This week there has been a tremendous amount of controversy generated about Sarah Palin’s clothing budget, which reportedly amounts to $150,000 USD. The controversy circles around the issue that this is a candidate who attempts to appeal to the virtues of the mythical “Joe Six-pack” and pseudo-mythical “Joe the Plumber.” Spending that much money on clothing (as well as makeup, hair, and other image items) seems to convey how out of touch Palin is from the people she wishes to extract votes from. I am not the type of person to rush to the defence of any GOP candidate, but this controversy smacks of a lack of understanding of just what a vice-presidential candidate is. They are not an “every-day Joe,” nor should they be expected to act like one. Quite the opposite, actually.
First off, what would be the proper budget for an image makeover on the Vice-Presidential campaign trail? This Toronto Star article makes the argument that the money spent is not outrageous given the sheer quantity and quality of clothes required for Sarah and her family for the duration of the campaign. We’re not talking haute couture here, just a large collection of high quality, good looking garments. Her aides can’t dryclean things because the airplane rarely spends more than a few hours in the same city. That alone necessitates thirty or forty suits. What about Todd Palin, and her children? What about the army of makeup and hair people that need to be on hand (and on-salary) for the duration of the campaign? With those demands, a $150k budget begins to look reasonable.
Secondly, since when does a politician have to have the same clothing budget as their middle class supporters? When are the two even comparable? The demands of image and presentation of a world leader eclipse similar needs of average people. World leaders are paid to put on a show, to inspire confidence, to look, be, and act their best at all times.
Hell, the fine citizens of the United States of America would be well served by a higher standard of public dress and presentation. What do we want, George W. Bush in sweatpants and a No Fear t-shirt? Someone lend her a Bud Light belt buckle and a NASCAR jacket, because she needs to keep it real. As a Vice-Presidential candidate keeping it real means being true to the demands of the position, and the culture of global leaders. In that sense she perhaps had more to spend than the average Governor.
Thirdly, this elevates tired themes of sexism and hypocrisy, but that is something other writers have done a much better job elaborating on.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a smoke bomb. It’s meaningless drivel that actually gives Palin a not-so-well-deserved break from having to address real issues: economic recovery, poverty reduction, job creation, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the thousands upon thousands of other issues that are still well worth bringing attention to and debating. Hell, someone please ask her about what she thinks happened to dinosaurs and her position on creationism.
On that note, now I feel bad about even writing about this issue. Please, American voters, concern yourself with something other than Sarah Palin’s wardrobe.