Friday, September 03, 2010


I certainly understand why feminists are defending Sarah Palin after the publication of that Vanity Fair article, but I wonder if there's another way of looking at the apparent inaccuracies in the VF story, and the fact that Palin generally seems to attract nasty, gossipy press coverage.

I'd say she's one of the rare Republicans who's treated like a Democrat.

All the talk about Palin's arrogance and sense of entitlement reminds me of legends about John Kerry that are so famous on the right that their common tagline is regularly used by wingnuts without attribution to dismiss Kerry -- when they say it, other wingnuts know exactly what they're alluding to. The lore comes from Howie Carr, a Boston radio host who's also a columnist for the Boston Herald and the New York Post:

One off the surest ways to get the phones ringing on any Massachusetts talk-radio show is to ask people to call in and tell their John Kerry stories. The phone lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: our junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing) or ducking out before the bill arrives.

The tales often have one other common thread. Most end with Sen. Kerry inquiring of the lesser mortal: "Do you know who I am?"

... Many of his constituents see him in person only when he is cutting them in line - at an airport, a clam shack or the Registry of Motor Vehicles. One talk-show caller a few weeks back recalled standing behind a police barricade in 2002 as the Rolling Stones played the Orpheum Theater, a short limousine ride from Kerry's Louisburg Square mansion ....

"Do you know who I am?" That could come straight out of Palin's coverage.

All the talk about her amassing of wealth? That sounds like the way Kerry and John Edwards and Al Gore are criticized for their wealth, or (in the case of Edwards and Gore) the size of their houses. Talk about her not really being true to her Alaska roots? Cf. talk about Arkansas boy Bill Clinton and his love of celebrities.

Palin's the subject of questionable, poorly sourced stories, like the one (debunked by Dave Weigel and Ben Smith) about planning for a Bristol-Levi shotgun wedding during the '08 campaign? Reminds me of the way the Clintons, and now the Obamas, are the subjects of insane scuttlebutt, for instance, about Christmas decorations.

Stories about Palin's temper? Again, I'm thinking of the Clintons -- both Bill and Hillary have been accused of excess rage.

Oh, sure, John McCain's temper and wealth were brought up during the '08 campaign. But these subjects were hardly ever discussed outside the bubble of the left media and blogosphere. (And George W. Bush's had a Southern accent and owned cowboy boots, which took his wealth off the table as a subject.)

In sum, you usually have to be a Democrat to be treated like this. Then again, maybe that's because Democrats are generally seen as part of the "feminine" sphere -- not as hawkish, not gun-totin' or range-ridin', more inclined to hang out with Spielberg and Streisand, and so on. Maybe the press just makes all Democrats into honorary women (except the women, of course), and then treats them in a sexist way. So maybe it is about feminism after all.

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