It was only a few hours after John McCain announced Alaska Gov. SarahPalin as his running mate when bloggers started rumors about the unknown pick: Daily Kos blogger Inky99 suggested that Palin’s fifth child may not be hers and was actually her 17-year-old daughter’s.

Citing a March 2008 story from the Anchorage Daily News where Palin announced she was seven months pregnant, Inky99 focused on an eyebrow-raiser: The “always-trim” governor didn’t look pregnant.
Rumors churned for a few days until Palin disabused rumors and revealed her daughter Bristol is pregnant, but news coverage still focused on Palin’s personal life – as evidenced in the latest editions of news weeklies like Time and gossip magazines like Us Weekly (the latter of which featured Palin on the cover with “Babies, Lies and Scandal” as its headline, promising details of “embarrassing surprises”).

Now, a week later, Palin’s home life is still a hot topic: Blogger Mitch Marconi says it’s all the media wants to talk about, and it’s rumored to be the main focus of Charles Gibson’s Sept. 12 prime time interview with Palin.

Since Palin’s arrival on the national scene, the right has sharply criticized Democrats for their attacks.

Conservative blogger Rachel Alexander sums up the right’s response to the Palin attacks, excoriating Joe Biden’s sexist comments (“She’s good-looking”), the New York Times article questioning Palin’s ability to serve because she has five kids (“If Palin was a man, we would not be hearing this kind of criticism”) and noting the Democrats’ “hypocrisy is compounded by their refusal to acknowledge amidst their attacks that Palin’s husband is a stay at home dad.”

One would conclude, then, that the right wants everyone to focus on Palin’s accomplishments and stances on the issues and not allow her to be negatively qualified as a woman or a mother.

But does the right also believe that the more Palin is attacked by the left on personal issues, the more it turns off voters toward Obama?

Consider the McCain campaign’s pounce on Obama, who, while speaking at a rally on Sept. 9, said:
“John McCain says he’s about change too, and so I guess his whole angle is, ‘Watch out George Bush! Except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics, we’re really going to shake things up in Washington.’ That’s not change; that’s just calling something the same thing something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

The McCain camp latched on to the “lipstick on a pig” comment and produced a Web ad overnight linking Palin’s mantra (“The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick”) to Obama’s lipstick comment.

(The ad, which also uses footage featuring CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, was pulled from YouTube because of a copyright claim by CBS. As of Sept. 10, the ad was available on McCain’s Web site.)
It’s curious that both right bloggers and the McCain campaign are now focusing on perceived sexist comments against Palin that initially drove coverage.

It puts us back where we began: The left started using rumors and insinuations to shape the focus on Palin, and now the right is focusing on Obama’s harmless, if ill-timed, use of a political adage to further keep Obama on the defense and off message.

 

— Ryan / Sept. 10, 2008

Originally posted September 14, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

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