Sarah Palin's Wardrobe Troubles
by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
Almost daily, a new McCain hypocrisy is exposed. The latest is almost too absurd to articulate: Sarah Palin, the folksy, down-home, gun-loving mama, has apparently been kitted out in a wardrobe costing approximately $150,000. Her stylist is apparently paid better than the campaign’s policy analysts, and the whole situation just became more bizarre when Palin denied that the clothes were “her property” (just like the "lighting" and "staging" at the RNC...it sounds as if Palin needs a little refresher on the difference between something that you are given and wear repeatedly, and the lighting display at a public event). The stores themselves are claiming that the purchases never took place, even though the McCain campaign released a statement saying that the clothes would be donated to charity, so it seems that they had to have been bought.
Some people are saying that we really shouldn’t be worrying about the price tag of Palin’s clothes. So what if Palin bought some expensive duds? The expectation is that politicians will look adequately (read: expensively) dressed on television, regardless of their “Wal-Mart mom” image (and really, what Wal-Mart mom wouldn’t love to be given a gold card, shoved into a Neiman Marcus, and told to go crazy?). Others say that this is a problem which has occurred before - Jackie Kennedy was criticized for her extravagant bills, and even Mary Todd Lincoln’s expenditures were decried as extravagant and pretentious, especially during a war. Even more recently, John Edwards spent much of his failed presidential bid struggling against accusations of elitism which stemmed from his $400 haircuts.
So why can’t people accept that this is both a political necessity and a Wal-Mart mom’s dream? Why can’t we see Sarah Palin as Cinderella rather than Caribou Barbie? Because Palin has spent the past two months acting out a role which is essentially false: she is, as Judith Warner pointed out in her latest column, really not an average woman (unless you follow the McCain/Palin definition of “middle class”, supposedly where the Palins, who are worth $1.2 million, have spent their lives). But the character that she is playing - because it is a character - claims to have a right to the White House, not based on her qualifications or talents, but precisely because of that averageness. Palin’s appeal is based on the lie unmasked by these expenditures: that she is not a politician who needs to be decked out in expensive suits to convince the people that she is qualified, because her qualifications are not those of a normal politician.
And those who are brave enough to cry sexism at these fresh criticisms need to realize that in a presidential campaign, it is blatantly misogynistic to assume that the candidate has so little to offer that it is more worthwhile to make sure that she looks good on TV than to pay for her to be informed on the issues. It is further proof that Palin is of the shallowest use to the McCain campaign - she is a face, a way to pull in her “dude” supporters and gal pal fans. And the fact that McCain is willing to potentially violate campaign finance regulations (perhaps the real reason why we’re having trouble getting straight answers about when, and where, and why these clothes were bought) shows just how desperate he is, and how little he trusts the American people, if he thinks that he can dress up an unqualified outsider in designer clothes and make sure that she has the best makeup money can buy, and assume that these are the only qualifications we need.