Sarah Palin: No Dumb Blonde.

The streets of my Washington, DC neighborhood were eerily silent Thursday night during the countdown to Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden’s historic vice presidential debate. Like my neighbors, I was huddled excitedly in front of my television set. But as Palin took the stage in her businesslike black suit, trademark clear-rim glasses and mom-in-a-rush updo, for a minute I wanted to turn the tv off. Suddenly, the last think I could bear was witnessing the second female VP candidate in history humiliate herself, as she did during her fiasco with CBS news anchorwoman Katie Couric.

 

I disagree with many of Palin’s political positions. I’ve cringed at many of the things she’s done and said. I howled at Tina Fey’s imitations. Palin’s not getting my vote on November 4th. But, as a working mom with three kids, I’m doing a jig on behalf of women in leadership positions everywhere that Palin generally held her own under the spotlight of millions of viewers, against an experienced, intelligent male politician who’s been preparing for this job for 35 years longer than she has. I think women everywhere should feel empowered by the fact that a working mom has gotten hold of a microphone on the international political stage.

 

Five weeks ago no one had heard of Sarah Palin. On Thursday an estimated 50 million viewers from 240 countries around the world listened to what she had to say. Whether she won or lost the debate is up to you, but my take is that her achievements ain’t bad for a working mom of five who started her career on a small town PTA board, and whose accomplishments include field-dressing a moose and competing in teenage beauty contests. Hey, who needs reality TV?

 

Of course, the big criticism of Sarah Palin is her lack of experience. Trust me, sticking up for Palin among the Washington insiders has been as enjoyable as telling another mother my daughter has head lice. But I find it impossible to let bystanders – especially my fellow moms -- brazenly criticize Palin’s lack of qualifications.

 

Palin has no experience? Compared to whom? Like, um, Dan Quayle? Ronald Reagan? George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Ross Perot? William Jefferson Clinton? All were roundly criticized, and often ridiculed, for their lack of presidential qualifications. On this regard, I’d repeat Jimmy Carter’s proclamation: nothing on earth can prepare someone to be president of the United States.

 

But here’s what compels me to stick my foot in my mouth again and again when the conversation turns to Palin’s “lack of experience” -- my suspicion that men and women are using “completely unqualified” as politically-correct code for “dumb.” As in dumb blonde, an insult so squarely and exclusively targeted at women that it needs no gender qualification. (Although let’s be clear here that Palin is a brunette sporting only blonde highlights.) I can’t let the unspoken gender insult pass. It is one of our culture’s most deep-seated, pernicious, passionately held unconscious prejudices against women: we aren’t smart enough to lead or govern at the highest executive levels.

 

faq
10.08.08

I have been following and respect Leslie Morgan Steiner's perspective and appreciate the post. While I will be voting the Republican ticket (from a blue state), it's not because I'm head over heels with McCain/Palin, it's more because in my opinion, it's the better of two options. And that's for the simple reason, that I disagree with Obama/Biden's stance on alternative energy and I am against their tax plan.

As far as Palin is concerned, I too hold my breath when she speaks and hope against all hopes that she won't be perceived as dumb. Frankly after seeing her Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric interviews, she exceeded my expectations in the debate. "Nucular" and the flat A's aside, I thought she did a fine job. Did she answer every question directly? No, but neither did Biden. Folks, that's spin and politics for you. Is she qualified? Yes - and if she's not qualified, then what makes you believe Obama is?

penn_girl
10.07.08

I could not agree more with this post! I also disagree with Palin's political views and will not be voting the McCain/Palin ticket, but every working mother who has encountered the challenges of even the most mundane work day (and especially those with extremely demanding jobs) should admire and respect Palin's ambition and accomplishments. I find it so disturbing that Palin is being crucified not so much by men but by WOMEN for following through on her work ambitions.
And her "folksy" disposition may appear vacuous to some, but it did a helluva lot for both Clinton's and Bush Jr's campaigns. She has done and excellent job appealing to people in the solid red states (which I suspect don't include any of the women who have commented on this post). She breathed some life into a struggling McCain campaign and she is no more of a media creation than any other interesting (read - newsworthy) politician. Her story is so much more interesting than your standard, "went to law school, worked at the DA's office, became the water commissioner of Pudunk, USA..." politician, which is why she gets such an enormous amount of airtime.
As the post points out, many politicians take a high office with even less experience, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Hillary Clinton are great examples.
I 100% agree that "lack of experience" has become a code-word for dumb just as Biden's comment that Obama was "articulate" seemed to be code for, "He's not too 'black.'"
I realize that many people feel this is the most important election in recent history, that the stakes are incredibly high and they are extremely invested on the success of their chosen candidate. Does that mean that we cannot take a second to admire the other side for what they've accomplished?

