Is This the End for Sarah Palin and Jesse Jackson Jr.?

This week Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru are talking about forgiveness and redemption in the Republican Party -- and in the Democratic Party, too, as it turns out.

Ramesh: You ask, Margaret, what I think of Sarah Palin's upcoming CPAC speech. I suspect, like you, that it will get the crowd cheering: The lady can deliver a speech, particularly one for the conservative faithful. Other conservative media figures with a mass following will also get applause.

Palin has decided she wants to be grouped with the Sean Hannitys and Ann Coulters of the world, not with the John Kasichs and Marco Rubios, and I am not going to second-guess her about the best use of her talents. The dilemma she now faces is that interest in her as a media figure has been dependent on the possibility that she has a political future. Her endorsements have been pretty savvy as a matter of picking primary winners, but I suspect that their effectiveness has peaked.

I commented earlier, with the likes of former governors Mark Sanford and Eliot Spitzer in mind, that disgraced politicians no longer just slink away from public view. There is an exception, though, and it's when the only way to see them is through a window in a jail.

That may be the fate waiting for former Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. He has pled guilty to fraud for using campaign money to buy, well, a lot of things: a Rolex watch, Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee memorabilia, cashmere capes.

I can't find it in my heart to be too tough on Jackson. It can't be easy growing up with a charismatic, famous political father: So many children of politicians seem to be screwed up in some way. More important, a lot of Jackson's misconduct seems clearly connected to his bipolar disorder. (One of the doctors in my family called that diagnosis as soon as he took his medical leave of absence from the House last June for "exhaustion." Apparently it's a common code.)

I may not have been merciful enough for you when it comes to Sanford, Margaret, but I'm hoping that Jackson gets more help rather than jail time. Feel free to call me soft on crime.

(Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

Margaret: Among the seven deadly sins, I'm more forgiving of lust than greed. Greed is almost always premeditated. Lust, not so much.

You are too young, Ramesh, to remember the Dean Martin song my mother used to play, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore."

I'm not a romantic. But I don't accept that there should be one character test -- sexual restraint -- that we enforce the most. Mark Sanford had the bad luck to fall in love with someone not his wife. No ambitious politician would plan such a thing. On the other hand, it took a lot of malice aforethought to run up almost $15,000 in dry cleaning bills, as Jesse Jackson Jr. did -- in my whole life, I haven't spent that much -- and charge it to his campaign.

I give Jackson some room for the famous father and "exhaustion." But what about his wife, known as "Co-Conspirator 1," with the furs and cashmere? Maybe this is marriage, Chicago-style. Remember how the wife of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich seemed to be just as crude as he was?

Oh, and regarding Sarah Palin: My surprise at her re-emergence has faded to boredom, which is how most people feel, according to polls. She has gone from It girl to an ex-Fox reality star. Fox doesn't fire people who can still get ratings.

Still, I bet she gets the largest ovation of the conference. I realized that CPAC attendees are celebrity-prone in 2011, when they went wild over Donald Trump, creating a monster Mitt Romney had to bring inside his tent in 2012.

At any rate, I don't think CPAC wants us journalists attending anymore. It always met just a few subway stops from downtown at a Washington hotel. Now it's a long car ride away in National Harbor, Maryland. OK, CPAC. I can take a hint.

(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)

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    To contact the authors on this story:
    Ramesh Ponnuru at
    Margaret Carlson at

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