‘s coming out saying, look, I‘m going to be fiscally responsible.  I‘m going to give you great, small government.  I‘m going to step aside and let somebody else do this job because I‘ve got other things I‘ve got to go do, I‘ve got to lead this party out of the wilderness. 

That‘s what she was saying, in my opinion.  And so there is no breakout leader for the Republicans right now.  They‘re polling at an all-time low.  They‘re not raising any money. 

She‘s going to have a short window of opportunity to grab the limelight.  I agree with you, Friday, July 3rd, it‘s a strange thing, but that fits right in the mold. 

She‘s not your quintessential politician.  She does things differently.  And I think we‘re in for a heck of a ride.  I think we‘re going to see a lot of Sarah Palin. 

And it‘s not in her personality to step away from anything.  The night that the election took place, when John McCain went up on stage, Sarah Palin wanted to talk.  She was told that she couldn‘t talk and there was a rift behind the scenes on that.  And she was so anxious to grab that microphone. 

It‘s in her personality to be in the limelight.  It‘s in her personality to be in the mix.  And it‘s within the realm of her ego to say, I‘m the person that came back and brought the Republican Party back against Barack Obama. 

I think this is vintage Sarah Palin, and it‘s going to play out for a long time ahead. 

SHUSTER:  I don‘t disagree with you, Ed, but doesn‘t it suggest then some serious structural problems with the Republican Party, if in fact that‘s the case?  If there is an opportunity for somebody like Sarah Palin, as unconventional as she is, to have a sort of rambling, bizarre news conference—and that‘s the description from Republicans today—and to essentially not fulfill the commitment to her state, after only two and a half years decide, you know what, John McCain plucked me out of obscurity but I like the limelight, I can be a national political figure, I can have national influence.  The fact that she might and the fact that the Republican Party, at least certain elements within the Republican Party might give her that chance, doesn‘t that suggest that the GOP might be in even worse shape than anybody seems to think right now? 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t disagree with you.  I think they‘re in terrible shape right now.  And I think that that plays into her reasoning. 

I find it interesting that all of the kids in her family would be excited about her quitting the governorship?  I don‘t believe that.  I think that she told them, look, if I‘m going to be president, if I‘m going to make a run for the Republican Party, I‘ve got to get out there in the lower 48 and I‘ve got to be visible and go after it, and we‘ve got a higher calling here. 

I think that would excite the family a heck of a lot more than the mom sitting there saying, you know, I think I‘m going to be a quitter and stay home.  That‘s not in her makeup. 

And I really believe that there are a number of Republicans that don‘t want to see her do this because they don‘t want her in the limelight because she stumbles in front of the cameras from time to time.  She‘s kind of a loose cannon.  She says some dumb things, I guess you could say, from time to time.  And there are—you know, there‘s competition. 

You know, you‘ve got Newt, you‘ve got Mitt Romney.  Who knows about Giuliani?  Who knows about Jeb Bush. 

I mean, I think there‘s some people that want to see her fail.  But the hard right wing staunch conservatives, they love Sarah Palin.  And she‘s a rock star.  She can go on the road, she can raise money.  And that‘s something nobody else is doing right now. 

SHUSTER:  Ed Schultz, host of “THE ED SHOW.” 

You normally see Ed at this time here on MSNBC. 

Ed, thanks so much for calling.  We appreciate it.  And good to talk to you. 

SCHULTZ:  Good to be with you.  Thanks so much. 

SHUSTER:  We of course are going to continue following the news here on MSNBC.  What a dramatic announcement from Sarah Palin. 

You can see that there‘s a lot of confusion.  There‘s some certainty, perhaps, if you want to try to ascribe some motive to Sarah Palin without really knowing what those motives are.  But in any case, it‘s one of the most bizarre and yet intriguing political stories you will ever see. 

