Scandal! Palin's wardrobe

Image courtesy of the Allen Eyestone/AP via the New York Times 

Sarah Palin's sparkling, new high-end $150,000 wardrobe, purchased recently on a "campaign accessories" shopping spree, is the currently topic du jour for nearly every blog, newspaper, TV news show, etc. etc. Maybe your grandmother called to tell you about it? Maybe you saw a plane fly overhead and write it in the sky this morning? Maybe your dog barked it out to you in Morse code?

The most hilarious reaction to Palin's expensive make-over I've seen so far comes from an unlikely source: The New York Times. This morning, they published a slideshow comparing Palin's new look to her old one, and the Times Fashion & Style staff managed to slip some underhanded insults in. First, next to a photo of Palin smiling in Florida in a sorta Jackie O-style, cornflower blue blazer, they write: "...looking at the before-and-after photos, it was not readily apparent what Ms. Palin got from her shopping spree at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue." Oooooh. Zing! You spent $150,000 on clothes, and the Times' eagle-eyed fashion staff doesn't think you look any different than you did before.

Elsewhere in the slideshow, the Times staff admits to being confused as to "what message her clothes were intended to broadcast," which sounds like something Heidi Klum would say to a Project Runway contestant, shortly before dismissing them with her "You’re fired" line: Auf Wiedersehen! "Most of her bracelet sleeve jackets are so generic-looking," the Times caption yawns, before delivering a final jab at politicians in general: "..they could have come from any of the favored designers of Washington politicians." Oof. Only a (gasp!) politician would wear this clothing. At least she's donating at the clothes in the end? Perhaps some budding young politician will stumble upon them at a Goodwill store in a small town somewhere?

The Times article indicates that Palin's new image presents new worries for the Republican party: "Such an image is unhelpful at this late stage of the general election, Republicans said, especially when many families are experiencing economic pain, and when the image applies to a candidate, like Ms. Palin, who has run for office in part on her appeal as an outdoors enthusiast and former small-town mayor who scorns pretensions."

It always seems silly to me when candidates put so much time and effort into presenting a certain image of themselves, because it has a tendency to backfire in a way just like this. Politicians are not sitcom characters; we shouldn't expect them to fit neatly into one specific, stereotypical "image": Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, the Hockey Mom, etc. The whole situation with Joe the Plumber is one big, fat example of that - McCain paraded him around as the shining example of a hard-working, simple American guy, who'll be deeply and tragically wounded by Obama's tax plans, and then, of course, the media fact-checked and quickly determined that the story is not as it seems.

Sarah Palin's wardrobe will have no effect on whether I vote for McCain or Obama. Neither will Barack Obama's, or anyone else's.

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