ST. PAUL--Like conspiracy theories? Try this one: John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin wasn’t the result of poor vetting or poor judgment. Instead, it was a crafty, forward-thinking move aimed at turning Palin into a martyr and then using her martyrdom for political benefit.
If that sounds far-fetched, consider what transpired earlier today during a pro-Palin conference at the Xcel Energy Center. With former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift taking center stage, an array of female McCain supporters used what’s transpired since Palin’s selection to rip the shit out of Barack Obama, Democrats, and the media. Some highlights:
--“She is more prepared than Barack Obama to be the president of the United States. Barack Obama’s experience is basically, as he himself has said, in running a campaign. Governor Palin’s experience is in running a state.” (Swift)
--“One of the things I have been told by many, many Democrats over the past several months is how disappointed they were in their own party for not standing up against the sexist smears that Hillary Clinton endured. The Republican Party will not stand by while Sarah Palin is subjected to sexist attacks.” (Former HP head Carly Fiorina)
“I am the proud mother of a Child with Downs Syndrome. My son is 23 years old. Governor Palin and I share the joy of having a child with a developmental disability…. I am absolutely incensed and insulted and offended that the media has made much ado about that, and how dare she run for pres when she has a child with a disability?” (Rosario Marin, former U.S. Treasurer)
--“Let me say to you, the Democrats will allow you [i.e. the press] to talk about Hillary in the way you did, in a very demeaning way. Us up here, we are not going to allow you to do that…. Lemme use some Ebonics right here, ’cause I want to make sure you understand what I’m saying, so I can bring it down to you like the kids say on the street. As Republican women, we know what we’re doing; we know who we are; we ain’t gonna take it; we’re not gonna take it; and we will get with you when you keep messin’ with us!” (Renee Amore, deputy chairman of the PA Republican Party)
So, to recap: Obama is inexperienced; Democrats tolerate sexism but Republicans don’t; Hillary’s (allegedly) raw deal remains an open wound; Republicans aren’t afraid to take on the press; Palin’s critics may be anti-developmental disability; and there are black Republicans, too. That's some efficient messaging right there.
When the Q-and-A started, I had a chance to float an argument that I’ve been hearing from a number of women: namely, that it’s sexist to imply — as Fiorina seemed to — that liberal women might support McCain/Palin due to perceived sexism even if they disagree on the issues. I wish Fiorina had answered; instead, it was Swift. “I don’t think anybody’s saying that you should support Governor Palin because of sexism,” she replied. “I think what we’re saying is that all good people of America won’t stand for the kind of sexism and double standard that’s being applied to Governor Palin. And if we can get beyond talk about achievement — reasonable people disagree on issues, but that’s what we should be focused on.” (Incidentally, Swift struck me as the best of the bunch. I'm not buying what she's selling, but she was quite good.)
What’s the hook to McCain’s military service, you ask? Fret not; it’s there. Toward the end, a reporter noted that, like Obama, McCain seems to lack executive experience when contrasted to Palin. Take it away, Carly Fiorina! “He ran the largest squadron in the Navy. He took that squadron from abysmal performance on every metric and turned it into one of the best performing squadrons in the navy on every metric. So that’s impressive.”
One final point: in making the case that Palin has been the victim of sexism, Fiorina and the others cast a wide net, from Obama’s campaign to the mainstream media to “supermarket tabloids that support Obama” to the Democratic blogosphere. With that in mind, consider Fiorina’s response to a very astute closing question from a British reporter — namely, whether Hillary Clinton has ever been the victim of Republican-instigated sexism: “I would not concede that. I would absolutely say that Hillary Clinton has been subjected to sexism. But by the way, if there are facts that you can show me, I would be delighted to see them. But I do not think that based on my experience, what I’ve seen, I do not think the Republican Party subjected her to sexism. I think the Republican Party took her on on her stand on issues.”
Anyone care to set Fiorina straight? I’d be happy to pass on your examples.