Years from now, Sarah Palin may be the perfect case study for a political shooting star.

First she was a rock star, someone happily capable of bringing life to a moribund McCain campaign—someone who could rev up the base and maybe pick off a few Hillary Clinton voters.

Then came the dark times—the Gibson interview, the Couric interview, Troopergate, the debate in which she breezily refused to actually answer the questions. The “Hockey Mom” charm wore off quickly as she grasped the vice presidential pit-bull role, bringing it to new levels of divisiveness with comments about “real America” that even she acknowledged were, ahem, unhelpful.

But the dark times are over. That brilliant flash you see? Sarah Palin flaming out. Or exploding. Or crashing and burning. It’s been that kind of week for the Alaska governor.