Barbiegate™ Pushes GOP Collapse

It isn’t often that you see Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh flailing wildly, flecks of foam forming around their political pottymouths. But in the last 24 hours, that’s exactly what I’ve witnessed.

The Party of Lincoln™ bears about as much resemblance TO Lincoln as a grubworm does to a supernova. It is all topsy-turvy: voter suppression, outrageous lies, character assassination, crimes against the Constitution and the vocal aiding and abetting those same crimes.

Worst, and the very antithesis of Abraham Lincoln: the systematic and organized hatred of any American who does not share their views. Even in the depths of the Civil War, famously, Lincoln did not hate the Southerners in rebellion. And they were killing his friends, family and supporters.

By contrast the current “party of Lincoln” hate you just for differing in your views; dominated, as it is, by Southern crypto-racists, like, say, Rush Limbaugh. The first “Republican” Attorney General under Bush was John Ashcroft, of whom, Norman Solomon wrote:

December 29, 2000

We’ve come a long way in this country since the 19th century — but not so long that an admirer of the Confederacy can’t be nominated to run the Justice Department of the United States. The president of the Confederate government, Jefferson Davis, is a hero to Sen. John Ashcroft, the man selected to become the next attorney general.

Ashcroft told the Southern Partisan quarterly in a 1998 interview: “Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You’ve got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee, [Stonewall] Jackson and Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I’ve got to do more. We’ve all got to stand up and speak in this respect, or else we’ll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.” […]

The GOP less than a year ago (not linked)

Party of Lincoln? Don’t you believe it. As Christopher Buckley said, before the National Review kicked him out, then claimed that they didn’t for endorsing Barack Obama for President:

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

i. Barbiegate

I’m not trying to be cute with my nomenclature: the description is precise. The “hot” governor of Alaska is wardrobed and accessorized (while Rome burns) for the price of a middle class family’s HOUSE.

Introduced in the 1950s Barbie is, in many ways, emblematic of the curse of a “consumer” society. You don’t buy a Barbie doll. You buy the platform on which to KEEP buying Barbie crap until you can’t buy any more: Barbie, Skipper, Ken, Barbie’s Dream House, Malibu Barbie, clothes, shoes, accessories and crap galore. The market in “collectible” Barbies is huge, and these cheap, plastic, molded dolls, boxed and dressed in a thousand “collectors item” ways go for hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Barbie is so ubiquitous that even I own a Barbie — given to all delegates to the 2000 Democratic National convention (make fun of me and I warn you, I will hit you with my purse):

my Barbie doll

Well, then, what is this? This expenditure of $150,000 on Palin’s wardrobe, courtesy of the Republican National Committee?

Put it this way. Reportedly, Michelle Obama went on “The View” with an off-the-rack dress that cost $148. The RNC, therefore, has purchased the equivalent of 1,000 of Michelle Obama’s dresses for Sarah Palin.

That’s one hell of a long way from Tricky Dick Nixon’s claim in the Checkers speech that Pat Nixon wore a “good Republican cloth coat.” And it’s light years away from Joe the Plumber’s life, inauthentic as he turned out to be.

So, “Barbiegate” is EXACTLY what this is, make no mistake.

Let’s start with what women know about that $150,000 spent by the Republican National Committee on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe: There was no way that they could have Palin in her WalMart clothes up on stage next to Cindy McCain in her designer clothes. Women will know what I mean, and it would take too long to explain it men. But, that’s the motivating factor.

Which ought to remind us of the dynamic that’s never spoken, and swept under the rug: Cindy McCain has been a little rich girl all her life. And John McCain hasn’t had to worry about money in a very, very long time. Hell, Cindy’s father gave him a Budweiser distributorship as a wedding present.

So, Cindy wasn’t about to appear in public (invariably in monotone, except for once, that I can tell) in anything less than her designer dresses. And, therefore, Palin must be dressed and accessorized, like a Barbie doll, because Sarah and Cindy were going to be appearing on stages together too often.

Do you GET that this is fundamentally a classist problem?

(In much the same way that McCain doesn’t seems to understand that Americans HATE this war.)

The vanity of the rich requiring the appropriate clothing of the not-so-rich? (Hell, it’s not like John and Cindy couldn’t have ponied up the cash themselves. But, you know, we live in a society in which the wealthy receive welfare and the poor are denied so much as food stamps.)

And don’t forget that the Palin’s are not exactly “middle class.” Even by John McCain’s definition of rich, they’re rich. Millionaires, at least in terms of assets.

But they bill the state of Alaska for their children’s travel, and for Palin residence in her own residence.

