Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin capped off a week of bad publicity with a stunning decision: The Republican captured the lead story in all the papers today after announcing Friday afternoon that she will resign her post, effective at the end of the month. Palin did not indicate if she plans to run for political office again but framed her choice as a personal one undertaken after prayer and consultation with her family. She wants to avoid the media spotlight that has often plagued her family members in the past year, as well as the costly ethics probes receiving attention in Alaska this week that have strained the family finances. "I thought about how much fun other governors have as lame ducks: They maybe travel around their state, travel to other states, maybe take their overseas international trade missions," Palin said outside her Wasilla home. "I'm not going to put Alaskans through that."
Her term should have run through the end of 2010, and she had not said previously whether she planned to seek re-election. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will take over the governorship. Palin hopes to focus on the issues important to her—namely, energy and national security matters—outside of the fray of day-to-day politics. The question on everyone's minds now is whether Palin is preparing for a 2012 presidential bid or ducking out of electoral politics for good. The Washington Postincludes an analysis as part of its two-column lead, which speculates that her decision will give Palin the opportunity to travel the world and educate herself on international affairs without being seen as shirking her duties at home in Alaska. The New York Times tries to parse the governor's speech for clues of her future plans but reaches no definitive conclusion either way. (An earlier story on NYT blog the Caucus gives word that new e-mails pending release might add to the financial ethics probes already underway.) Inside, the NYT posits that this is the end of Alaska's 15 minutes of fame.
The Los Angeles Times reports that "many" anticipate a run for president, although analysts believe the early resignation will irreparably hurt her chances. The LAT also points out that the unflattering Vanity Fair profile published this week reopened old wounds among Republican aides on last fall's campaign trail, "underscoring Palin's polarizing place in the GOP." Slate's John Dickerson questions the timing of Palin's announcement, which came "the day before a national holiday—a day reserved for news of impending investigations, affairs, or habits that need treatment."
The NYT off-leads with two international stories: First, Russia has agreed to let the U.S. military fly over the country to deliver supplies to Afghanistan, which is good news for efforts in Afghanistan as well as for the strained U.S.-Russian relationship. (The LAT, on the other hand, fronts a story on anti-Americanism in Russia.) The second story reveals that Iranian leaders have heard confessions from top reformists that indicate they had planned a "velvet" revolution to overthrow the government. Human rights groups are quick to point out that confessions are often forced in Iran, and this may be a sign that the country is trying to disable reformist political parties and quash future reform movements.
All the papers go inside with news that some of the British Embassy staff who were arrested in Tehran during the protests following the Iranian election on June 12 may face trial. The LAT reports that European Union members have begun summoning Iranian diplomats to make their disapproval known. The EU is toying with the idea of withdrawing all member nations' ambassadors from Tehran and/or imposing visa restrictions. However, such a move might put the EU in a difficult position if further negotiations become necessary with the Iranian government.
The LAT goes above the fold with two big sports and entertainment stories. First, Tuesday's memorial service for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center will hold 17,500 ticketed guests, including those randomly selected through an online lottery. The Los Angeles Police Department urges everyone else to stay away from the area, as they plan to pay for security measures with an overtime fund used for such purposes. Fans are still camped out at Jackson's Neverland Ranch, despite the fact that the family has announced there will be no public viewing there. Manny Ramirez's return to the L.A. Dodgers after a 50-game suspension for use of a banned substance merited the front page photo, along with a story about the huge cheers he got from the crowd at yesterday's game. Ramirez still will not address questions about whether he used steroids.
A Page One profile in the WP chronicles the coming of age of an introspective young woman from Baghdad, now 20, who has kept a diary throughout the war in Iraq. At age 13, she grappled with the fall of her hometown to American troops, writing, "They talk about democracy. Where is democracy? Is it that people die of hunger and deprivation and fear?" More recently, her approach has become more measured and more accepting.
And finally, on the Fourth of July, the LAT fronts a look at a pair of bald eagles nesting in Washington, D.C. The eagles built their nest back in 2001 and have spent half the year there ever since, the only two living symbols in a city that bears their image throughout. Now their nest is threatened by the proposed location of the "mega-headquarters" of the Department of Homeland Security in the woods nearby. But eagle advocates predict "the sheer chutzpah that brought the birds here in the first place" ought to help them adjust just fine.