Although I fell in love with Sarah Palin in 2008, she had begun to drive me a just a little bit crazy recently, often so inarticulate that I thought she was trying to make Barack Obama without a teleprompter look like Pericles.
All is forgiven. Sarah Palin’s decision not to run for president redeemed her. She did the right thing by her country, her party, and by herself. By not running, Palin preserves her status as a power broker in the Republican Party, which could have been diminished by a bad showing in the primaries. She will be big in 2012, bigger than if she'd launched a failed presidential bid.
In considering the career of Sarah Palin, up to this point, I am going to use a word I generally consider verboten: sexism. It is generally liberals who toss around the sexism charge, but it is worth asking whether, if she had been a man, Palin would have been treated as abominably by the liberal media.
In 2008, we had a man running for the presidency of the United States who was a virtual unknown, yet the media was in Alaska, rummaging through Palin’s trash. Some of the speculation about Palin and her family was downright bizarre—Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan became fixated on whether son Trig was really Palin’s (Sullivan posited that Trig was her grandson).
It should be noted that Palin especially upset liberal women. One of my Georgetown liberal friends and I agreed that we just shouldn’t talk about her. Fine with me, but my friend called with daily bulletins. An itch that had to be scratched, Palin was criticized by my friend for having had “that pathetic baby,” a particularly brutal reference to Trig, who has Down syndrome. Yes, Sarah got my friend’s goat.
But was it sexism? Only in the sense that conservative women face a kind of hostility that is the result of a combination of their sex and their philosophy. Women are supposed to be liberals. You will be punished by the media if you wander off the reservation. But I don’t think this response is fueled by sexism per se as much as it is by something arguably worse: the idea that women are owned by one political party. African-Americans often face the same prejudice.
But I am ready to concede that pure sexism, sexism not based on political philosophy, does exist outside the fringes of society. Ironically, the one instance of this we’ve seen lately comes from what should be an unlikely place: the Obama White House. Ron Suskind’s new book, “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” quotes women who’d worked early on in the administration alleging sexism. I'm afraid it sounds plausible.