You see? Believe it or not, hard working people donate to the Republican party as well, and it was their money that was used to wardrobe a wealthy candidate, because the much wealthier wife of the candidate at the top of the ticket wasn’t about to “dress down” on stage with the less fortunate downticket running mate.

(And how come nobody’s asked why it is that John McCain surrounds himself with Barbie Dolls and skinhead-looking bald guys? Steve Schmidt and Joe the Plumber are less credible than creepy.)

The “spin” is to distract and belittle and do the old false equivalence, as Limbaugh did this morning, adding this howler at one point:

Republicans spend thousands of dollars to get women INTO clothes, but Democrats spend thousands of dollars to get women OUT OF their clothes.

— Rush Limbaugh 9:34 AM PDT 10-23-2008

Which is as hilarious as it is perverse. There are so many tempting rejoinders that I leave them to the Reader. This was after Rush fulminated about “How much do Michelle Obama’s clothes cost?” (If he paid any attention to unfiltered news, he’d have already known) and how much do Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits cost?

And he went off on a long jag about how her DNC pantsuit was pumpkin orange, and a reader e-mailed that the color, according to women’s fashion, was called “shell orange,” and Rush, who hates women and doesn’t have the slightest interest in the whole FemmeTech world of “shell orange” and accessorizing, simply put his listener down — true to form. (See my “The Rush-ians are Coming!Santa Fe Sun, Jan. 1995)

Because women are only useful to this increasingly White, increasingly angry male party AS Barbie dolls. And so Rush was at sea over how to defend a hundred and fifty G’s for glad-rags for the “hottie” governor.

And Pat Buchanan was even worse on Rachel Maddow last night. Maddow wanted to confront him with the scientific NBC/Wall Street Journal polling data that Sarah Palin’s pick was the biggest drag on the McCain ticket: one in three voters polled mentioned it as a negative, while one in four mentioned BUSH as a negative.

Buchanan fulminated, the flecks of foam flying from his mouth, his combover pate glistening in the harsh studio lights: WHY are you giving Joe Biden a pass? He says stupid things! and so on and so forth, using a pretzel logic of specious point-to-point non-sequiturs that it defies my poor powers of language to begin to describe.

Well, it’s the old “If you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with bull****.”

If you haven’t heard this sort of distractive mendacifying before, you have probably been hermetically sealed in a backyard bomb shelter, or cryogenically frozen for the past, oh, couple of decades, and what the heck are you doing reading THIS? You ought to be out familiarizing yourself with TIVO and hands free car cell phones.

No, in a very deep sense, this is Barbiegate, and reveals the depth of the GOP’s contempt for women in a far more profound manner than, well, all the rest of it. Because this really is a signifyer. They can’t get around to having Palin interviewed by NBC News for 55 days, but they can pony up $150,000 for Palin’s clothes, and another $5000 for her husband and her kids.

Middle America “gets” it. Alas, our pundits and our press don’t quite seem to be able to put it in any concrete terms. Here: imagine that the McCain/Palin campaign plane had to store those 1,000 $150 dresses. Would there be any room left for reporters?

Whether any of them “get” it or not, this was the GOP’s “Marie Antoinette” moment, and all the dancing by Limbaugh and Hanutty (sic) is only going to dig it deeper.

Let them wear Versace.

nice outfit! pricey, too, huh?

ii. McCain is melting down

The indicators are everywhere, if you care to look.

John McCain is campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, which he pretty well doesn’t have a chance in hell of carrying, which suggests that the campaign is dithering.

The New York Times Sunday Magazine will note, in “The Making (and Remaking) of McCain“:

By October, the succession of backfiring narratives would compel some to reappraise not only McCain’s chances but also the decisions made by Schmidt, who only a short time ago was hailed as the savior who brought discipline and unrepentant toughness to a listing campaign. “For better or for worse, our campaign has been fought from tactic to tactic,” one senior adviser glumly acknowledged to me in early October, just after Schmidt received authorization from McCain to unleash a new wave of ads attacking Obama’s character. “So this is the new tactic.”

And, Steve Benin notes, in the Washington Monthly’s” Political Animal” blog today:

Yes, that’s right, John McCain is kicking off a “Joe the Plumber” tour. Seriously.

This is terribly odd for a variety of reasons, but the problem that stands out for me is that McCain has chosen a man to be his mascot who doesn’t actually prove McCain’s point. If Joe Wurzelbacher was a small businessman whose taxes would go up under an Obama administration, all of this would make a lot of sense. It’s about attaching a real-life person to a policy point the campaign wants to emphasize. In this case, McCain desperately wants regular folks to think Obama will raise their taxes, reality notwithstanding.

