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Commentary: Sexist treatment of Palin must not be tolerated

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opinion Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

I really hate defending Sarah Palin. I mean, I don't agree with her on anything. Seeing a woman at her level saying and doing some of the things she says and does is like nails screeching against a blackboard for me. And while she ultimately helps Democrats in any partisan contest, her brand of polarizing politics and efforts to annihilate the moderate wing of the Republican Party ultimately aren't very good for her own party (not my problem) or the country (everyone's problem).

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And while I'm at it, it drives me crazy when she goes around blaming the McCain campaign for her mistakes instead of taking responsibility. The list goes on.

The problem is that the media can't seem to figure out that she deserves to be treated like Dick Armey or Newt Gingrich or Dick Cheney. Disagree with her. Point out that she's wrong more often than she's right, and that she doesn't know what she's talking about on key issues. Call her a quitter, by all means, and a sore sport and a bad loser. Ask her hard questions, or even medium-hard questions, and see if she can answer. Push her on whether she's more interested in fame and glory than making change happen.

Just don't put her on the cover in running shorts.

I'm talking, of course, about the Newsweek cover, which took a picture Palin posed for as part of a spread in Runner's World magazine about how she loves running and used it to turn her into a pinup girl. She is not a girl, and she is not a pinup.

Palin criticized the cover as "sexist and oh-so-expected." She's right. But too many liberals are being quoted praising it. How soon they forget. Calling Gov. Palin the "Caribou Barbie" and "Governor Gidget" actually pushed her numbers higher among women. It's both sexist and stupid. It was only when Palin fell on her face with Katie Couric that many women felt free to abandon her.

The irony is that the cover, far from skewering Palin, as was its clear intent, helps her. The picture overwhelms the caption -- "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sarah? She's Bad News for the GOP and Everyone Else, Too" -- and reduces it to a hit piece. It makes Palin a heroine to the people who hate the liberal media, reinforcing the view that the media are biased against conservatives. It makes women like me horrendously uncomfortable, because sexism is not OK under any circumstances. And it makes non-political, moderate women (you know, the kind who decide every election) more sympathetic to a woman who, on most issues (not just abortion, but health care, for instance, and stem cell research), is on the opposite side of them.

Oh, yes, and for sure it will sell books. Magazines, too. Everybody wins except women, who are still eye candy, even if they get to the point of being their party's nominee for vice president. That's the message, and it applies to all of us. It's not a liberal versus conservative issue: I've seen just as bad and worse done to Hillary. It's about sexism and powerful women and how they can be trivialized. And this is why, once again, I have to defend Sarah Palin.

Susan Estrich's e-mail address is sestrich@wctrib.com.

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