Archive for October, 2008

Sarah the Diva?

October 27, 2008

McCain aids are starting to clash with his would-be vice presidential pick.  And one’s even calling her a diva.  Yes, a diva.

According to an article from CNN yesterday, a McCain adviser said, “She is a diva.  She takes no advice from anyone…She does not have relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.”  Another aide said she was “going rouge.”

Apparently Palin has been veering off-script at recent rallies and even holding impromptu meetings with journalists.  According to another CNN article, Palin spoke about the $150,000 wardrobe question at a rally yesterday, despite the fact that it wasn’t part of the script.

I say it’s about time.  I think everyone is tired of Sarah Palin being protected from the press by the campaign (last week’s exclusive in the Chicago Tribune was only her second newspaper interview since her candidacy was announced!).  It’s time to stop decrying “gotcha journalism” and sexist media and put her in front of Americans.  Hiding her is even more sexist on the part of the McCain campaign than letting us see what she’s made of.  

And if she can’t cut it in the public eye, then we have a right to know.  Barack Obama can accept that Joe Biden is given to “rhetorical flourishes,” and, in so doing, has let us see what his VP candidate is all about (by the way, I didn’t hear anyone call him a diva). In these last few days before the election, let’s see what Sarah Palin is made of.


The $150,000 Question

October 26, 2008

Sarah Palin’s wardrobe is making headlines again–but this time it’s not about whether or not she’d make a best dressed list.  Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Republican National Committee paid $150,000 for Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe, including clothes from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The reaction has been astounding.

CNN’s anchor and commentator Campbell Brown says it’s understandable.  For women in the public eye, she explains, “looks matter.”  She says, fair or not, women in our society face a double standard that men don’t have to live up to.  People have been paying attention to the women’s clothing all through the election, giving little thought to Barack Obama or John McCain’s wardrobe choices.

And I agree with Brown.  Of course the Republican party is going to help to give Sarah Palin the right campaign wardrobe.  But in these economic times, does it have to be $150,000?  Can’t she show other Americans how she does it on a budget?

Today Palin lashed back, comparing the clothing to the lights or other equipment at a campaign speech, according to an MSNBC article.  It’s essentially something that she’s borrowing temporarily for the purposes of the campaign.  And, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune this week, Palin called her family “frugal” and said the clothing would be auctioned off or given to charity after the election.

According to bloggers in an interview with NPR this week (listen here), the problem isn’t the amount of money she spent, it’s how she’s divided Americans into “real Americans” and elite Americans, and her clothing bill is certainly high-end.

The whole thing doesn’t seem like it would appeal to “Joe Six Pack.”  Wonder what Joe the Plumber would think?

Sarah on Hillary

October 22, 2008

When John McCain first announced that Sarah Palin would be his running mate, Palin’s stump speeches often included references to disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters.  When the reference to the New York senator drew boos from the crowds, Palin stopped mentioning her—but now she’s bringing it back.


Palin—and five former Hillary Clinton supporters—campaigned on the grounds of women’s rights in Nevada yesterday.


According to an MSNBC article, Palin cited a study that indicated that Obama’s female employees make 83 cents to every dollar a male employee makes.  “Does he think that they are 17 percent less effective?” she asked.


The response from the Obama campaign: Palin was misrepresenting a study that found that more males are in senior positions on his campaign staff and, because of that, made more money.


A CNN article on the same speech said that Palin asked why Hillary Clinton wasn’t even vetted as a vice presidential candidate by Barack Obama.


According to an October 13 poll by Rasmussen Reports, 55 percent of people have a favorable opinion of democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, while 53 percent have a favorable opinion of Palin.  But the numbers aren’t so close when just looking at women—the same poll found that 56 percent of men have a favorable opinion of the Alaskan governor, while 49 percent of women had a favorable opinion of her.


As feminist Gloria Steinem put it in her LA Times editorial last month—the only thing Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin share is a chromosome.


And I agree.  Let’s look at where the candidates actually stand on women’s issues—equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, protection against domestic violence, etc.  Coming in a female package isn’t convincing enough for me, Sarah Palin.  If you want women like me to vote for you, show instances where either you or John McCain have committed yourselves politically to women’s rights.

Women in the polls

October 20, 2008


Barack Obama and John McCain are getting closer in the polls--and the women's vote may matter even more.

Barack Obama and John McCain are getting closer in the polls--and the women's vote may matter more than ever. Photo courtesy of CNN.

As candidates have been talking about the “women’s vote” since the primary season, I think it’s time to break down where female voters are standing in the polls in the final weeks before election day.



