Despite everything Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama can do, Sarah Palin continues to be the liveliest of the candidates, now starting the clubhouse turn and about to race down the homestretch. There’s only one more presidential debate to endure. By this time in a campaign, both presidential candidates are so programmed, their talking points so tested and trite, if not necessarily true, that viewers long for a refreshing gaffe. But all we get is a Tuesday-night debate where both men seem terrified of saying something interesting and new. Tom Brokaw tried.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is something else. She’s clearly relishing the assigned role of the candidate for vice president - going out to rough up the top of the other ticket, saying the things that a presidential candidate eager to appear presidential thinks and believes but would never say. She’s the real deal with the gloves off and the bright-red high heels on. Though this exacts a price, she’s the proof that feminism, like her or not, has achieved its long-sought goal: Girls can take it just like boys, and they can dish it out, too. This may be remembered as Mr. McCain’s greatest gift to the ladies.
Mrs. Palin recounted some of Mr. Obama’s adventures in Chicago, his consorting with retired terrorists and bigoted preachers, and she observed that anyone who could do that, “is not a man who sees America like you and I see America.” For her trouble she was pilloried as someone flirting with racism. Undeterred, she continues the attack. This is not a lady to vanish in a hail of sticks and stones.
Brigitte Bardot, the famous French sex kitten of the previous century, wrote to Mrs. Palin to tell her that she was “a disgrace to women” - not because she is “not female enough” (in the way that Mr. Obama’s black critics early on complained that he was “not black enough”) - but because she’s cruel to polar bears. She might not be a bigot in Miss Bardot’s view, but she gives a certain dog a bad name. She “implored” Mrs. Palin never again to compare herself to a pit bull, with or without lipstick. “I know dogs,” she wrote, faintly reprising Lloyd Bentsen’s famous putdown of Dan Quayle as no friend of JFK, “and I can assure you that no pit bull, no dog, nor any other animal is as dangerous as you are.”
The skeletal Madonna interrupted her latest national concert tour to tell an audience in New Jersey that “Sarah Palin can’t come to my party. Sarah Palin can’t come to my show. It’s nothing personal.” (Oh, dear.) Tina Fey makes a career of impersonating Mrs. Palin on “Saturday Night Live” - and the real Sarah Palin says she’s a fan of the fake. Well, why not? George H.W. Bush became a fan of Dana Carvey’s impersonations on the iconic show which has become a rite of passage for presidential candidates. When a local television interviewer in Jacksonville, Fla., asked her: “Does that bother you, watching those? Or do you get amused?” The irrepressible governor replied: “No, she’s a hoot, she is very talented. And you know what, looking up [at her image] on the studio monitor, I’m like, ‘dang it, I look just like her’.”
She has her feminist admirers, to be very sure. Camille Paglia, the columnist and author, says nothing will sway her vote for Mr. Obama, but she applauds the governor’s spirited performance in the face of widespread mockery and ridicule. “The mountain of rubbish poured out about Palin … would rival Everest,” she wrote in Salon, the Internet magazine. “What a disgrace for our jabbering army of liberal journalists and commentators, many of whom behaved like snippy jackasses. The bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery of these alleged humanitarians stank up the place. As for Palin’s brutally edited interviews with Charlie Gibson and that viper, Katie Couric, don’t we all know that the best has ended up on the cutting room floor? Something has gone seriously wrong with Democratic ideology, which seems to have become a candied set of holier-than-thou bromides attached like tutti-frutti to a quivering Jell-O mold of adolescent sentimentality.”
Sarah Palin infuriates the stale feminists far past their sell-by date because she has it all: a robust man with a steelworker’s union card, a championship athlete with the scars to prove it, a man who is proud to cradle their baby, care for the children, and cook the family meals - all the while reveling in the accomplishments of a wife who could be the next vice president of the United States. Nothing trite about that.
Suzanne Fields is a syndicated columnist.
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