"I watched that one show of hers," says Dena Leech, 18, who is visiting from Worthington, Minn., on a senior year trip.
But the reporters care. They have been showing up at her various stops in droves, despite the fact that to do so, they've had to scramble at the last minute, since Palin's noncampaign won't put out a schedule, and despite the fact that a few of them might just have the tiniest misgivings about whether this is really news, and about whether they should allow themselves to be played so masterfully by Palin's you-can't-catch-me media strategy. But never mind that. The reporters cluster around Palin as soon as she steps off the ferry onto the island, accompanied by her parents, her 10-year-old daughter, Piper, and some staffers. She wears a black suit jacket, an American flag bracelet, and a chunky Star of David around her neck. She takes questions as she walks toward the Statue of Liberty.
She is asked about her dinner last night with Donald Trump and whether it influenced her thoughts on running. "You know, we didn't talk too much about ourselves," she says. She is asked about the bus tour so far and whether it has influenced her thoughts on running. "Oh, man, it makes me want to get out all across the U.S.," she says. This reporter asks whether she expected all the publicity around her trip. "No! No, no. And I do have to apologize to other tourists," she says. "We show up and kinda create some chaos."
And not just chaos, but bewilderment, particularly for the international tourists. "What actual position does she hold?" asks Kim Carpenter, 48, of Surrey, England. "Is she vice president?"
Of course, most people don't announce their family vacations on the websites of their political action committees or use said vacations to raise political funds. Nor do they have Sarah's most curious habit of dropping hints to reporters about where she's headed next. (Coming up: Boston and the Freedom Trail.) Certainly, a whole bunch of reporters know about her trip to Liberty Island in advance. Perhaps it's not so much that she doesn't want media attention as that she likes to see the press really hustle for it.
"It's like a scavenger hunt," one reporter says.
Palin goes up the Statue of Liberty. She comes back down.
The entourage proceeds back to the ferry, again surrounded by reporters. Perhaps because this is ostensibly a family vacation, a tour of the nation's important historical sights, Palin bristles when someone asks her how much her bus tour has cost so far. "I wonder why in the world you would ask a question like that for," Palin says, "when we're out here talking about America and our foundation and our freedoms and our opportunity?"
A high-school band visiting from Illinois starts playing the national anthem and Palin freezes, her hand on her heart, her face in a smile.
The song ends. She walks on.