According to the daily tracking poll results released today by Rasmussun Reports, Barack Obama currently leads McCain overall, 50 percent to 46.  But this four-point lead almost triples when just considering women—Obama has an eleven point lead.  McCain has a five-point lead over Obama among men.


According to September Gallup poll results, among Democrats, 85 percent of women support Obama, to McCain’s 9.  Among Independents, Obama snags 45 percent, compared to McCain’s 41 percent.  And among Republicans, Obama has the support of 7 percent of Republicans, compared to McCain’s 89.


And it looks like the candidates should care about what women want.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 65 percent of women voted in the 2004 presidential election, compared to 62 percent of men.


As the election season heats up and the race continues to tighten, I want to keep a closer eye on these poll numbers, as well as what each of these candidates are doing to appeal to female voters.  November 4 may just become ladies’ night.

Previous female candidates sound off on this female candidate

October 19, 2008

As the election looms closer, previous female candidates are sounding off on what they think of Sarah Palin’s run for the vice presidency.


Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton said in an interview with CNN that she wants a “woman in the White House I agree with.”  While she thinks it’s “exciting” to have a female name on the ticket, she would rather have someone win who shares her political goals for the country.


In this month’s issue of Glamour (online version here), Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman nominated for vice president by a major party, in this case by the Democratic Party in 1984 gave Sarah Palin her advice—having been there and done that.  She addresses the wardrobe issue, saying that the media should stop comparing her clothing choices to those of the potential first ladies.  She also says that, even though she may not vote for Palin’s ticket, “‘Anytime a woman runs, women win.’”


I’m not sure if I agree.  While it’s great for a woman to be taken seriously as a presidential or vice presidential candidate, I believe that a candidate’s views on women’s rights do even more to further women in this society than simply having a name on the ticket.  As November fast approaches, I’d rather hear what the candidates have to say about the fundamental rights of women in America and abroad, not about the fact that one of them is a woman.

Candidates debate hot-button issue

October 19, 2008

In the third debate (watch the whole thing here) last week, Barack Obama and John McCain finally focused on the issue that is often considered the most important among feminist groups—abortion.


Obama and McCain, who would likely have the chance to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice in a first term of presidency, debated whether or not they had a litmus test for a justice appointment and whether or not Roe v. Wade was or should be that test.


An article in U.S. News and World Report that analyzed the debate also explained how Barack Obama said he believed in the so-called partial-birth abortions if a woman’s life was in danger.  McCain, on the other hand, said this exception was, according to the article, “too loosely in order to justify more abortions.”


According to his Web site, John McCain “believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

Check out this article from MSNBC, which breaks down each candidate’s voting record on abortion and lays out what’s at stake in this election from an abortion standpoint.  The article also details an instance in the 2000 presidential election when John McCain seemed to switch his stance on abortion, first saying that he doesn’t think it should be repealed, and then later saying he would work to its repeal as president.


While I was watching the debate, I heard a little flip-flopping myself. McCain explained that he doesn’t have a litmus test for a Supreme Court justice, but that if someone agreed with Roe v. Wade, he or she wouldn’t be a qualified judge.


I think this explanation is just confusing.  He can’t win both sides over by saying that he disagrees with Roe v. Wade but that he doesn’t necessarily have a litmus test.  The whole thing feels like double-talk.

Election 2008’s Women hit PA

October 13, 2008

This weekend the female stars of both the primary and general election season have been campaigning hard in the state of Pennsylvania.

Senator Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton joined Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Biden and his wife for a campaign rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Sunday, according to an article on CNN.  Clinton, who beat Obama in the state by 10 points during the primaries, mainly focused on the economic crisis and Obama and Biden’s commitment to the middle class.

And, according to another CNN article, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spent her Saturday in the keystone state.  At a rally in Johnstown, Penn., she spent a third of a thirty-minute speech discussing her stances on abortion and criticizing Obama’s voting record on the issue.

After stopping for lunch in Altoona, Penn., (my hometown, coincidentally), Palin, a self-proclaimed Hockey mom, dropped the puck at a Philadelphia Flyers game, to a mixed crowd cheering and booing, according to an MSNBC article

Before this weekend, the state preferred Obama by a healthy margin.  According to a Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion poll released on October 8, Obama lead McCain by 12 percentage points, up from four points on September 26.

The Style of Sarah Palin

October 13, 2008

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard anyone critique Joe Biden’s style.  Or Barack Obama’s.  Or John McCain’s.

