Scrunity of Palin's 'Shopping Spree' Unfair?
MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
Finally, if you can stand one more word about "wardrobe gate." Yes, the $150,000 in new duds that the Republican National Committee graciously provided to vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Can I just tell you? I am not hating. Trust me on this.
Anybody who knows me knows that I like clothes. I admit it. I have darkened the door of Saks only recently, although I only got a sweater and some tights. And I am not bragging but I did get 20 percent off, too. But if I had known that running for vice president might get you that kind of shop-till-you-drop makeover? Shoot, I might have considered a career change some time ago. Besides which, as a journalist, I don't make contributions to any political organizations. So the RNC isn't spending my money.
No, I ain't mad that Palin is palling around with personal shoppers. Let's face it. Women are held to a higher standard that men when it comes to appearance. And for women public officials, it's a no-win situation. If they look too good, they're suspected of being frivolous. If they don't, they're criticized for being frumpy and unfeminine. So they might as well pick their own style and please themselves. And you know what? That red motorcycle jacket girlfriend was rocking? Well, I take a hit in the New York Times for that, too.
No, my issue is twofold. First, this fake, I'm-so-in-touch-with-the-working-class-and-you're-not issue that the McCain campaign is trying to throw at Obama for suggesting that in a rich country like this one, the current economic meltdown notwithstanding, the most the government can do to improve the quality of life for its citizens is extend our best wishes for a nice life.
And second, the total double standard. The New York Post run an item earlier this month claiming that Michelle Obama had ordered lobster and caviar at the Waldorf's Astoria during a campaign trip to New York. Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh couldn't wait to trash her. Never mind that the story was completely false. But of course, this fake story was cited as evidence that these uppity Obamas - they have working-class roots and colleges scholarships and modestly-paid public service jobs - somehow just don't get it, that they are - horrors - elitists.
But as "wardrobe gate" clearly demonstrates, everybody is an elitist when it comes to things they care about. Palin's handlers didn't pop into Loehmann's(ph) or Target where, again, not bragging, just reporting, I have also been known to put together a decent outfit. No, they rented a highest of the high end because they thought Palin needed to look her best. It's the same reason rap stars were busy telling everybody else how to keep it real. Live in gated communities and drive custom-made cars and sit in the front row of the fashion shows. And it's the same reason people camp out on the sidewalk overnight for a chance to enroll their kids in a high-performing public school or stretch themselves to make mortgage payments to live in a district with decent schools and safer streets. And it's the same reason families bankrupt themselves to pay for medical treatments that their insurance will not cover.
When it comes to their families, their health, their kid's education, everybody wants the best that he or she can get. And why shouldn't they? The question is, which of these are choices you make because you want to? And which of these are choices you make because there really is no other choice, because your neighborhood school is lousy or because your loved one won't survive without the care their insurance thinks they don't need?
And because of her skills as a politician, because of her high office, her visibility, it's official. Sarah Palin is part of the elite. So fight about the quality of your ideas, not who's keeping it more real after a stealth visit to Neiman's(ph). Shop where you want. Just stop pretending that really serving the public is as simple and personal as where you buy your sweater.
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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.
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