October 25, 2008
The Canberra Times

Wham, glam, thank you, man – and for so little money

So, Sarah Palin’s election campaign wardrobe has cost more than $US3,000 dollars a day; every day; for the past seven weeks. Big deal.

What would all those Sarah Palin haters have her do? Dress like a real “hockey mom”? C’mon. Who wants to ogle a middle age frump in a fleece zip-up and tracky dacks?

After all, there is no upside to looking frumpy or dowdy, as the creative director of Barneys store in New York pointed out yesterday. And there is no doubt the Republican Party is looking for plenty of upside from Palin. Which – let’s face it – is why she’s there: to add glam while propping up the weary veteran.

And a good adornment needs a great wardrobe.

In August, when Palin first popped up as the surprise running mate to John McCain, the Alaskan Governor had a mummy-moose kind of style going on. Too many pink turtle necks, candy coloured blazers, fleecy vests and zip-up parkas.

So it really should come as no surprise to learn this week that the GOP sent one of its top consultants on a shopping spree to spruce up the would-be-VP. Of course they would.

But the real surprise is in fact a double whammy. First, the shopper was a man. And second, he only managed to spend $US150,000 dollars.

On today’s miserable exchange rate, that’s around $A230,000. Which, as anyone who has shopped for women’s clothing would know – is simply peanuts (please read this to your husband). Particularly if you happen to be shopping for clothing that looks good on TV.

Fortunately my television employer is tremendously more generous with its clothing allowance than those miserly bean counters at the Republican National Committee.

In fact, those money pinching Republicans are such scrooges that I bet that’s why they sent a bloke and not a woman to shop for Palin’s outfits. They probably feared a woman might overspend the six figures, and come back with too many shoes.

And on that score, the mystery man shopper – a political consultant called Jeff Larson – did very well in his choice of shodding for Palin.

The stiletto black suede boots are sensational. Perhaps a tiny bit too high for hiking around the country to win votes and influence people. But in stark contrast to my mother’s favourite mantra – no-one will be looking at your shoes (when I used to fret about wearing hand-me-down scandals) – Larson knows everyone is looking at Palin’s shoes. And the suit. And the jacket; blouse; skirt and of course the hair.

In fact, when it comes to Sarah Palin, that’s pretty much all we’re doing – looking.

If you have a sense of humour, you might also be listening. But mostly we’re just watching.

Which is the whole point of Palin. She’s there to be ogled. She must be. Because she’s clearly not there as the brains trust. In fact, her brain ought not to be trusted at all. What slips out of that drafty place is very screwball. And it’s not just because she thinks she can see Russia from her front door when Putin rears his head. It’s worse than that.

Even when Palin has had intense media training, she still screws it up.

I was prepared to forgive her when she asked on national television what is it exactly that the VP does. At the time Palin was still new in the job of running mate, and probably a little unsure of herself. And the US political system.

But it was quite unforgivable, not to mention unforgettable, when she was asked that same question by a grade 3 boy called Brandon Garcia. With a big, happy smile for all the kids, Palin explained that being VP was a great job because “They (presumably she thinks there are a number of them) are in charge of the U.S Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.

I just hope Brandon never becomes a US Senator, because he might be waiting a long time for the VP to come and take charge.

Much has been made of Palin’s many foreign policy faux pas since she first explained to an interviewer that our next door neighbours are foreign countries. But since then the neighbours have become more numerous. Recently she waxed lyrical about our neighbouring country of Afghanistan.

Should this woman become Vice President of the United States, and the 71 year old John McCain get run over by a bus, there could be good reason for Americans to dig backyard bunkers.

But then Palin has a warped view of military conflict. She believes the Iraq war is a task that is from God. She recently urged Americans to pray “that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan”. Possibly in the event that God has lost the plan, or the plot.

Palin, on the other hand, certainly hasn’t lost the plot. She is dead keen on becoming VP. And why wouldn’t she be. I suspect that once in office she gets a raise in her clothing allowance.

Should that happen, she’d do well to keep Jeff Larson on the books as her chief shopper. He’s clearly got a good eye for colour and cut. And is a dab hand at dressing mutton as lamb. It’s just such a shame he can’t teach said lamb to do anything more useful than say bah.

Virginia Haussegger is a Canberra journalist and director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra.

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