We‘ll continue our coverage here on MSNBC. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I‘ll work hard for and campaign for those who are proud to be American and who are inspired by our ideals, and they won‘t deride them.  I will support others who seek to serve in or out of office.  And I don‘t care what party they‘re in, or no party at all, inside Alaska or outside of Alaska.  But I won‘t do it from the governor‘s desk. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That was Governor Sarah Palin with an intellectually perplexing stream of thought there.  On the one hand, saying that she is not going to be governor anymore, she‘s resigning in three weeks.  But on the other hand, she was trying to encourage people to go ahead and run for office, and that she would help, and that essentially there‘s something noble about serving.  But apparently she felt there‘s something more noble in her future plans as far as possibly either national office or becoming a national figure, or maybe it‘s just spending more time with her family. 

In any case, dramatic news from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin today in which she said that she is going to resign from office within three weeks.  Again, this is just two and a half years into her first term as governor. 

Joining us now is Democratic strategist and radio host Bill Press and Republican strategist Ron Christie. 

Ron, I‘ll never forget your reaction this week when I asked you about Mark Sanford and you said, by all means, Mark Sanford should resign.  Maybe the wires got crossed and Sarah Palin heard it the wrong way? 

(LAUGHTER)

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Oh, not hardly, David.  I think Governor Palin is a very straightforward individual.  And I think that all this early speculation of what impact does this have on her for 2012, let‘s just let her explain her side of the story.  Let‘s let her explain her motivation for deciding to step away. 

SHUSTER:  Did you hear that explanation today?  Because a lot of other people did not. 

CHRISTIE:  I did. 

SHUSTER:  OK.  What is it? 

SHUSTER:  I heard what she had to say today, Dave, ,and I think we owe the governor the opportunity to explain to the American people, and particularly the people in Alaska, the rationale behind her decision. 

But let me just say this—this is a very personal decision.  I think Governor Palin has been subjected to some of the worst sexism, some of the worst treatment in the media.  And I think that people need to sit back and say, was it worth it for her, was it worth it for her family to be suggested to that level of treatment, that level of scrutiny?  Family, as you know, is the most important thing in the world, David, and I think that she may have made the calculus—this is my thought—she may have made the calculus that it just wasn‘t worth it for her and her family anymore. 

SHUSTER:  Bill Press? 

BILL PRESS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Cry me a river.  Yes, David, look, let me say two things. 

Number one, I think a word of caution here.  We don‘t know the full story.  I mean, when I heard that Mark Sanford was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, I told my audience, we don‘t know what‘s going on here.  There‘s something else going on.  And sure enough, we found out. 

I‘m not suggesting anything.  I‘m certainly not suggesting she‘s got a lover in Argentina.  All I‘m saying is there‘s something else going on here that prompted this decision, number one. 

Number two, I‘ve got to tell you, look, I‘ve been around this political game for some 25 years. 

I‘ve been a candidate.  I was a state chair.  I ran campaigns.  I have never seen anything this bizarre.  I think it is the bizarre end to a bizarre political career. 

And I remember what my first candidate did, Peter Bear (ph), a Republican, Marin County.  He used to say, quoting Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War II flying ace, that “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” 

She‘s a quitter.  It‘s done.  Over. 

SHUSTER:  Ron, this has been a strange spring for some of the Republicans who were talked about as possible 2012 contenders.  John Ensign acknowledged an extramarital affair, the senator.  That essentially ended his possibilities in 2012.  Mark Sanford had been mentioned in 2012, and of course you‘ve been urging him and others have been urging him to resign from the governor‘s office in South Carolina.  And now Sarah Palin. 

Ron, what‘s going on in the GOP?  And if you‘re a Mitt Romney supporter or a Mike Huckabee supporter, you must be saying, this just means it‘s in the cards for us. 

CHRISTIE:  Well, I think the Republican Party is in just fine shape, David.  I think so much of the speculation...

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS:  Come on, Ron. 

