Can I Just Tell You?

Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You?

NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Palin, Sexism and Women in Politics

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Finally, a few more words about the presidential campaign.

Yesterday, I talked about how hypocritical, not to mention destructive, I thought the Republicans were being by trying to portray Obama as an elitist at the same time as they are steadily pushing education as the cure for all social ills. I said that — at a time when education is more important than ever before, and millions of young people, especially black and brown young men, are as turned off from school as they can be — the Republicans are dealing the country a very bad hand if they keep attacking one person who might be able to persuade at least some of these kids that studying is okay. That, my friends, to paraphrase John McCain, is not putting "Country First."

But now I want to tell you how the Democrats are getting on my nerves, and to do that I'm going to tell you a story. A true story, one that takes place when I was a White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal covering the first Bush administration — Bush Forty ONE as we now say — and there was a high stakes political fight brewing over extending the Civil Rights Act.

Because I worked for one of the big papers and was spending a lot of time covering the bill, I was invited to one of those so-called background briefings with a senior administration official and a couple of aides who were supposed to give me the inside dope on the administration's position and reasoning. At one point, I asked the official why the bill made a distinction between discrimination based on gender and race discrimination? He looked at me sort of, I don't know, pityingly and said, "I don't expect you to understand."

Can I Just Tell You? ... what I was thinking is not repeatable here, but because I liked my job, all I said was 0"try me." Thankfully, the official's younger and smarter aide gave me a real answer, which was that case law on race discrimination was far more extensive and more settled than on gender discrimination. Now what was so hard about that? I'll tell you what was hard: Mr. Senior Administration Official did not take me seriously. His aide saw a reporter for one of the most prominent and, I would say, best newspapers in the country. But all Mr. Senior Official saw, evidently, was a black girl who somehow couldn't shake the twin pillars of her identity long enough to write down a simple sentence.

Which is exactly what I see the Democrats doing now with Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Rather than take her ideology seriously, her record seriously, and her obvious gifts as a politician seriously, they see a Girl, and a Mommy to boot. And so how could they possibly get tough about her ideas about governance, her experience, or ask whether her politics are actually in step with mainstream Americans?

Nope, they're doing what a lot of men can't seem to help doing with women — a lot of throat clearing, offering compliments about her appearance and then acting like she isn't even there. So here's Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden joking that one difference between the two of them is not his three decades of experience at the center of the country's most complex issues, but that she's better looking than he is. And here's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not saying that her politics are extremist or that her worldview and experiences are too limited to do the job for which she has been tasked, but that she's "shrill." And here's the ad campaign criticizing John McCain's economic policy and lobbyists on John McCain's team, and whether he can use a computer, but nothing about Palin and how her selection reflects on John McCain.

No, none of that.

Even though the polls show white women flocking to her side — and why wouldn't they be, at least some? ... Because her presence seems to tell these women, you know what, People may have been talking over you in meetings for years and taking credit for your ideas, and acting as if you are only an extension of your minivan, but I see you. You're not invisible to me, I take you seriously.

The McCain campaign is running an ad right now saying that "they" are treating Sarah Palin disrespectfully. Now, most observers are saying the ad is dishonest and it isn't exactly clear who "they" are. But let's assume it's the Democrats. And you know what? They are being disrespectful, not because of anything the Democrats or the campaign has said about her, or to her.

But because of what they will not.



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Can I Just Tell You?

Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You?

NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

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