September 16, 2008

Baked Alaska


The LA Times DIsh Rag blog crafts the perfect lede for the story that Sarah Palin installed a tanning bed in the Alaska governor's mansion at a price of up to $35,000: "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A tanning bed!"

It's impressive that in just one day the story has already jumped from something called Narco News to Politico, Us, and a few other sites. Now we'll see if it gains real traction.

Should it? In one sense, no. It tells us nothing important about Palin's qualifications for office. But that's completely beside the point, seeing as how the mainstream media spent several months of 2007 justifying their extensive coverage of John Edwards' $400 haircuts.

It's not a perfect analogy. The Edwards haircut was first reported because he paid for it with campaign funds (before reimbursing the campaign). But that's not why it blew up, as Roger Simon explained in Politico.

The cost of the haircut was the issue... because no normal person -- man or woman -- could possibly pay $400 for a haircut. And even though the American people are used to rich people running for office, when a person is that extravagant, it turns off voters... [one voter wrote]: "Spending $400 for a haircut shows a lack of judgment. I don't care how wealthy he is, Edwards cannot be expected to carefully steward the public purse when he obviously cannot control his own spending."

The News & Observer also turned to a reader to justify its coverage: "A man who claims to be of common stock with deep mill-town roots gets haircuts costing more than his old country barber made in a week and lives in a gaudy manse that would have made that mill owner green with envy."

There's a lot more like that out there. You'll also find the excuse that Edwards opened himself up to this criticism by positioning himself as a champion of the poor. Now it's absolutely true that there's no indication whatsoever that Sarah Palin gives a shit about poor people, so she's off the hook there. But this line of argument against Edwards was almost always paired with the one about him having, in the words of the AP's Ron Fournier an "everyman image."

Sarah Palin's everywoman image -- including her alleged "frugality" -- is pretty much the entire justification for her spot on the ticket. That makes the tanning bed story fair game, especially in combination with the per deims and other things that have bubbled up. (Speaking of those per diems, why did Palin buy a tanning bed for a house she rarely stayed at? Doesn't that make this even more outrageous? Does she have a second tanning bed in Wasilla?) Really, there's no excuse for this not to be all over the cable news today. Especially since, as this very post makes clear, it lends itself really well to cheap puns and exploitative visuals. And I haven't even mentioned John McCain's medical history.

Lastly, there was one more angle on the Edwards story that is worth noting here. Susan Estrich put it this way.

In high school, when you call someone a "pretty boy," it’s not a compliment. Unfortunately for Edwards, the same is true in politics. The reason his haircut has stuck, where Bill Clinton’s fancy one didn’t, is because it captures the flip side of Edwards’ boyish good looks. The flip side is the pretty boy, which is not what a country focused on terrorism and looking for toughness wants in a candidate.

Eric Alterman translated: "the haircut obsession is designed to feminize the candidate and thereby undermine his credentials as macho-man for President--which are, by the way, those deemed to be the most important by the media. Ann Coulter calls him a "faggot." Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough, among many others, use the term "Breck Girl." The wording is more polite, but the effect is the same."

Now we're in a tricky spot: It's OK to demean a man by calling him girly, but if you call a woman girly, that's sexist. Seriously, watch for this argument by Palin apologists, including ones who were among those calling Edwards girly a year ago.

I did a very quick Google search to prepare this post, but I know there's a lot more out there that can make the case for pushing tanning bed-gate overwhelming. Readers are encouraged to find examples pundits and right wing bloggers attacking Edwards using language that should apply equally to Palin.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Perhaps Sarah Palin has as many tanning beds as John McCain has houses.

Huh. Interesting. I have to say that when I hear about tanning beds in Alaska, my first thought is about depression. I went to a workshop on the adolescent brain by a woman who lives in Alaska, and she said there's a lot of work out there now about the connection between depression and Vitamin D, and how strange it is that her doctor actually tells her to go to a tanning salon, which is not what doctors in any other state will advise most of their patients.

Does Sarah Palin have a mental disability? Why won't she release her medical records? We can't prove anything yet, but clearly these questions need to be asked and answered!

How can Obama use this?
"I promise the American People that the White House will never have a tanning bed during the Obama administration"

Hmmm. Maybe not.

I think both cases say something important about the kind of people they are. Vanity and emphasis on the superficial are a serious flaw. Though,I certainly resent somone spending the kind of money that is the difference between rent on a decent place for a year, and living on the street and getting a tan for free.

One line of attack is obvious:

Palin turned the governor's mansion into a day spa.

It was NOT the place she conducted the people's business (she did that at home while billing taxpayers for the pleasure).

I hear tell that McCain's people are now claiming that he invented the tanning bed.

Her spokesman says she bought it surplus from a local athletic club. Which could mean she got a good price on it. And could also mean, given what we no about her management style, that it was part of some quid pro quo deal that exposed numerous conflicts of interest.

So: Is Sarah Palin more corrupt or more clinically depressed? Some say she is.

In my humble opinion Palin's white trash appeal is only enhanced by her ability to acquire a coveted luxury item like a $35,000 tanning bed, or to use her office to fuck with her no-account brother-in-law. Hillbillies everywhere are projecting their trailer park hopes and dreams onto her. Think of all the millions of impoverished faithful going without while tithing to support the lavish lifestyle of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker back in the day. Most people live a fantasy life in the million dollar set designs television tells us are typical middle class living rooms. Magical transference allows us to enjoy the wealth of characters we imagine themselves to be.

The dirty little albeit open secret is that Palin is really something of a great white hope, and by association then McCain is too. White people ruled by racism would rather be raped by a stupid lying white man than cared for by a smart honest black man.

It must be remembered that if 100 is the median IQ, half of all voters have an IQ under 100. Mainstream media makes even bright people fearful, angry and confused most of the time. Republicans know this and so never, ever take the high road. The McCain campaign identified Race as their strongest card in this election early on. They will do everything to keep the 7-11 parking lot chatter on the level of “ha HA, our little Sarah sure is giving that uppity nigger a run for his money.”

The Obama camp has to find a way to maintain essential honesty while pushing ugly, emotional, primal buttons, or this campaign will end up being another self-satisfied failed academic exercise for Democrats to whine about as the country sinks deeper into its authoritarian radical nationalist nightmare.

Correction: "... we imagine OURselves to be." Sorry.

You've never heard of Narco News, run by Al Giordano? Well, here's all you need to know about Al Giordano: Community Organizer.


I heard she swapped the state plane for it. Sure, the party bigwigs told her it wasn't a good trade but she has a reputation for bucking her own party to do what's classy.

A $400 haircut reeks of out-of touch whereas a tanning bed in your house just reeks of trashiness- albeit an expensive trashiness.

Maybe this is the midwest in me talking but I've been in a total of three houses that had tanning beds. Two in Southern Missouri and one in Oklahoma. I'm not a tanning expert so I don't know how much those beds costs but I did meet the three women that had them. To call these women air-heads would be an understatement. They were upper-40's, early 50's and to a tee- each of the three had on way too much make-up, long sparkling nails and expensive-looking yet not well done hair.

If the tanning bed says anything about Palin's it's that she didn't just spray-on tan and save the $35,000 for botox. A wiser investment, though don't ask John Kerry about that.

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