Politics & Policy

It’s Not All About Sex

If Stephen Palin were the veep candidate, the Left would still attack him.

Talking about Hillary Clinton and sexism at a women-and-leadership Newsweek forum earlier this year, Sarah Palin said it “bothers me a little” to see Clinton running as a victim. “She does herself a disservice to even mention it.”

Palin added that any “perceived whine. . . . doesn’t do us any good . . . women in politics, or women in general.”

You go, girl. Who needs to play victim? Life’s unfair. Politics gets ugly. So what? Fight on!

To Palin’s credit, she hasn’t whined about sexism since becoming the Republican vice-presidential nominee. But her campaign has. Most recently this morning, in a web ad that uses Katie Couric to help land the blow. In a video clip from her evening-news show, Couric says, “One of the great lessons of [the Hillary Clinton] campaign is the continued, and accepted, role of sexism in American life.”

I know it resonates, but it honestly doesn’t do anyone any good unless the purpose of this teaching moment is to mirror the Left’s usual whining and hypersensitivity in order to demonstrate how silly the whole thing looks when you’re on the other side. To have a GOP campaign actually whining about sexism . . . well . . . bothers me a little.

It all started about a week ago, in fact. As much as this New York gal loves to see the gentleman in Rudy Giuliani come out, I cringed when he said,

How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her children and be vice president. How dare they do that.

When do they ever ask a man that question? When?

He’s obviously right. It’s harder to question a man’s devotion to his children for obvious reasons — those reasons being the differences between men and women that, ironically, we so often deny, but which are becoming daily headlines during this campaign now. With occasional exceptions (like Dr. Laura), Sarah Palin is not getting hit by people who are seriously concerned about her children, or because those hitting her are sexist. Sarah Palin is getting hit because she’s conservative and those hitting her are not.

Now, that said, there is a special hostility for conservative women out there, because we like to pretend that that’s an anomaly. We long ago accepted the fact that a radical-Left group could call itself “the National Organization of Women” (as if there could ever be such a thing — as if we all think alike — and if we did, that we’d band together to defend as our highest value the killing of our unborn). But Kim Gandy and Sarah Palin are never going to have a coffee klatch together, even if Palin winds up in D.C. come November.

Looking at that “Lipstick” ad from the McCain campaign this morning, two things are clear: 1) Barack Obama was obviously referencing Palin when he was talking about “lipstick on a pig.” 2) We really needn’t be citing Katie Couric as a character witness to our whining.

The fact is: If Sarah were Stephen, there would be some other ridiculous way Barack Obama and his surrogates, the official ones or the unofficial ones in the media, would slam him. It just happens to be sexier since Stephen is Sarah.

But let’s be careful here. (As a safety, McCain-Palin could ask before responding to anything aimed at the (iron-)softer side of the ticket: “What would Thatcher do?”) Because before this election is over, some 25-year-old press aide, or political ally, or candidate is going to innocently refer to the Obama campaign with the phrase “the pot calling the kettle black.” And if GOP complaints about Democrat sexism continue, by then we’ll have lost the moral high ground in the whining wars.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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