- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vanity Fair on Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republicans’ 2008 vice presidential nominee, may be nice looking, but she sure wasn’t a very good candidate; that’s the bottom line of Vanity Fair’s 9,920-word profile on her, released Tuesday.

The comments about her beauty weren’t entirely complimentary, either. Vanity Fair writer Todd S. Purdum said her looks probably hurt her as much as they helped her try to win voters during the campaign.

The brunt of his article, the notion that she was never suited to run nationally, relied heavily on unattributed quotes from campaign staffers for Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and her running mate, who felt she wasn’t up to snuff and refused to study up on policy issues properly.

The Democratic National Committee quickly seized on the story, and it became the first “nondorsement of 2012.”

Three McCain staffers, however, were immediately willing to go on the record with The Washington Times in their support for Mrs. Palin.

Randy Scheunemann, the director of foreign policy and national security for the McCain-Palin campaign, who played then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic candidate for vice president, in Mrs. Palin’s debate prep, was happy to push back against the Vanity Fair piece, saying she was an impressive and capable candidate.

He recalled her performance in the vice-presidential debate, in which she “held her own and went toe-to-toe” against Mr. Biden, a candidate with much more experience in debates and decades of public service. She was “incredibly hard-working and concerned she’d do a good job for John McCain, who was a national hero and plucked her from obscurity,” Mr. Scheunemann said. “That weighed on her every day.”

“It’s disheartening and dishonorable that anyone who worked for John McCain would participate in this kind of character assassination against his running mate,” Mr. Scheunemann said.

Jason Recher, who worked closely with Mrs. Palin as the vice presidential candidate, said, “The mean tone of this article is completely false; this is not the Sarah Palin I knew and spent 2 1/2 months with.” He said he was tired of reporters taking information on background without attribution from people unwilling to go on the record.

Mr. Recher said he was never approached for the article, although he was one of a handful of people who spent “every morning, day and night” with Mrs. Palin in the heat of the campaign and is openly supportive of her today.

David Welch, deputy research director for the McCain-Palin ticket, said he was “shocked to read the Vanity Fair article about Gov. Palin and the allegations made against her by former staffers,” and he complained that “significant parts of the story are based on half-truths and gossip from staffers who refused to go on the record.”

About Mrs. Palin’s looks, Mr. Purdum said - although he admitted it may be sexist to think it - “she is by far the best-looking woman ever to rise to such heights in national politics, the first indisputably fertile female to dare to dance with the big dogs.”

“This phero monal reality has been a blessing and a curse,” he wrote. “It has captivated people who would never have given someone with Palin’s record a second glance if Palin had looked like Susan Boyle. And it has made others reluctant to give her a second chance because she looks like a beauty queen.”

Michelle Easton, president of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, which promotes conservative women such as Mrs. Palin, said the governor’s looks are often discussed to play down the appeal she had to the Republican Party.

“It is only the Left that ever talks about the way Palin looks or dresses,” Mrs. Easton said. “Conservatives love Palin because she believes in small government and the preservation of traditional American values, but the Left has cleverly deflected debate about Palin’s stances on policy by constantly degrading her based on her physical appearance.”

‘Torture-porn’

A New York Times film critic, Stephen Holden, says a movie that exposes the horrific practice of stoning women amounts to “torture-porn.”

He says the final scenes of the “The Stoning of Soraya M.” that show a woman being buried to the waist and stoned to death by her husband, sons and other male villagers contain “sickeningly exploitative touches.”

“Stoning” producer Cyrus Nowrasteh talked to filmgoers about his decision to portray the act of stoning so realistically, at a showing of his film in Washington. “There are parts of this movie that are difficult, but I felt there is a responsibility to the women who have died and suffered in this fashion not to water it down,” he said. The tragic tale is based on a true story, originally documented by French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam in 1994 in a book.

There was far too much blood and gore in Mr. Nowrasteh’s depiction of an execution by stoning for Mr. Holden’s taste. The first line of his New York Times review says the film “thoroughly blurs the line between high-minded outrage and lurid torture-porn,” and he found it difficult to understand the “crude power” the film has over those who have seen it. The film earned runner-up honors to “Slumdog Millionaire” at Toronto’s International Film Festival last year.

“As ‘The Passion of the Christ’ showed, stimulation of blood lust in the guise of moral righteousness has its appeal,” he scoffed.

Sarah Smith, program director for the Human Rights Education and Relief Organization, which is promoting the film to highlight human rights issues in Iran, disagreed with Mr. Holden’s review.

“I think what he says about the film says more about him,” she said. “This movie does not incite blood lust, but gives the proper response to violence like this, which is revulsion.”

Quotable

Sen. Roland W. Burris, Illinois Democrat, offered his candid thoughts on the purpose of marriage during Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade on Monday.

“My concept of marriage is a male and a female for the perpetuation of the species, for children to be born and identify the bloodline and the heritage,” he told WBBM, a Chicago radio station. “But I’m pretty sure, as things are moving along, that that will probably change.”

Although Mr. Burris appeared at the Gay Pride Parade, he says he does not support gay marriage. He favors civil unions instead.

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