Sarah Palin has set off a new round of political fisticuffs in the “Mommy Wars” and in the Culture Wars. How could a newcomer and her pregnant teenage daughter do all that in a mere six days on the national scene?
Perhaps it was inevitable that any woman selected, that is — any woman selected on a Republican ticket — would be subjected to inquiries about how she is going to manage domestic responsibilities.
Five kids of her own and a grandchild on the way simply provided the pretext for the media’s new found attention for a candidate’s familial responsibilities. How is Barack Obama attending to his young daughters? No one would dream to ask. But the McCain-Palin team is getting grilled on just this topic.
Columnists in the mainstream media, who ordinarily would not dare to question the premise that mothers should be able to work and aspire to successful careers, are now the parental police, probing into how it is Palin will attend to her duties as a mother. Social conservatives meanwhile have been cast in the unusual role of defending a non-stay-at-home mom and fending off suggestions that Palin should — how did Hillary Clinton put it? — stay in the kitchen and bake cookies.
Here at the Republican National Convention I spoke to several Republican women delegates. Should we have a VP who is also a hockey mom? From Maine and Virginia I interviewed four women, one pro-choice, who were all delighted at the prospect of Palin on the ticket. They acknowledge her gender is a key ingredient of her appeal, but they cite her conservative credentials and her outsider status as equally important. The Virginia contingent seemed confident that she will boost turnout in rural areas, which will be crucial to a McCain victory. A male delegate from Minnesota was equally enthusiastic. For all of them, Palin has brought what the ticket lacked: enthusiasm and popular appeal.
But the full force of Palin’s appeal was nowhere more evident that at a Republican Right to Life reception. Palin was supposed to be the guest of honor before assembled delegates. However, a massive press turnout was for naught — a last minute cancellation was announced. She, the crowd was told, was preparing for her big speech Wednesday night.
The fill-in speaker was Laura Ingraham who brought cheers from the crowd, intoning that the media and liberal opposition forming against Palin was solely because of one reason. Ingraham declared, “The reason is life!” She noted that, in contrast to Palin, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was hailed as “a great power broker” and seemed to manage all her family obligations just fine. Ingraham explained that “boosters of Obama — everyone at MSNBC” say they are for empowerment of women.
“Oh really?” she asked with heavy sarcasm. “Then why are you treating Sarah Palin like dirt?” The crowd cheered and cheered again as she listed Palin’s attributes — executive leadership, pro-drilling, and pro-Second Amendment beliefs and a winning appeal with people outside of Washington.
So the storyline today is simple, “Media attacks; Republicans cheer.” The media would like nothing better than to paint Palin as evidence of sloppy legwork and irresponsible leadership by McCain.
Don’t tell that to Republicans — they have fallen in love.