Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our Clothes-Minded Elites

With less than two weeks to go before the election, the mainstream media has seized on an issue so voraciously that there are already over seven hundred news links on Google (tm) News alone on this one topic. What could it possibly be, that has the MSM in such a tizzy? Is it Iraq, the economy, social issues like abortion and gay marriage? Is it the ACORN voter registration fraud story that keeps getting bigger and bigger all the time? Is it the wild divergence in the polls, which show Obama anywhere from barely neck and neck with McCain to up by fourteen points? No; it's none of these:

It's the cost of Sarah Palin's wardrobe.

Breathlessly, if somewhat cynically, the MSM is invoking the spirit of Joe the Plumber: how can Sarah possibly justify letting the Republican National Committee spend a staggering $150,000 on clothes, hair and makeup for Palin as well as clothing for the rest of her family? In these times of economic crisis how can an Alaskan hockey mom governor spend all this cash--RNC cash, not her own money--on clothes?

Of course, the MSM is being rather hypocritical, considering that most of the news anchors who will read these words with furrowed brow (assuming their last Botox treatment has worn off) are also wearing rather expensive designer suits for which they didn't pay. Consider this, from an article in the NY Sun in 2006 about Katie Couric:

She estimates that Ms. Couric will need to purchase at least 10 designer suits, and matching shoes, which could cost more than $30,000. Not that those brand-name outfits would set her back much, even if she didn't have a wardrobe allowance. At CBS, Ms. Couric will reportedly take home some $15 million a year.

While Ms. Couric may be commanding a salary on par with or higher than her male counterparts, women broadcasters face more pressure to keep up appearances, Ms. von Sperling said. "Here is the unspoken rule: Anchormen are allowed to get that wise, distinguished, salt-and-pepper gray," she said, referring to the just-named anchor of World News Tonight, Charles Gibson. "For anchorwomen, that's not the case. Katie Couric will be dying her hair until she no longer wants to be an anchorwoman. Katie's a very smart cookie, and I'm sure she was aware of that when she took the job."

Prices have gone up a little in the last two years; Hillary Clinton can only get about five of her signature pants suits for $30K:

The clothes aren't cheap. Jackets are about $3,000, shirts run to $1,350 and pants hover around the $2,000 mark. For first-time clients, there is a minimum three-suit requirement, simply because it costs so much to make the mannequins.

Now, I'm not going to say that $150,000 for clothes and so forth for seven people (Sarah, her husband, and the children) isn't excessive. But our elites in the media and in politics are well aware how much image is worth, and would be the first to notice if the Palins' clothes were the sort of nice but still off-the-rack garments they can afford on their approximately $120,000/year salary. We would be hearing endlessly about how Sarah's lower-end clothing proved she was an unserious candidate, and Tina Fey would do a skit showing Sarah in the fitting room at Wal-Mart, wouldn't she?

So the Republican National Committee--not the Palins, mind--made the decision to spend some Committee funds on the Palins' public image. It's perfectly legal for them to do that; and considering that none of the other candidates in the race is coming from a similar economic background, it was probably a smart thing to do. The Obamas made over four million dollars last year; Joe Biden's suits have been familiar to the media since the Cronkite era, so the MSM has nothing to gain from criticizing him; the McCains have plenty of cash for clothes that will look good on prime time TV. But Sarah Palin has been under attack from the minute she set foot on the national political stage, so it probably seemed like ordinary prudence to make sure that the media couldn't criticize her for being poorly dressed on top of everything else they found to dislike about her.

The real problem, as I see it, is that we're drifting dangerously close to an oligarchy in America, where only elite people from elite schools and/or elite families with large sums of money to spend will ever have a shot at any national political office, let alone the presidency. So much of this comes from our media's perception that anyone who doesn't dress, speak, and think like they do must be an incompetent hick who is too incurious and provincial to be running for office; the elevation of image above reality, and style over substance, shows how true that is becoming. But there are serious consequences to this kind of thinking, and one of the worst is that our leaders become a protected class whose own self interest will always trump what is good for the nation.

Some observers of this election would say that we've already reached that point; it would be hard to disagree.


Anonymous said...

Katie Couric does not spend a cent on clothing. She has a clothing allowance that is part of her salary. I'm sure it is close to what the RNC pays for Sarah Palin's clothes. The hypocrisy in the media is stunning.

Anonymous said...

The media didn't mention (as it did in Palin's early candidacy days) that most of the clothes that she bought with her own salary are "off the rack" suits running about $250 each. (And goodness, how tacky they found that.) She was compared with Nancy Pelosi who spends upwards of $5K on a suit.

Maria said...

I agree the media is biased and Palin is in between a rock and a hardplace position with them. I still think it was a mistake of the McCain campaign to do this. One of the things many women I know loved about her was some of the earlier stories about her life as a middle class mom shopping at thrift store in Alaska.

I was worried from the beginning the campaign was going to start dressing her in expensive labels. Living inside the DC Beltway with a husand that works in politics, I was speaking with someone about a month ago who knows the personal assistants given to Palin by the campaigns - young ladies with expensive taste. I was not surprised when this story broke. I remember begging this person to tell her assistants NOT to dress her in big labels - or if they did to have her borrow them fromt their lavish wadrobes. The middle-class moms who have an affinity for Palin know what it is like to borrow from a friend's closet for a big event or comb through thrift stores and consignment shops for a good deal on labels. And if you have to buy clothes for Palin, go to Ann Taylor, not Barney's for goodness sake!

Who cares what the media does - they are against Palin either way. The campaign should focus on letting Palin be the authentic, middle-class mom she is. That is why folks like her, for heavens sake. Why tick off your supports to keep the elites from making fun of you?

Unfortunately, the McCain campaign proves to me anew each day that it is being run by idiots. Which is really sad since the consequences are so great if he loses.