Sarah Palin Strikes Back

Posted: Sep 05, 2008 12:01 AM
Sarah Palin Strikes Back

ST. PAUL -- "The Republican Party will not stand by while Gov. (Sarah) Palin is subjected to sexist attacks," Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard and constant McCain booster, told a press conference at the Republican National Convention Wednesday. "I don't believe American women are going to stand for it either."

Flanked by a cadre of GOP women, Fiorina observed that "every one of us" has been dismissed as "a show horse not a workhorse."

Whoa, Nellie.

Has there been sexism in the coverage of McCain's choice of running mate? Absolutely. Newspapers would never run stories asking whether a father can fulfill his parental and official duties as vice president. And the scrutiny of Palin's hair has been far more severe than that of Joe Biden's reputed hair plugs.

That said, the Palin pile-on is the result of much more than sexism. The political press corps' lack of familiarity with Palin, the liberal bent endemic to this profession, the sheer surprise that Palin was McCain's pick, the public's curiosity about the political newcomer, the fact that 15,000 journalists were eager to write compelling copy -- all of these were contributing factors.

Like much in life, the reaction to Palin is complicated. To attribute the whole can of worms to sexism is a mistake. The GOP is not the victimhood party; it is not the party of grievances, but the party of overcoming grievances. It's the party that can boast, as Palin did Wednesday night, "Do you know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

At the Fiorina-led press conference, Camp McCain came perilously close to crossing the line into the land of whining and recriminations. The land of losers.

It's one thing to be justifiably angry, it's another to be self-destructive.

Or as Palin herself told Newsweek in response to Team Hillary's charges of sexist media coverage, "When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism, or maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, 'Man, that doesn't do us any good, women in politics, or women in general, trying to progress this country.'"

And: "I don't think it bodes well for her, a statement like that."

It dilutes the message.

Thus, it was refreshing to see Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle take on those who argue that governing Alaska is just small change. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani followed by comparing Palin's experience -- deemed insufficient to qualify her as a running mate -- with that of Barack Obama, who began running for the White House after two years in the U.S. Senate.

The discussion had turned to two important functions of a political convention: establishing your bona fides and hitting the other side. Palin explained how she took on her state's big spending; she called Obama a "man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the state Senate."

Now it is time for the GOP to stop licking its wounds and engage in a more detailed engagement on foreign policy, the role of government, and how McCain can strengthen the economy. The biographical information provided Wednesday night was vital, but as Palin herself said, the "presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery."

I've been about as critical of the media pile-on of Palin as anyone. But I have to say, when the delegates turned to the press stands and booed, it reminded me of the GOP convention in 1992 in Houston, when social conservatives began chanting to the media, "Tell the truth."

Guess what happened that year? President George H.W. Bush lost.

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