CHRISTIE:  Oh, John Ensign—John Ensign was never going to be a viable candidate.  We all know that.  And I think Mark Sanford was never going to be a viable candidate. 

The truth of the matter is that the Republican Party has a great record to run on by looking at none other than President Obama and the way the congressional Democrats are spending money in obscene levels that has just been unprecedented in American history.  So, if you‘re a Governor Romney, if you‘re some of the other candidates that are being spoken about, I think the Republicans will have quite the track record that the president will have left them to run on.  But to somehow suggest that Governor Palin‘s resignation is somehow bad for her—excuse me, bad for the Republicans‘ prospects for presidency in 2012 is absurd. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  David, let me help out here.  It certainly doesn‘t help the Republican prospects. 

And seriously, Ron, look, you‘re a friend, but if you think the Republican Party‘s in great shape today, you‘re as delusional as Sarah Palin. 

The fact of Palin, David—here‘s the thing that gets me—if she really thinks that this is a way to get ready for 2012, I mean, remember the issue last year was, this was a woman that had precious little experience.  She has been mayor of Wasilla, right, 10,000.  And she‘d been governor for a year. 

So at least she goes back after that, she‘ll be governor, she‘ll build up a little record.  And with Sanford dropping out, you know, and Jindal not doing not so well, people were starting to say, well, maybe it‘s going to be Sarah Palin after all.  Now she quits.  She drops out.

I mean, she drops the one thing that she had.  So now she‘s a former beauty queen and an ex—not even an ex-governor.  She couldn‘t even finish one term.  That‘s a platform for running for president?  Please. 

CHRISTIE:  Well, and again—well, friends wouldn‘t call friends delusional, Bill.  But let me just say this—if we want to talk about people with lack of experience, we can talk about a former state senator from Illinois who never even governed.  I mean, you make this belittling comment about Wasilla, Alaska. 

PRESS:  Come on.  He didn‘t quit.

CHRISTIE:  Well, at least she was the mayor of a city.  She was the governor of a state, which is a whole lot more experience than Barack Obama had.  But again...

PRESS:  And by the way, Barack Obama...

CHRISTIE:  But again—Bill, I didn‘t cut you off.  Let‘s look at this for what it is. 

This has been a very, very interesting day.  And I think that there‘s a lot more that‘s going to unfold.  We‘ll have the opportunity to hear from the governor and to explain her rationale.

But the Republican Party, you say that we‘re not in good shape.  President Obama and the congressional Democrats are bankrupting this country, and I think the American people—the polls are indicating people are very, very uncertain with the direction that President Obama and the direction the Democrats are taking the country. 

PRESS:  Please.  Please.

CHRISTIE:  That will give the Republicans‘ opportunity to...

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  Ron Christie, Bill Press, we are going to keep you guys around. 

Bill Press, you‘re going to get the first word on the other side of this break. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Today, Governor Sarah Palin said, “I‘m not wired to operate under the same politics as usual.” 

That may be the understatement of the decade.  Today, Governor Palin said that not only she‘s not going to run for a second term, but she is resigning from office after only two and a half years in her first term.  She gave a rambling news conference to try to explain why.  Here are some of the highlights from that statement today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I know when it‘s time to pass the ball for victory.  And I‘ve given my reasons now, very candidly, truthfully.  And my last day won‘t be for another few weeks, so the transition will be very smooth. 

In fact, we look forward to swearing in Sean Parnell up there in Fairbanks at the conclusion of our governors picnic at the end of the month. 

And I really don‘t want to disappoint anyone with this announcement, not with the decision that I have made.  All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision, and know that it is no more politics as usual. 

And some Alaskans, it seemed today, maybe they don‘t mind wasting public dollars and state time, but I do.  And I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars, and all that time go to waste, just so that I can hold the title of governor. 

Though it may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down, and plod along, and appease those who are demanding, hey, just sit down and shut up—but that‘s a worthless, easy path out.  That‘s the quitter‘s way out. 

