Sarah Palin's Willing Objectifiers
As Sarah Palin travels the country filling her coffers, the debate rages as to whether the former Alaska Governor is a victim or beneficiary of sexism (or possibly even both). But while her allies and Palin herself have left little doubt where they stand in the wake of the Newsweek cover imbroglio, their words belie a different truth about who's objectifying whom. As many of her biggest supporters appear to admit, if Sarah Palin didn't look like she was still up for some fancy pageant walkin', we're not even having this conversation.
Providing a case in point is National Review editor Rich Lowry. In his latest hagiography this week, Lowry basks in Palin's "roguish charm":
It's September 2008 all over again. All the same players are lining up to put a good hate on Sarah Palin. She's like an isotope designed to course throughout our politics and culture, lighting up press bias, self-congratulatory liberalism, Christianity-hating secularism, and intellectual condescension wherever they are found.
The contempt of her enemies only increases the ardor of her fans.
And none is more adoring, it turns out, than Rich Lowry.
As you may recall, in October 2008 Lowry reported on his near-orgasmic bliss watching Sarah Palin's debate performance against Joe Biden. The impact of a vice presidential candidate winking at him left a breathless Lowry weak at the knees:
I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.
As Lowry suspected, he's not alone. At the Weekly Standard, right-wing worker-bee Matthew Continettti has dedicated himself to protecting his queen. In his new tome, The Persecution of Sarah Palin, Continetti defends the "young, attractive, and pro-life conservative mom who connected with ordinary Americans" from the left's campaign of "distortion, exaggeration, fabrication, vilification, ridicule, and abuse." Disgusted that Palin on the one hand is branded a "true Stepford candidate," Continetti argues on the other:
If you had gone into a chemical laboratory to concoct a politician whose background and manner would sound liberal alarms, you probably would have come up with someone like Sarah Palin.
To be sure, given that opportunity the usual suspects among Palin's bathwater drinkers would be sure to manufacture a right-wing American version of Princess Diana. Rush Limbaugh, who in 1993 famously called the young Chelsea Clinton a "dog," blasted the likes of NBC's Andrea Mitchell for simply observing Sarah Palin is "not deeply read. She hasn't thought through a lot of these policies, and you have to do that." As he groused in July:
Okay, and I hear this from a lot of people on our side, too. Primarily women, primarily women. And I think many of them have been in Washington too long. "Lord knows she's attractive." That's the rub. That's the rub. Well, it's not the whole rub, but it's part of what grates on 'em. Trust me, my friends. Trust me. When your poster chick is Barbara Mikulski, you get the drift. When your poster chick is Nancy Pelosi. I don't care, pick one.
(To illustrate his point, Limbaugh features side-by-side photos of Sarah Palin and Democratic Rep. Barbara Mikulski.)
Palin's apparent sex appeal isn't limited to the men of the right. Ann Coulter, too, made clear that if loving Palin is wrong, she doesn't want to be Right:
The peculiarly venomous hatred of Palin is driven by women of the left and their whipped consorts. All that needs to happen is for a feminist to overhear two Nation readers saying, "I hate to admit it, but Palin is kind of hot" and ...
WHAT??????????? YOU CALL THAT HOT? I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW WE'VE GOT A MEGA-SUPER HOTTIE IN DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. AND NEED I REMIND YOU AGAIN OF THE RAW SEX APPEAL OF RACHEL MADDOW?
Democrats are a party of women, and nothing drives them off their gourds like a beautiful Christian conservative. (How much money has that other beautiful born-again, Carrie Prejean, been forced to spend on lawyers to respond to liberal hysteria?)
(Unsurprisingly, the public statements of Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean are virtually indistinguishable.)
No doubt, the Republican Party's leaders past and present share Limbaugh and Coulter's adolescent assessment of the beauty of the right and the beasts of the left. After all, in 1998, Palin's running mate John McCain followed in Limbaugh's footsteps, joking, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." (McCain later apologized to Hillary and Bill Clinton, though not to Janet Reno). For his part, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in May laughed off Time magazine's selection of Sarah Palin as one of America's most influential people:
"But was that the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people?"
Back in July, Politico asked leading figures from the left and right "Are women in politics still routinely demeaned in the news media, or is it all about Sarah Palin?" (Grover Norquist argued that "Sarah Palin is not being attacked by the establishment media because she is a woman," but because she's a "possible leader of Reagan Republicanism.") This week, former Bush press secretary and new Obama appointee Dana Perino left no doubt where she stood on the question:
"There is a special burden for women in politics. And we saw that even for Hillary Clinton. And especially if you're an attractive woman and a conservative woman, then that burden is even greater."
"Fair or unfair, I think she does herself a disservice to even mention it...When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or, you know, maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, man, that doesn't do us any good. Women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country. I don't think it's, it bodes well for her -- a statement like that...It bothers me a little bit hearing her bring that attention to herself on that level."
But far from producing crippling cognitive dissonance among her supporters, Palin's transparent hypocrisy and stunning contradictions only deepen her hold over them. For the likes of Rich Lowry, no Palin transgression could wipe the starbursts from his eyes. No Palin failure could ever lead to a political divorce. Echoing Palin's own words about her continued commitment to her husband, they doubtless think: "Have you seen Sarah?"