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An Instructive Candidacy
What Sarah Palin taught us about ourselves.


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Victor Davis Hanson

Soon this depressing campaign will be over, and we can reflect on what we learned from our two-month introduction to Sarah Palin.

Clearly, it is more than we would have ever wished to know about ourselves.

First, there turns out to be no standard of objectivity in contemporary journalism. Palin’s career as a city councilwoman, mayor, and governor of Alaska was never seen as comparable to, or — indeed, in terms of executive experience — more extensive than, Barack Obama’s own legislative background in Illinois and Washington. Somehow we forgot that a mother of five taking on the Alaskan oil industry and the entrenched male hierarchy was somewhat more challenging than Barack Obama navigating the sympathetic left-wing identity politics of Chicago.

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So we seem to have forgotten that the standards of censure of her vice-presidential candidacy were not applied equally to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. The media at times seems unaware of this embarrassment, namely that their condemnation of Sarah Palin as inexperienced equally might apply to Barack Obama — and to such a degree that by default we were offered the lame apology (reiterated by Colin Powell himself) that Obama’s current impressive campaigning, not his meager political accomplishments, was already an indication of a successful tenure as president. The result is that we now know more about the Palin pregnancies — both of mother and daughter — that we do the relationships of Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright, and Father Pfleger with our possible next president.

Indeed, the media itself — in private, I think — would admit that while have learned almost everything about Tasergate and the Bridge to Nowhere, we assume that at some future date a publicity-starved, megalomaniac Rev. Wright will soon offer his post-election memoirs, detailing just how close he and a President Obama were. Or we will learn Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, as long-time friends, in fact, did communicate via phone and e-mail well after Ayers had told the world, about the time of 9/11, that he, like our present-terrorist enemies, likewise wished he had engaged in more bombing attacks against the United States government. And the media never wondered whether a Palin’s falling out with those who ran Alaska might have been more of a touchstone to character than Obama’s own falling in with those who ran Chicago.

While Gov. Palin’s frequent college transfers and Idaho degree are an item of snickering among pundits, none of them can claim to care much about Barack Obama’s own undergraduate career. To suggest that he release his undergraduate transcript is near blasphemy; to scribble that Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome child was not her own is journalism as we now know it. To care that Joe Biden is vain, with bleached teeth, the apparent recipient of some sort of strange facial tightening tonic, and hair plugs is deservedly mean and petty; to sneer that the Alaskan mom of five bought a new wardrobe to run for Vice President is, of course, vital proof for the American voter of her vanity and shallowness.

Second, there does not seem to be much left of feminism any more. Of course, feminists once gave liberal pro-choice Bill Clinton a pass for his serial womanizing of vulnerable subordinates, and Oval Office antics with a young female intern. But they gave the game away entirely when they went after Gov. Palin for her looks, accent, pregnancies, and religion, culminating in assessments of her from being no real woman at all to an ingrate — piggy-backing on the pioneer work of self-acclaimed mavericks like themselves.

Feminism, it turns out, is no longer about equal opportunity and equal compensation, but, in fact, little more than a strain of contemporary elitist identity politics, and support for unquestioned abortion. Had Gov. Sarah Palin just been a mother of a single child at Vassar rather than of five in Alaska, married to a novelist rather than a snow-machiner, an advocate of pro-choice, who shot pictures of Alaskan ferns rather than shot moose — feminists would have hailed her as a principled kindred soul, and trumpeted her struggles against Alaskan male grandees.

So there was something creepy about droves of irate women, in lock-step blasting Sarah Palin from the corridors of New York and Washington, when most of them were the recipients of the traditional spoils of either family connections, inherited money, or the advantages that accrue from insider power marriages. Indeed, very few of Palin’s critics on their own could have emerged from a small-town in Alaska, with an intact marriage and five children, to run the state of Alaska.

We have come to understand that — for a TV anchorwoman, op-ed columnist, or professor — it would be a nightmare to birth a Down Syndrome child in her mid-forties, or to have had her pregnant unwed teen actually deliver her baby. In the world outside Sarah Palin’s Wasilla, these are career-ending blunders that abort the next job promotion or book tour– or the future career of a prepped young daughter on her way to the Ivy League.



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