But that’s just it — McCain is exploiting Wurzelbacher for no reason. Under Obama’s tax policy, Wurzelbacher would get a tax cut, not a tax increase.

In the face of polling that indicates the character attacks are boomeranging, that Joe the Plumber is rapidly descending into the political septic tank, and that McCain is in deep trouble, he doubles down on failed strategies.

Or, should I say, ‘tactics’? because the McCain campaign has never really had a “strategy” but, rather, a series of tactics, often contradictory, seldom effective. But listen to this McCain campaign memo from March 12, 2008, to understand just how far it has devolved into monkeys-throwing-feces:

To: Campaign Leadership
From: Rick Davis
Subject: McCain Message
Date: 3/11/2008

John McCain is now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. It is critical, as we prepare to face off with whomever the Democrats select as their nominee, that we all follow John’s lead and run a respectful campaign focused on the issues and values that are important to the American people.

Throughout the primary election we saw John McCain reject the type of politics that degrade our civics, and this will not change as he prepares to run head-to-head against the Democratic nominee.

John McCain will continue to run on his principles and will focus on the future of our country. The stakes could not be higher in this election, and John will contrast his vision for America with that of Senators Clinton and Obama. He will draw sharp contrasts: victory versus surrender to Islamic extremism; lower taxes and spending versus more big government; free-market solutions to health care versus costly mandates; and the appointment of strict constructionist judges versus those who legislate from the bench.

Overheated rhetoric and personal attacks on our opponents distract from the big differences between John McCain’s vision for the future of our nation and the Democrats’. This campaign is about John McCain: his vision, leadership, experience, courage, service to his country and ability to lead as commander in chief from day one.

Throughout his life John McCain has held himself to the highest standards and he will continue to run a respectful campaign based on the issues. We expect that all supporters, surrogates and staff will hold themselves to similarly high standards when they are representing the campaign. To help guide you, please find talking points below.

Now consider today’s Washington Times (the money-losing right-wing Rev. Sun Yung Moon newspaper) interview, with McCain:

Asked whether he thinks he’s getting bad press coverage (the Project for Excellence in Journalism says in a report out today that 57 percent of the stories written about him for the past six weeks have been negative, with just 14 percent positive), he said, “Ah, listen, I’m not going to complain about the press corps.”

But he bristles when asked about whether he is still the “old McCain,” the maverick who wowed the media with his 2000 presidential run, when he bucked the Republican Party establishment, drawing gushing praise from an infatuated media.

“The interesting thing is, and it’s happened on numerous occasions, I get ‘How come you’re not the old McCain?’ and usually it’s an Obama talking point from somebody. And I say, ‘OK, tell me how I’ve changed.’ ‘Well, you changed on taxes.’ I say, ‘Look, I was for tax cuts, I wasn’t for those tax cuts,'” he said, explaining his opposition to Mr. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

“There is no example they can cite that I’m any different, but they want people to believe that I’m different. I understand that, but it’s just baloney. I’m the same guy. … We’re working as hard as we can. You just put one foot ahead of the other for the next 13 days as we have for the past two years,” he said with a laugh.

And anybody WONDERS why the press coverage has been negative? Does it ever occur to these people that their actions might have something to do with coverage? (IOKIYAR evidently means that if Charlie Manson was a Republican, he ought to have had 50% positive press coverage during his trial.)

The simple fact is that during the past six weeks, the McCain campaign has been involved in an endless and vicious cycle of lies, followed by exposés; scandals and coverups, followed by bald-faced lies that “I’ve been completely exonerated” and necessary fact checks, etc. etc. etc.

If the press coverage of John McCain’s campaign had been 57% POSITIVE over that same period, we would either conclude that the media had been on crack cocaine (supplied by the McCain campaign), or else they were being bought out.

To claim that “There is no example they can cite that I’m any different” flies in the face of that campaign memo. Prima fascie: on the face of it.

Back in July, I wrote in “To Mock The Killing Birds” (July 30, 2008):

[McCain campaign chairman Rick] Davis said this in that 2007 Center for Public Integrity interview, too, with unintended irony:

I think people are learning in this campaign process that you do not get any benefit for trying to do the right thing. The measure of the McCain campaign, to me, has a very negative impact on trying to accomplish good for the country. Because that’s basically the campaign he’s running. And he’s not getting any credit for it. And if he goes down, it will be seen as repudiation and playing politics and doing the expedient thing to further your career, and your party’s grip on the country is going to be seen as the norm….

Gee. I hope no reporter quotes THAT back to him in an interview.