devadasi
10.07.08

The office of the Vice Presidency (a weighty thing, given an aging/aged potential President) is one that has grown enormously in stature during the Bush administration. Cheney has undoubtedly opened a Pandora's Box of stuff that might be possible for Palin to dip into, were she fortunate enough to be elected. Her sex (and race) are not of issue to me... only the fact that her background has prepared her to fight to the death without thinking, whether it's about getting an official fired who has done her sister wrong or going to war with Iran (God forbid). Her folksy "I'm just like you guys, Joe-Sixpacks and Hockey Moms" seems a created fantasy of what she thinks a hard-shootin' tough-talkin' momma ought to be. She is a total media creation (even if she created the model). There is something terrifying about a country that honored great leaders like Franklin Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, and even Bill Clinton even CONSIDERING to honor this woman with the second highest office in the land. Talk about reality television - this is reality politics.

elementalmemories
10.07.08

I hate the fact that she was a Hillary replacement. It felt like a very condescending ploy by McCain to choose her. As if women just want any woman as VP or president. I supported Hillary for who she was and what I believed she would do for her country.

That being said, I still felt my stomach turning before the debate. I absolutely do not agree with where Palin or McCain would like to take our country, but as a woman, I also didn't want to see her fall on her face and be seen as dumb and incompetant.

So I was happy that she held her own but didn't win. She ducked every question as I'm sure she was coached to do and did her best to position McCain as a "maverick."

~Lisa

pittardm
10.07.08

I can't stand Sarah Palin. On any level. I've tried to put aside her giant ego, unbridled ambition, lack of integrity, the non-stop lies, and her seeming lack of awareness, knowledge, and depth. But I just can't. It's not about her being a woman. I felt the same way about George W. Bush. His vacuousness scared me, and hers does, too.

gonetoplaid
10.06.08

Jenni, I'm not sure I agree that this is tongue in cheek. My feeling is this post was absolutely serious. If she's not a Palin fan, why does she keep defending her? Great point about Palin's irritating inability to answer any questions. Sorry if I offended you by using the term "dumb blonde" - I was just trying to make a point that this was an arbitrary conclusion and ridiculous analogy based on a weak premise.

jenni75
10.06.08

Well, I do think most of this post was tongue in cheek, after all we know that Leslie is not a Palin fan. Look, I felt the same way. I expected her to screw up so badly that when she didn't, I had to laugh....but the issues remain, and I was totally irritaed at her refusal to answer even basic questions that were asked of her, wanting instead to jump into her regular rhetoric.
I say Tina Fey does a much better job of being Sarah than Sarah does.
I'm blonde and NOT DUMB, so don't compare her to me, ok?

gonetoplaid
10.05.08

This is a disappointing post on so many levels, not the least of which is your ridiculous point that being on the PTA and field-dressing a moose qualify Sarah Palin to be Vice President. Palin admitted in an interview with Larry Kudlow of CNBC that she doesn't even know what the VP does.

If someone came to you looking for a job you’d posted, and said they'd love to do the job, but admitted they didn't know what that job involved – would you hire them?

Somehow I don’t feel empowered because a woman finally made it to a stage typically reserved for men. I'm personally mortified that she's representing my demographic on the national stage. Her very real lack of experience isn’t helping our cause. Frankly, her head is so full of McCain's talking points it's a wonder it doesn't shoot clear off her neck. I have no idea what the hell she’s capable of, but I’m fairly certain that running the country is not on the list.

As for the “dumb blonde” analogy, this is a stretch. I think a more accurate term would be bimbo, I mean if we were going that route which no one actually seems to be doing, except perhaps you. This point is weak too - since McCain's biggest argument about Obama his lack of experience. Is Obama a dumb blonde?