While it’s pretty typical for a male candidate’s wife to be critiqued on her style (not to mention cookie recipes and parenting skills), now that we have a female vice presidential candidate, some of the focus seems to be on what she’s wearing.

One of the most thorough articles I’ve come across on the subject of Sarah Palin’s style is an editorial piece earlier this month from the Washington Post that was reprinted by the Houston Chronicle.  Essentially, the writer, Robin Givhan, found that Sarah Palin’s wardrobe makes her relatable, but doesn’t necessarily command authority.  Givhan says that the reason so many people think they know Sarah Palin is that everyone knows someone who dresses like her.  She doesn’t dress like Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain or, yes, even Hillary Clinton and her traveling pantsuits.

Even her glasses are causing a stir.  An article in the USA Today, published shortly after McCain announced that Palin would be joining him on the ticket, said the company that produces her eyeglasses is getting a boost in business as demand increases for the frames, which can cost between $375 and $700.

What I don’t get, though, is why we have to talk about the female candidates’ clothing choices, especially when that treatment isn’t applied to the men.  It’s a well-known fact that there’s no female equivalent of a man’s suit, which automatically commands respect and authority.  So what’s a girl to do?

In a way, it reminds me of when reporters were asking Katie Couric what she was planning to wear for her first day as the anchor of CBS evening news a few years ago.  No one ever asked the male anchors.

So let’s leave the clothes to the fashion world and stick to politics for the candidates, at least until Election Day.

Wink, wink

October 10, 2008

At last week’s vice presidential debate, it seemed like all anyone was waiting for was to see which candidate make a major gaffe.  Would Sarah Palin have a repeat Katie Couric interview-style meltdown?  Would Joe Biden come off as condescending?

But in the week after the debate, it seems many of the analysts agree: Joe Biden won, Sarah Palin didn’t make any big mistakes.  With this decided, many news articles this week have moved on to style.  And the question is–was Sarah Palin trying to flirt with Americans?

In an October 3 article in The Guardian, with the headline “Flirting her way to Victory,” Michelle Goldberg writes that Sarah Palin lowered the bar for female politicians with her “cutsey fillibustering.”  Comedian Jay Leno said Palin was using “sex appeal” to try to win the debate.  An October 4 piece in the Chicago Tribune quoted a body language expert, who said Palin winked six times during the debate.

And it’s not all in the eyes. Some say Palin, who started the debate off by asking Senator Biden if she could call him Joe, is trying to flirt with men through the campaign.  A piece in the LA Progressive at the end of last month pointed out that Palin called Charles Gibson “Charlie” at least 5 times in the first 7 minutes or so of her interview, but never called Katie Couric “Katie” in their interview.

I have to say that I find it all a little odd.  If McCain’s camp wants to cry sexism, then why is Sarah Palin trying to flirt her way through the election?  If Obama, Biden or McCain tried to wink at America or flirt with a newscaster, I’m sure we’d all find it weird, if not downright creepy.  I like the idea of a woman using her femininity to her advantage in the election, to be softer, more compassionate or caring.  In fact, I like to see when the male candidates use these qualities as well.  

But can we move beyond the winking, please?

Lipstick on a pig—or just a pig?

October 6, 2008

As the smear campaigns and finger pointing continue, what will be next?  It seems like every week the candidates are latching on to a phrase to repeat over and over.  Last week it was McCain’s “gotcha journalism” conversation with Katie Couric and months ago it was a constant debate on the merits of offshore drilling.  But how often are these remarks gender based?

Many of us saw Sarah Palin for the first time at the Republican National Convention at the end of the summer.  She introduced herself as a hockey mom and told the audience that the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull was lipstick.

Fast forward to mid-September, when Barack Obama said that McCain and Palin’s promises for “change” were spurious—“you can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”  Instantly the McCain camp called for an apology, despite the fact that he used the same phrase to describe a Hillary Clinton health plan during the primaries.  Obama called the reaction “phony outrage.”

The lipstick seems to be put to rest for now, but if history repeats itself, the phrase may come up again.  And it doesn’t seem to be a gender attack, at least not one at Sarah Palin.

Check out this history of swine from Time magazine, which was published shortly after the initial attack.  Some highlights:  The phrase most likely started in the car industry, where a fresh coat of paint became the metaphorical lipstick with the same thing underneath.  And, harkening back to vice presidential candidates of the past, in 2004, John Edwards used the phrase to describe a claim made by the Bush administration about job creation numbers.

Over the past several decades, both parties have used this phrase to sling mud at the other.  Looks like McCain’s camp may be the ones trying to put lipstick on the pig in this case.