And I think a problem in our country today is apathy.  It would be apathetic to hunker down and go with the flow. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That was Governor Sarah Palin.  By the way, you did hear geese there in the background, adding to the sort of whole bizarre nature of that event.  Never mind that it‘s a Friday, that it‘s a holiday weekend, the place where news goes to get buried. 

But it was just a strange event.  You could hear the geese throughout.  And also when the camera turned, and you looked at the number of people watching this event, maybe seven.  In any case, I promised that we would continue talking with Bill Press and Ron Christie, and we will in just a second. 

First, let‘s get to Mike Allen from “Politico.”  Mike, now that you‘ve had some time to digest this, to try to put it all together, your thoughts on Sarah Palin today? 

MIKE ALLEN, “POLITICO”:  David, I love that clip that you just played.  She‘s going to prove that she‘s not a quitter by quitting the governor‘s office.  That‘s one of the many sentences that people will try to diagram out of this. 

David, we‘re told that however confusing her message there may have been, that she does have a clear plan, that Governor Palin plans to remain very visible in the days ahead, that she brushes off the news stories about her, but that the ethics complaints, the constant pounding that she was taking in Alaska, the attacks from Alaskan legislators were taking a toll on her family and her state. 

So she‘d been thinking for some months about whether or not to stay in office, and whether or not to run again.  And we‘re told that she probably would win if she ran again.  But in the last few weeks, she gave the idea consideration of throwing in the towel altogether. 

SHUSTER:  Mike, what you‘re reporting is so intriguing.  Just to clarify, if I‘m hearing you correctly, in other words, it was because of the pounding in Alaska, from the state legislature, from the ethics complaints, and not because of whatever pounding she was receiving from the national media, or from the “Vanity Fair” article citing the McCain campaign?  That was not a factor? 

ALLEN:  It wasn‘t.  And her friends made a very clear distinction between the two.  In fact, they said—I said, really?  That coverage couldn‘t bother her?  They said, no.  They said what she thinks of reporters, which was not very complimentary. 

And proof of this is that she‘s going into the buzz saw here in the lower 48.  She‘s going to be giving paid speeches.  She‘s going to be making free appearances for GOP candidates.  She‘s going to be raising money for issues and causes. 

So she‘d be building up political IOUs for herself, as she goes through this speaking tour. 

So David, as you know, you talk to these people too, people who advise her, people who love her, would like to work for her again, think she‘s better off in Alaska, that she would be better off building up her credentials as a policy leader, rather than aiding and abetting this coverage that always tries to make her to be less serious, to cover her more as a celebrity. 

But it looks like she‘s going to try to use that celebrity factor to help out causes and candidates she likes.  Because at the moment, there‘s no bigger cause—no bigger draw for Republicans or for conservatives. 

SHUSTER:  Mike, putting aside the advice she might be getting in Alaska, as far as, say, the Republican political establishment, the sort of people who were involved in the primary, the presidential race—if she wants to be a celebrity, fine.  She can give the speeches.  She‘s going to have her book.  She can possibly be a commentator, whatever it is. 

But if the ambition is beyond just a national political celebrity, but actually to run for national office, have you heard from anybody today who thinks that the approach she is taking now will get her there? 

ALLEN:  Well, her approach appeals to a very intense audience.  But it seems to be a rather narrow audience.  And it certainly isn‘t the party establishment, as you well know, David.  In fact, I got some e-mails, you probably got them too, people wondering if maybe she would run for RNC chairman to replace Michael Steele. 

I checked with the very authoritative source.  They said no way.  They were like, the party establishment is not where she is going to make her inroads.  If she has any hope, it‘s going to be as an outsider trying to take on your Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, your former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, your Virginia House Republican Leader Eric Cantor. 

The establishment is never going to embrace her.  And you can look at that just in the comments even that her former running mate, the former top of her ticket, Senator McCain, makes, who has made no promise to support her in the future. 

