THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Adrian Walker

Just passing through

By Adrian Walker
Globe Columnist / June 4, 2011

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Thank goodness, we now know exactly what’s right and what’s wrong with Massachusetts. We know now, because a half-term governor of Alaska took time out of her busy family vacation to enlighten us.

Yes, Sarah Palin passed through town on Thursday, but not without trashing Massachusetts health care, mangling some cherished history, and wishing Mitt Romney well — sincerely, I’m sure — in his bid for the White House.

Palin insisted that her trip up the East Coast this week was not a campaign venture. But she did pause long enough to state her objections to the individual mandate that is the centerpiece of the Massachusetts health care law, noting that Tea Party activists would find it hard to make peace with what many consider to be Romney’s most important act during his term as governor.

But all is not lost, Massachusetts. Palin made the rounds of historical landmarks and she did express her admiration for Paul Revere, though not without unleashing one of her trademark gaffes.

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town,’’ she said.

Uh, not exactly. Revere didn’t ring any bells — he was on a hush-hush mission and rather famously aboard a galloping horse. And he wasn’t warning the British, he was warning us. The fractured syntax, however, is most authentically Palinesque.

What is it with these out-of-state Republicans, anyway? First Michele Bachmann thinks the battle of Lexington and Concord was waged in New Hampshire, and then Palin demonstrates less knowledge about the midnight ride of Paul Revere than a literate third-grader.

Actually, I was mildly surprised that Palin graced Boston with a visit at all. She knows from experience that this is not a Palin stronghold. Her rally on Boston Common last year pretty much fizzled, I thought, with even her trademark rally lines — “Drill, baby, drill!’’ — failing to really ignite the crowd. But maybe she wasn’t visiting to test her appeal with voters. After all, she has a whole separate constituency: the media. As usual, she didn’t lack for their attention. She was followed clear across the New Hampshire border by the press horde, even though she answered few questions, and didn’t even bother to tell them where she was going, as is her standard procedure.

I wasn’t part of the contingent, simply because I have a stubborn aversion to politicians who play cat-and-mouse, the kind who go on and on saying they haven’t made up their minds whether they are running for city council/governor/president while they bask in attention. Call me when there’s an actual campaign. Palin comes across as a noncandidate craving yet another attention infusion. And you can’t exactly blame her — her star turn has made her rich.

I haven’t always been the most ardent supporter of Mitt Romney, either. But here we must give the man his due. He has methodically assembled a staff and a campaign. He hasn’t begged to be drafted, or played coy. He does not campaign while pretending he isn’t campaigning. He desperately wants to be president, and he has never cared who knows it.

And so on Thursday, while Palin was leading the media around, Romney was announcing for president. If you have ever seen a Romney campaign, the major themes will come as no surprise: He is the businessman who knows how to get America back on track and create jobs. He seems to have abandoned his 2008 incarnation as a lukewarm culture warrior. He is back to being the Mitt who saved the Winter Olympics, and can do the same for Main Street USA. If that message feels shopworn, at least he has one.

By day’s end Thursday, Romney and Palin were both in New Hampshire, though it was impossible to say whether they were both running for office. Romney’s earnestness was on full display, while Palin insisted she was just passing through town. But as usual, some people couldn’t take their eyes off of her.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com.