The irony gets even worse though. The aformentioned New York Times Magazine piece has not-for-attribution interviews with McCain staffers, already pointing the finger of blame at other campaign staffers, at the candidate, at whomever.

When his media team suggested running ads that highlighted Obama’s connection with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, McCain reminded them that he pledged months earlier not to exploit the matter, and John McCain was not about to go back on his word. In such moments, the man who renounced negative ads during the 2000 campaign because he wanted (as he told his aghast advisers back then) “to run a campaign my daughter can be proud of” has been thoroughly recognizable.But that John McCain had lost. Of the noble but perhaps naïve decision in 2000 to unilaterally take down his attack ads, Rick Davis would vow: “That’s not gonna happen a second time. I mean, the old dog can learn a few new tricks.” And yet on this landscape of new tricks — calling your opponent a liar; allowing your running mate to imply that the opponent might prefer terrorists over Americans — McCain sometimes seemed to be running against not only Barack Obama but an earlier version of himself.

The defections, the backbiting, the inability of the Rightie Blogosmear™ to mount any sort of concerted blogswarm, a la Beauchamp, a la “Move On” and ad rates at the New York Times, has devolved to a strange series of increasingly paranoid and trivial conspiracy theories. Someone named Zombie found a book blurb (they called it a “review) and has now quoted the old Weathermen manifesto Prairie Fire.

Oddly, nobody is buying the whole Ayers argument, even though McCain himself continues to make it, as in the Washington Times interview today (quite a bit of mud spattered by the “respectful” candidate who says he hasn’t changed):

The Republican nominee defended his campaign strategy of targeting Mr. Obama’s ties to former domestic terrorist William Ayers but not to his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Saying the issue of Mr. Wright has been “pretty well-ventilated,” Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama has been slippery on his links to Mr. Ayers. He would not himself say being linked to Mr. Ayers makes Mr. Obama radical.

“The American people can make that judgment, he said, adding, “it’s about full revelation of the relationship.”

“First [he] said it was a guy in the neighborhood, then he said, aw, well, that he knew him, now we find out he wrote blurbs for his book, now we find out that he served on the Woods Foundation board, which, coincidentally, gave ACORN $230,000,” he said, referring to the liberal activist group which has long-standing ties to Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers and is accused of voter-registration fraud in several states.

“Look, it was an extensive relationship — the American people need to know the full extent of it. He’s not being candid and truthful,” the senator from Arizona said….

And the rest of it. The “Straight Talk Express” ought to be sued under “Truth in Advertising” laws. Certainly no claimant apothecary’s magical penile enhancement pill would pass muster having made so many evidentially and demonstrably outrageous claims. There has been nothing “straight” about the Rovian Campaign of McCain, except, perhaps, in the homophobic sense.

The only connection between Abraham Lincoln and the current Republican party, sadly, would be that he was continually subjected to the same sorts of vicious, underhanded, scurrilous, hateful and vile attacks that now form the “Party of Lincoln’s” modus operandi.

But McCain claims to also be a disciple of Goldwater, who actually knew him.

And, perhaps “Mr. Conservative,” the late Senator Barry Goldwater, best summarizes McCain’s campaign — as interpreted via John Dean, who was an intimate of Goldwater from boarding school (where he was Barry Jr.’s roommate) until the Arizona senator’s death:

Although Goldwater initially supported McCain’s run for the Senate, Goldwater knew an opportunist when he saw one, and did not like any of them. We chose not to dwell on the McCain/Goldwater relationship in Pure Goldwater, but we did report how, after assisting McCain win his Senate seat, Goldwater was forced to pull McCain up short for using his good name for fundraising, when McCain had tarnished his own name because of his involvement with the Keating Five. We also included correspondence to shows that McCain is not very good at keeping his word.

To know Goldwater – as we believe those who read his unpublished private journal will – is to understand how different these men are, and to see that McCain is cut from very different cloth than Goldwater. Goldwater considered public service a high calling, not an ego trip or power play. McCain was fortunate that Goldwater never publicly exposed him, but Goldwater was too good a Republican to do that and he thought too highly of McCain’s father to sink his successor in the Senate.

Had Goldwater publicized what I believe to be his true feelings about John McCain, I doubt McCain would be the presumptive nominee of the GOP in 2008. Goldwater’s political perceptions of others have proven extraordinarily prescient, so his reaction toward McCain is telling. (Findlaw)

And Dean noted in the Washington Post:

“Goldwater said privately that McCain was a carpetbagger,”* recalls Nixon White House counsel John Dean, a close family friend of the Goldwaters.”

[* That carpetbagger assessment actually is echoed by McCain himself, in one of the books he “wrote”:

McCain’s own account tells how Goldwater for years distrusted and disliked him, precisely because McCain didn’t share the older politician’s authentic Arizona heritage.