SHUSTER:  Great reporting as always by “Politico‘s” Mike Allen.  Mike, thanks so much.  We appreciate it. 

And let‘s bring back in Republican strategist Ron Christie and radio show host Bill Press, Democratic strategist.  We cut you off before the last break.  Bill, why don‘t you start.  I‘m curious to hear your reaction to the news from Mike that this is really driven by her essentially being fed up with the pressure from Alaska legislators, the ethics investigation, and that she does intend to essentially try to build up her platform on the Republican stage in a national—at a national level. 

PRESS:  Well, it sounds like she‘s taking Harry Truman‘s advice: if you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  But, I mean, for god‘s sakes, if she thinks she‘s getting heat in Alaska, what is she going to find?  She‘s already seen that on the national level.  She ain‘t seen nothing yet, as Ronald Reagan would say. 

Real quickly, going back to what Ron said about the Republican party being in great shape.  Look, Barack Obama‘s at 64 percent in the polls, Rasmussen yesterday.  OK?  Democrats have over 50 vote margin in the House.  They‘ve got 60 votes now in the United States Senate. 

They lead on every issue, including national security.  And the Republicans just lost three of their superstars for 2012 in the last two weeks. 

If that puts the Republican party in great shape, I‘m an astronaut.

But back to Sarah Palin, here‘s the deal—look, you know, it is about 2012.  And what I find strange about it—I‘d like Ron to speak to that—is what is her platform that she‘s really running?  As somebody who couldn‘t finish one term as governor?  And what about the timing?  You know, I don‘t think America‘s ready for somebody to get out there right now and start the rubber chicken circuit to run for president. 

Barack Obama‘s only been there for six months.  If she had finished her term a year and a half from now, that would have been a great move.  Stepping aside, I think, is really bizarre. 

SHUSTER:  Ron, your reaction to that? 

CHRISTIE:  Again, I don‘t think Governor Palin—obviously, this is my speculation.  But I don‘t think she‘s laying the groundwork for a presidential run.  I think she‘s going to leave others to do that, those who are going to go out and speak about the issues about why they should become the next president of the United States. 

What I do think she will do is she will be a prolific fund-raiser.  She will do her best to raise money for candidates in the House of Representatives and Senate, to try to change the balance of power there. 

I do believe, unlike what Bill just said a few moments ago, if you look at the Rasmussen poll, the Rasmussen poll shows the president‘s personal approval rating in the 60s.  Although more Americans now are concerned about his handling of the economy.  And they disapprove of his handling of the economy than approve it. 

Again, Republicans will be able to look—the stimulus package was supposed to keep unemployment beneath 8.2 percent.  It‘s now at 9.5 percent.  Bill can laugh and Democrats can laugh—

PRESS:  We‘re talking about Sarah Palin. 

CHRISTIE:  I‘m not cutting you off.  Thank you.  These are the true bread and butter issues that Americans are concerned about.  I think if you want to go back to Sarah Palin, she will be a very, very strong force to be reckoned with about keeping the Republicans in the game, raising the profile of the Republican party, and being a very active citizen outside of the governor‘s mansion. 

PRESS:  You know, David, others have tried this.  This is this crazy idea that you can be nobody and yet be somebody.  I mean, Jesse Ventura was going to do this.  Right?  Ross Perot was going to do this.  Bob Dole quit the Senate.  He was going to do this. 

We‘ve seen it before.  It doesn‘t work.  Somebody—who was it, Chuck Todd described her as a meteor.  Meteor—comets.  They go up fast, they shine fast for a very brief period of time, and then they crash to the earth.  She‘ll crash. 

