Topic: Media

Palin’s Wardrobe

The jaw-droppingly biased national media, news commentators who should know better, and too many dim-witted op-ed page letter-writers thoroughly disgraced themselves with their elevation of Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe budget into an ethics “scandal,” when it did not even deserve to be an issue.

After it was reported that the McCain-Palin campaign had spent about $150,000 on Palin’s clothes, all of the above, plus cheap-shot artists like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, acted as if they had just emerged from a cave after being trapped there since 1939. Electoral politics in this media-driven culture isn’t merely like show business, it IS show business, and for women in show-business, clothes are tools of the trade. Ever since Richard Nixon’s five o’clock shadow helped cost him the 1960 election, pols have gradually wised-up to the fact (like it or not) that in elections appearances, if not everything, are damn close to everything. True: the issue wouldn’t arise if Madeline Albright were running, but when a national candidate is an attractive, youthful-looking woman, such as Governor Palin, any party would be n-u-t-s not to maximize her photogenic qualities, make certain that her attire pleases and does not bore, and to fill her closet according to the best advice of a “dress for success” consultant.

Is the media really unaware that Alaska is not exactly fashion-conscious and that Alaska’s governor would likely need to go shopping? That a female candidate who wants to appeal to New Yorkers probably should dress differently in Manhattan than she would if she were speaking in Boise? The logic of campaign packaging aside, in the context of either party’s campaign expenses for travel, consultants, signs, ads, and much more, $150,000 is peanuts…and a far better expenditure of money, to pick one of a hundreds of examples this election season, than the Obama campaign paying to run, in Northern Virginia, an infantile ad telling me that John McCain “voted with President Bush 90% of the time” — three times in a row!

First, this insulting (to anyone who it is supposed to sway) limp hit-job on McCain costs far more than $150,000. Second, unlike buying clothes to make sure half of the GOP ticket looks good and doesn’t receive catty “she has thick legs and looks old” criticism in the Washington Post like poor Hillary Clinton, it has a narrow effect, if any. Third, the ad’s message is silly; and fourth, even if the first running of the ad told me anything useful (it didn’t, because the President doesn’t “vote; because “90%” of unspecified or described bills is meaningless; because we aren’t told what would be a “reasonable” percentage—did Obama vote “against” President Bush 100% of the time? I strongly doubt it—and because the argument relies on undifferentiated emotional hatred and disrespect for the president, which ethical adults should be able to avoid), surely the second and third runnings that followed immediately didn’t.

Oddly, this indefensible waste of contributor money by the Democrats didn’t inspire similar scrutiny and contempt from the media because—hmmmm, why, I wonder? Because the media is in the bag for Barack Obama, and has been for almost a year, and is incapable at this point of fair reporting? Because it’s another chance to attack Palin, Madeline Albright whose very existence seems to rile the left? Because it was a slow news day? Because Tina Fay needs material? Because reporters are really as slow on the uptake as the woman who wrote an editor, “How can Palin claim to represent average Americans when her wardrobe costs so much?” (Uh, how about “average American women running for vice-president, being photographed every day in multiple locales, having every false move parodied on Saturday Night Live and knowing that every instance of awkwardness or unattractiveness could become a YouTube classic?)

Typically, the Republican response was weak, clueless and dumb: the clothes would be donated to charity, it said, as if the party or Palin had done anything wrong that either had to explain. They hadn’t. But in a media environment where the National Enquirer is a trend-setter, and Jon Stewart, former bartender, puppeteer and stand-up comic, somehow qualifies as a policy critic, right is wrong and wrong is right.

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