Palin Dressed Down
Melinda Henneberger and Nina Shen Rastogi take your questions about the candidate's expensive wardrobe.
Washington: Is she loses the election, will she still donate the clothes? My guy feeling so say no and we all will forget about it...
Melinda Henneberger: The McCain campaign says she will, and now that the story's out there, I'd think she would have to.
Washington: It seems to me that the fundamental problem is not with the total price tag, it's that the Republican National Committee was paying for it with donor money. What Cindy McCain's (or John McCain's or Michelle Obama's or Barack Obama's) clothes cost is perhaps interesting vis-a-vis the messages they are trying to convey, but those are all clothes they bought on their own, with their own money. I believe the outrage that the RNC has footed such an extravagant bill is well-founded.
Melinda Henneberger: I'm sure there are donors who would enjoy knowing that their contribution bought Sarah Palin a Valentino jacket, no? Given the fascination with her looks, a few Democrats might even want in on that deal...
St. Paul, Minn.: Why aren't more republicans upset at how their money is being used? I donated to the Obama campaign, and if he had spent $150,000 on clothes, I'd be upset.
Nina Rastogi: Well, I can't speak for all the Republicans out there, but I think many people see it as a justified amount of money to spend on preparing a politician to be under heavy national scrutiny for several months—it's a whole lot when you spend it all at once, as Palin's people had to, but maybe not so galling if you spread it out over a longer period of time.
Silver Spring, Md.: I was surprised and disappointed yesterday that the reaction on the XX blog leaned toward defending Palin. I'm glad to see you're coming around. Sneering at the "elites" while wearing a $2,500 Valentino jacket is a brazen act of hypocrisy. How can the McCain-Palin campaign be so tone deaf?
Melinda Henneberger: I think a lot of us just thought that we had way more serious beefs with her than her wardrobe. As an observer, I was enjoying the fashion show. But from their perspective, it really is as tone-deaf as Edwards getting that haircut. Because you know the expense reports are going to be made public, and you know that the bill is going to say Neiman's. And you know that those people you've been pitching to on Main Street can't afford a lot of shopping sprees right now. So I would say that this is just one example of a campaign in disarray.
Kansas City, Mp.: Do you really think they will donate all those clothes to charity? The makeup too? Yuck! Is there any mechanism to make sure they do?
Nina Rastogi: Well, I would hope that Sarah Palin will get to keep the makeup no matter what the outcome in November—for her sake and for hygiene's sake.
And a friend of mine pointed out that the RNC probably won't donate the clothes directly to charity—it might make more sense to auction off the clothes and then donate the proceeds.
Richmond, Va.: How does donating the clothes afterward make the inappropraite appropriation by the RNC any better? In some ways it's worse, because the value is lost rather than depecriated over a few years.
Nina Rastogi: If they auction off the clothes, then presumably the value of each piece will increase—you wouldn't just be paying for the apparel itself, but for the history and glamour that comes along with it. Just think how exciting it could be to own THE red blazer Palin wore on Saturday Night Live ... especially if it came with the flag pin!
Houston: "I'm starting to see this more like John Edwards' haircut, a very telling disconnect between the candidate's stated agenda and personal priorities." I still find this a ridiculous assertion many months past the point it mattered. You're assuming that someone who is wealthy cannot honestly want to help poor people. Edwards's spending on haircuts was irrelevant to his policy goals and doesn't tell us anything. Edwards is now irrelevant, but this meme that only a poor person can advocate for the poor needs to be stamped out.
Melinda Henneberger: I'm not saying that only the poor can advocate for the poor. I'm saying that it was very short-sighted of him to expense the haircut to his campaign, knowing it would be made public, knowing that it would undermine his message. It wasn't smart, and it told us something about his judgment and self-indulgence that actually turned out to be pretty important information.
Wilmington, Del.: Do you think there's any chance the GOP will auction off the clothes, then donate the proceeds to charity? $150,000 is such an exorbitant sum, but given how popular Palin is among some groups, I'm wondering if an auction might actually turn a profit.
Melinda Henneberger: I think that's quite likely, actually, and a good solution.
Anonymous: If the clothes are picked to look like they came from Talbots, why didn't they just buy them at Talbots?
Melinda Henneberger: Because sadly for all of us, the fit just is not the same!
Illinois: I am old enough to remember the fuss over Jackie Kennedy's clothes (and I wonder what her clothing total would be in inflation-adjusted dollars). I thought it was dumb then and dumb now. I was thrilled Jackie was so well-dressed. Ditto with Sarah Palin (and the rest of the family, as it included them).
Nina Rastogi: True, but Jackie O never touted her moose-hunting abilities or her small-town ways. She was always an aristocrat, and made no bones about it.
Slatecontributor Melinda Henneberg is author of If They Only Listened To Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians To Hear. Slate columnist Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, N.Y.