SHUSTER:  Bill Press, Democratic strategist, Ron Christie, Republican strategist, thank you both very much.  Great discussion.  By the way, on the other side of this break, we‘re going to read for you a remarkable, remarkable quote from somebody who is very close to John McCain.  Again, reacting to the news that Sarah Palin has decided after two and a half years to resign from office.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, a special edition, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back.  We continue to follow the breaking news, the reaction to Governor Sarah Palin‘s shocker in Alaska today.  She announced today that not only is she not going to run for a second term, but she is going to leave the governor‘s office in there weeks, after two and a half years into her first term. 

Reaction has been pouring in, including from a very close confidant and friend of John McCain.  Of course, Senator McCain, who picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate a year ago.  John Weaver, a long-time strategist and confidant of John McCain, he had this to say when asked about Governor Sarah Palin.  He told the “Washington Post,” “we‘ve seen a lot of nutty behavior from governors and Republican leaders in the last three months, but this one is at the top of that.”

That‘s a pretty significant statement to say in a week when Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, said he can die knowing he‘s met his soul mate, and is referring to his mistress, not his wife.  For any Republican to say Sarah Palin is even nuttier than Mark Sanford, that tells you something. 

In any case, we were reporting a short time ago, with the help of “Politico,” that Governor Sarah Palin‘s motivation is apparently because she‘s tired of the beating that she‘s been getting from lawmakers in Alaska. 

Joining us now on the phone is Shannon Moore.  She‘s a progressive radio talk show host in Anchorage, Alaska.  She‘s also a “Huffington Post” contributor. 

Shannon, why don‘t you put this in some perspective.  What was it that the lawmakers in Alaska have been hounding Sarah Palin over?  And the ethics investigations, were they completely out of left field?  Or did Sarah Palin contribute to essentially inviting those ethics investigations? 

SHANNON MOORE, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  It‘s nice to talk to you again, David.  There‘s a lot of questions there.  I think it‘s very interesting that “Politico” is reporting that she‘s been taking a beating from lawmakers here in Alaska.  That simply isn‘t true.  They‘re out of session right now. 

We did have an investigation last year into the Trooper-Gate scandal, and she was found guilty of abuse of power.  Yet they didn‘t do anything with that 100,000 dollar investigation. 

So they haven‘t been hounding her at all.  They‘ve been very supportive, I think, of trying to get a gas line for Alaskans. 

SHUSTER:  So what do you think is—what do you think is really going on?  Let‘s put aside the “Politico” reporting.  You‘re in Alaska.  You‘ve got a better sense, I think, on the ground as far as what‘s going on.  The legislature‘s not in session.  What do you think is really going on here, then, with Governor Palin? 

MOORE:  I think that there have been rumors here—and certainly I‘ve been covering the governor on the radio (INAUDIBLE).  I think that, the truth be told, there have been so many things that were Teflon for her, whether it was her daughter‘s pregnancy or all these sort of other issues that were coming up. 

And I think she‘s been really Teflon on the personal sort of dramas and tabloid things that have played out.  There is a scandal rumor here that there is a criminal investigation into some activities.  And that‘s been rumored here for about, I don‘t know, probably six weeks or two months. 

And I‘m not sure if that has more to do with this.  It seemed today that she was—and like I said, I watched her since she was campaigning.  I‘ve never seen her as nervous, as sort of, you know, like (INAUDIBLE) bulls into a press conference as I did today.  I think she was really actually doing damage control for news that‘s coming up later. 

SHUSTER:  OK, that gets to the idea that there is another shoe to drop.  Obviously, as you point out, these are rumors and unconfirmed reports.  But the fact that people in Alaska have been talking about something, I wonder if you can essentially give us the contours as far as what they‘ve been talking about, or what the fears are as far as Sarah Palin supporters or her family, as far as what may be coming. 

MOORE:  Well, I think that, you know, if there are—with the rumors that are going around, that there are investigations right now into alleged criminal or, you know, unsavory behavior on a criminal level, then I think that those things maybe take time.  That‘s definitely a lesson that Alaskans have learned, having so many indictments of our politicians. 

