Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Governor's New Clothes

Now we know, the chant was wrong all along. It should have been "Shop, Baby, Shop!" not "Drill, Baby, Drill."

So Sarah Palin, along with Todd and the kiddies, went on a little high-end shopping spree. A few of them, in fact. As our buddies at Politico first reported, the Republican National Committee dropped about $150,000 on clothes and accessories for the Palins, mostly for the hockey mom herself. That buys an awful lot of hockey sweaters. Big deal, right? They need new outfits for their turn in the national spotlight.

The rub is that Palin sells herself as a small-town everywoman, a middle class working mom who's one of us, a regular Joanie Sixpack. She mocks big city values with derisive scorn, and pokes fun at the liberal elite who think they're too good for the rest of us. So where did she shop? Target or K-Mart? Wasilla Navy Surplus? No, she stocked up on designer outfits at Neiman-Marcus, Bloomie's and Barney's. On the eve of the the September 11th anniversary, hubby Todd was getting new duds at Atelier New York, while Sarah was spending thousands at Saks Fifth Avenue. While I was dodging urine balloons from protesters in my scuffed chinos on the streets of Saint Paul, she was off on a spree at the Minneapolis Neiman-Marcus.

Most of the clothes were actually purchased for her, by a personal shopper working for the Republican National Committee. The new wardrobes were bought in New York City, St. Louis and Minneapolis - big cities all, at high-end department stores not found in the likes of Wasilla, or even Anchorage or Juneau, for that matter. I guess the fall moose-hunting garb at the local Fred Meyer wasn't snazzy enough.

It's also galling that the Palins would drop that kind of money on fancy new duds in the midst of a global economic collapse. It's insensitive, to say the least, and it borders on illegal, since candidates aren't allowed to spend campaign donations for their own personal use. But the money came from RNC contributions, not donations directly to McCain-Palin, which skirts that particular restriction and probably makes the purchases legal.

Hats off to the Politico reporters for poring over last month's campaign finance statements and discovering those expenditures. I've spent plenty of hours wading through those documents in the past and while they often contain interesting tidbits (hmm, that famous actor gave him that much money? hey look, a friend of mine made a donation!), the list of spending usually just runs to things like phone bills and TV ads. Although if you closely examine the just-released reports for the first two weeks of October, you will see that the McCain campaign spent more than $22,000 on a celebrity makeup artist for Governor Palin - almost twice as much as it paid its chief foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann (and a reminder: we have had a "Follow the Money" link to the FEC disclosure filings on our site for well over a year now, so you can always read all these reports for yourself).

And of course, every now and then, you strike gold with something like John Edwards' $400 haircuts.

And that's why I don't buy the McCain campaign's feigned indignation over this mini-scandal, or the complaints from the conservative talkers about the gotcha media's latest anti-Palin crusade. Their mocking of Edwards' haircuts was relentless; Rush Limbaugh still refers to him as "Breck Girl." There's no difference between the hypocritical Edwards preaching about poverty while getting overpriced coiffures and the hypocritical Palin splurging on Valentino. Or Cindy McCain telling voters her husband is the true champion of the middle class - while she's wearing a single outfit that's worth more than $300,000. Palin is complaining now that the fashion flap reflects "gender bias" on the part of the media, but it's certainly not sexist to point out the dissonance between what a candidate says and what she, or he, does.

A terse John McCain says Palin's outfits will be donated to charity after the election. His spokesman says "that was always the plan," from the moment the clothes were purchased. That doesn't really pass the smell test - not when the clothing designer at Saturday Night Live reports that Palin complained about the outfits he wanted her to wear on the show last week, insisting he dress her in something nicer.

My sources within the McCain team say campaign manager Steve Schmidt is absolutely livid over Fashiongate (just coined that, sorry), that he threw a fit over the tone-deaf blunder by the RNC. It shows a lack of coordination between the McCain money and the party's - even though the clothing purchases were disclosed under the "coordinated expenditures" of the committee's money. It's another example of the clumsy nature of McCain's campaign, which has lacked the top-down discipline and organization of Obama's all along.

I was going to write some more about the polls today, because we are absolutely inundated by them right now, but my fashion plate was too full to pass up. We do have a completely revamped "Who's Winning?" polling page, with a veritable cornucopia of survey data, graphs, charts, an interactive Electoral College map and poll analysis, all of which I am updating every darn day. And I promise to write tomorrow in response to all the questions I keep getting about how the various polls could be so wildly disparate.

But for now, the horse race takes a back seat to the clothes horse. The irony is that Sarah Palin is getting all these new clothes - just as more and more voters are realizing that she's not wearing any.


Anonymous said...

How can used make-up be donated to charity?

Doug Sovern said...

Good point! I would say it can't! Note that Palin was out campaigning in jeans yesterday...

Stan Bunger said...

You'd think a reporter who backs the Green Bay Packers would have been a little better prepared for some "cold" weather.