Albeit, in a traditional McCain self-serving manner.]

All of which is merely to note that McCain is probably right when he says he hasn’t changed. We’re just seeing him clearly, now. The old McCain arrogance is on display today. Politico chronicles his first defense of Barbiegate [emphasis added]:

John McCain defended the Republican National Committee’s decision Thursday to spend more than $150,000 dollars on clothing and accessories for running mate Sarah Palin.

“She needed clothes at the time,” McCain told a group of Florida reporters.

The Arizona Republican said that the clothing will be donated to charity and that there was nothing unusual about spending the committee’s money on Palin’s look.

“They’ll be donated at end of this campaign. They’ll be donated to charity,” McCain said.

“It works by her getting some clothes when she was made the nominee of the party and it will be donated back to charity,” he added. “It works that the clothes will be donated to charity. Nothing surprises me.” […]

Increasingly, nothing surprises ME, either — at least as regards the Rovian Campaign of McCain.

There is not even the scintilla of a glimmering of the beginning of a thought that merely because “she needed clothes” $150,000 for a new wardrobe and another $5000 for her husband and kids is COMPLETELY OVER THE TOP. Most middle class families in the United States of America could pay off their mortgage for that amount.

And how many of them are losing their homes EVERY DAY?*

[* CNN, October 23, 2008: 5:01 AM ET

NEW YORK ( — The housing crisis still has a choke hold on America: In September, 81,312 homes were lost to foreclosure, according to a report released Thursday.

RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties, said that 851,000 homes have been repossessed by lenders since August 2007.

In September, 265,968 troubled borrowers received foreclosure filings – such as default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. That’s a decline of 12% from the record high number of filings in August, but 21% more than in September 2007.

All told 765,558 foreclosure filings were made on U.S. properties in the third quarter of this year – up 3% from the second quarter and 71% from the same period last year.

“We have never seen a foreclosure cycle like this one before,” said Rick Sharga, Realty Trac senior vice president….

That’s 2,710 foreclosures A DAY for September, and 8,866 foreclosure filings a DAY.]

The fact that they PROMISE to later donate the clothes to charity is neither a credible excuse, NOR is it even a promise that we can trust. Knowing how the GOP uses 501(c)(3) charities and foundations for political ends, I will predict that the clothes will be donated in some manner that furthers the RNC’s political and ideological agenda.

Worse, if they are lying about that last, lame, portion of the excuse, we can’t know until after the election.

Marie Antoinette accessorizes while Rome burns.

iii. The GOP is melting down

Clearly, this can’t be good news — from Memeorandum — for the Rovian Campaign of McCain:

Certainly the messages are increasingly fragmented and wild — much as the Democrats’ used to be. The coherency and coordination seem to have vanished in the waning weeks of the campaign, as the top rightie bloggers lurch and career all over the map:

Oh, and of course THIS gem (it was the source’s fault. Not the Post‘s for not bothering — Journalism 101 — to confirm):

There’s more, but the point is that while they’re slinging the mud as fast as they can, none of it is sticking. Witness Scott McClellan, Bush’s former Press Secretary:

And, as the New York Times reports, “Wardrobe Mysteries Linger.”

Barbiegate isn’t going to magically disappear.

The anecdotal evidence appears everywhere: the GOP is demoralized and losing coherence (in the sense of “teamwork”) as the old tricks of divide, smear and conquer fail to sway voters sick of eight (28?) years of the tricks, and six weeks of a campaign that seemingly lost its rudder a long time ago.

And the increasingly desperate, shrill, over-the-top screeching probably isn’t going to win anyone over to their side. They suffer from an extreme Aesop deficiency, seemingly — we know that they never read “The Little Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf!‘*” from their misplaced attempt to run all of this mud back in the spring and summer (which is WHY it isn’t sticking).

[* MORAL: Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth.]

But they don’t seem to have read Aesop’s “The North Wind and the Sun” either.

The story concerns a competition between the North Wind and the Sun to decide who was the stronger of the two. The challenge was set to make a passing traveler uncloak. However hard the North Wind blew at the traveler, the traveler only wrapped himself tighter. But when the Sun shone with warmth, the traveler was overcome with heat and had to take his cloak off. The moral was stated at the end of the fable as:

Persuasion is better than force. The complete moral of this is “Kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win where force fails.”

Abraham Lincoln knew that. His entire life is a testament to that knowledge.

Of course, when you’ve got $150,000 worth of new clothes, who would want to take them off?

Even to eat some cake.



crossposted from his vorpal sword

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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