Everybody jumps the gun and then pretty soon they‘re let out of jail.  And that‘s, you know—we‘ve seen that.  So I think that if it‘s true—if the rumors are true, they need to play out in that time.  But I cannot imagine that anything else would have Sarah Palin backing out of her governorship.  When Governor Bush and Governor Clinton both ran for office, they both turned their states over to their lieutenant governor.  Sarah Palin never did that when she was running for VP.  She actually was governing at 140 characters or less from her Blackberry. 

So, in watching this all play out, I actually think that the rumors seem like there could be something to it.  And like I said, we‘ll just have to wait.  I can‘t imagine anything personal that would make her step down as governor of Alaska. 

SHUSTER:  Intriguing and terrific reporting from Shannon Moore.  Shannon, we appreciate you sort of being careful and cautious in how we address this.  But nonetheless, with the strange remarks that Palin made today, there‘s definitely this sort of chatter that there must be another shoe that‘s going to drop, or at least there‘s some speculation that maybe there is one that‘s going to drop. 

So we appreciate you addressing that.  Shannon Moore, progressive radio talk show host in Alaska.  We‘re going to take a quick break and talk about the significance of what we‘ve just heard and get back to what it all means for the state of the Republican party, and also the political future of Sarah Palin.

You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  If I have learned one thing, it‘s that life is about choices.  One chooses how to react to circumstances.  You can choose to engage in things that tear down or that build up. 

And I choose to work very hard on a path for fruitfulness and for productivity.  I choose not to tear down and waste precious time, but to build up this state and our great country and her industrious and generous and patriotic and free people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That was Governor Sarah Palin today announcing that she‘s resigning from office in three weeks, just two and a half years into her first term in office.  It had been widely anticipated that she would announce she was not running for a second term.  But the news that she‘s essentially quitting the first one two and a half years in is a political bombshell. 

Top Republicans describe that event today, her announcement and her actions today, as bizarre, strange, erratic.  You have one top Republican strategist suggesting it is nuttier than anything Governor Mark Sanford or Senator John Ensign have done in recent weeks.  Those two men admitted extramarital affairs in the last few weeks. 

Joining us now from the White House, NBC‘s Mike Viqueira.  Mike, our previous guest was talking about the possibility of another shoe that may drop that may be playing into this, and rumors of a criminal investigation.  I wondered if you could set the stage for us in terms of the problems that former Senator Ted Stevens and others have had in Alaska, and the nature of those criminal investigations. 

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Of course, David, I think you covered the Ted Stevens trial.  Ted Stevens was ultimately exonerated, let off, because of misconduct by the Justice Department.  There were some allegations against the Congressman there, that is an at-large seat.  The seat is the larger congressional district.  Don Young tied up in the Abramoff affair.  No charges have been brought against him. 

So the situation in Alaska somewhat sketchy in terms of political ethics. 

David, call me a hide-bound institutionalist imprisoned in my conventional Washington thinking, but, you know, if you run for election, and people see fit to elect you governor of their state, you don‘t come out and call it a waste of time and then quit.  I mean, that‘s almost an affront to the voters of Alaska.  You don‘t take your ball and jacks and go home. 

So it really does lend themselves—unconventional as Sarah Palin may be, out of the box as she may be, it does lend itself to certain theories.  I think, as journalist, you look at this with a jaundiced eye. 

SHUSTER:  NBC‘s Mike Viqueira at the White House.  Mike, thank you very much.  We‘ve got another hour of coverage coming ahead, including we‘ll talk to the chair of the Alaska Republican Party.  You will hear the entire 17-minute statement from Governor Palin at 7:30 Eastern time.  Another hour of our special HARDBALL coverage on MSNBC.  You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Thanks, but no thanks.  Sarah Palin resigns from office with a year and a half left in her first political term as governor.  If she really has ambitions for the national political stage, what does she know that the rest of the political world does not? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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