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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Oct 8th, 2008 - 01:19:58

Palin the mudslinger
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 8, 2008, 00:22

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I never dreamt a female American politician would emerge to make even Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, look good. Then out of the Alaskan shadows pops up Sarah Palin, who could conceivably end up with a finger on the nuclear button as America�s commander-in-chief.

At first, she seemed fairly impressive. But the more she opened her mouth, the more the glossy �intelligent nice girl� veneer wore thin. Now that polls are strongly favouring Barack Obama, Palin is raking the gutter for as much filth as possible to throw at the other camp.

Last Saturday, she told a rally that it�s �time to put on the heels and take off the gloves� before sticking a stiletto into the Democratic presidential hopeful by accusing him of �palling around with terrorists.�

It is true that Obama had happened to sit on a community board with a university professor who used to be a member of a radical anti-Vietnam war group, but at the time anti-US government mayhem was being planned, Obama was only 8 years old!

This attack and an earlier snide joke highlighting the age of Obama�s running mate, Joe Biden, were not only below the belt, they play into the stereotypes that some chauvinistic men still hold of women aspiring to powerful positions. And especially since they were delivered with such wicked glee of the sort you see in nasty Hollywood �B� movies featuring ruthlessly ambitious cheerleaders or beauty queens cooking up a dirty scheme to bring down a rival.

During the vice presidential debate last week, Biden was apparently advised not to talk down to the new girl in town for fear of coming across as sexist. In the event, he rose to the challenge. Although, it couldn�t have been easy when his opponent blatantly attempts to use her gender to her own advantage in a way that most women in politics either avoid doing entirely or are far more subtle in their approach.

For instance, I doubt the new Pakistani president, Asif Zardari, would have dared to call Hillary Clinton �gorgeous� on first meeting and, presumably, neither would he have expressed the urge to hug House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or unburden his soul to Britain�s former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Yet there was something about Palin that inspired such familiarity; a misinterpreted wink perhaps or maybe she flashed a Colgate smile before asking, �Can I call you Asif?�

Last Saturday, I watched Rice being interviewed on BBC World and after the Palin-Biden debate, it was such a relief to listen to a serious woman who understands the issues even though I disagree strongly with most of her administration�s policies.

Here was someone who used her education, knowledge and experience as her currency rather than fluttering eyelashes, winks or cutesy colloquialisms, choreographed to appeal to the chattering masses.

Rice may be misguided but at least she�s not an embarrassing joke as Palin turned out to be when interviewed on CBS by Katie Couric, when she couldn�t recall the name of a single publication after saying she reads them all and reiterated that she has foreign policy credentials because �our next door neighbours are foreign countries.�

During the VP debate, she failed to understand a question concerning a vice president�s remit, ignored many others that she either couldn�t or wouldn�t answer, and got the name of the commanding general in Afghanistan as well as his stated views wrong.

Phenomenal rise

She also isolated herself from Biden and the moderator for much of the time, too busy staring down at her script or right into the camera to gain maximum connection with �Joe Six-pack� sitting around his kitchen table worrying about his home, his pension and his job. �I�m just like you� was the message from this woman reckoned to be worth in the region of $1.2 million.

The phenomenal rise of someone like Palin could only happen in America. In a world where a new geopolitical and economic order is being redefined, and where Palin�s country along with others are staring at what could be a prolonged recession, a Palin White House is a prospect too terrifying to contemplate. It�s about time voters quit behaving like fans of American Idol and took this race seriously.

On Saturday, she quoted �wise words� she had read on a Starbucks Mocha cup, which she said were originally attributed to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: �There�s a place in Hell reserved for women who don�t support other women.� Albright actually said �help other women� but let�s not be overly pedantic. Methinks four years of McCain-Palin, whose agenda is virtually indistinguishable from George W. Bush�s, will in any case see us all in flames.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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