If Palin didn't look good, we'd criticize

Herald-Leader columnistOctober 23, 2008 

My daughter is living with us while trying to clear up some persistent medical problems.

I had to say that to explain why in the last year I have found myself watching TV programs I would otherwise not have known existed. She watches them and has drawn me in.

One of these programs is a series involving very rich "housewives" in various U.S. locales. One series was in Los Angeles, another in New York and the current one is in Atlanta.

Having a lot of money to spend doesn't jibe with my definition of a housewife, but then I didn't have a say in the naming of the shows.

Anyway, these women see nothing wrong with shopping sprees in which a couple of items can cost $10,000. On the show recently, one woman bought a purse for more than $3,000, and another bought four or five pairs of shoes for $6,500.

I've often told my daughter that even if I had the kind of discretionary cash the housewives have, I couldn't bring myself to spend it on such superficial items. My fingers tremble when I have to write a check for something necessary like car insurance on five automobiles.

With that in mind, I found myself wondering what the big deal was for the Republican National Committee to spend $150,000 through September for Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's clothes, accessories, hair and makeup.

According to financial disclosure records, the RNC spent $75,063 at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis; $49,426 at Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York; $9,478 at Macy's in Minneapolis; and $5,100 at Bloomingdales in New York. An additional $5,000 went to a men's clothing store and a baby clothing store. Hair and makeup cost $4,716 during that same month.

I think Palin looks quite good in her clothing, and her hair and makeup are spot-on all the time. So the investment seems to be paying off.

Plus — let's speak frankly, ladies — if Palin appeared at stump location after stump location wearing some of those outfits she was pictured wearing in Alaska, some of us would be talking more about that than about the words coming out of her mouth.

You know that.

With a bowl of popcorn in front of a TV, we would have ripped the woman's taste in clothes up one side and down the other.

The RNC had to make sure Palin looked good in order for some of us to bypass how she looks and listen to what she had to say.

And while paying $150,000 on my looks in one month would have landed me in divorce court as well as bankruptcy, I'm not going anywhere or trying to impress anyone. I cannot judge Palin by my standards, which are quite low.

There are women in my church, however, who shop at Embry's, an upscale women's clothing store in Lexington. Embry's carries only the St. John line of clothing, which would be good enough for a vice presidential nominee. John McCain's wife, Cindy, wears St. John.

The basic St. John business outfit can run about $900 for a jacket, $300 for a skirt and $150 for a shell. That's $1,350 without shoes, stockings, handbag, jewelry or undergarments.

I agree that most of us can look good far cheaper than that, but we are not running for a national office. Under that magnifying glass, a woman's clothes matter.

"The clothes per se are not a big deal," said Lou King of Winchester, a Democrat who, unfortunately, called me about another issue, "But the fact that you have that much money to spend gives working people pause."

A friend of mine, Billie Goldsmith of Lexington, agreed. "She makes a point of calling herself a hockey mom who shops at Wal-mart like the rest of us," she said. "Now we find out differently. If she is as down to Earth as she says, she could have told them to take it back."

Admittedly, designer clothes aren't exactly a staple in the closets of Mrs. Joe Sixpack. But Palin wouldn't look half as good without them, and we'd be talking about her fashion taste instead of the campaign.

I don't think Palin had much choice. We expect people we are voting for to look good and represent they office they are seeking.

The campaign says all the clothing will be donated to a charity after Nov. 4.

Taking designer clothes away from me after I've looked good in them for two months? Now that's a big deal.

Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or mdavis1@herald-leader.com.

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