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« Loves the camera | Main | LNC »

Nov 17, 2009


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Roger Greene

""Let's admit that Sarah Palin is more attractive—some might even want to say more appealing—than much of her enraged core constituency." Let me see, critics from the party of Bella Abzug, Barbara Mikulsky, Nancy Pelose, (sp?) and Hillary trying to go there. They trot out ugly women so people will think they're smart. So there.

A. Bulluck

Why do you fear women?

My iPhone

Worst. Cover Choice. Evah.
That photo shouldn't even be a choice. It is half baked at best. Her people should
have been able to kill it before it went out.
It's not news, it's PR.


Sexist or not, it's OLD. This photo was featured in a series in Runners World in August. RW even has a disclaimer up now that they did not provide the photo to Newsweek but that "it was provided to Newsweek by the photographer's stock agency" without permission. Here's the link:

What, Newsweek too broke to pony up for an original shot?


A pic of Sarah running in those same clothes wouldn't be sexist (although I think it'd be a strange cover-photo for a pol). Posing in a 'sexy' position - is it sexist if she poses that way? All in all, I'm sure they could have gotten a different photo of Ms. Palin, but trotting out other women as "ugly" is absurd - that's the sexist part of this discussion. Women do not have to be pretty, thin, or made up to be admirable, smart or successful/effective and it seems that your discussion is going to that ugly place.


Looks like the photo accomplished exacly what they hoped it would. We're talking about it.


she still has the "righteous war" baggage under her eyes. She advertised the war as a task from god. as far as holy wars go, i hope god has a sense of humor and grades on a curve.


Pandagon has an interesting take on this.

"The problem with crying “sexism” about Newsweek’s use of this picture is that it’s photo she took for calculated appeal being used to show her calculated political appeal."

Ed Cone

Pandagon is addressing the specific issue I tried to raise at the bottom of the post.


The reason offered by Newsweek to explain why they ran the photo is more noteworthy than the photo itself because it demonstrates very clearly that Newsweek is not an objective news source and has contempt for a large segment of the population. Maybe someone should remind Jon Meacham that the segment he is trashing is twice as large as the one he is a part of and that just because he and others on the Left label Palin an "extremist" (without offering an explanation as to why her views should be considered "extreme") doesn't make it so.

Newsweek is the entity that can no longer be taken seriously, not Palin.


First, let's kill all the journalists!

Ed Cone

There's little pretense of objectivity in the package. Hitchens even refers to his "not-all-that-humble opinion."

And Meacham, in announcing the "new" Newsweek earlier this year, wrote that it would feature "the reported narrative" and "the argued essay," adding, "What is displaced by these categories? The chief casualty is the straightforward news piece."

So, yeah, it's got a point of view, and the point of view is explicitly hostile to Palin.

The question: is it sexist to use visuals that play up a woman's physical attractiveness when the point of the article is that she's all about image, including physical attractiveness?

Andrew Brod

It's not a sexist cover because sex is precisely what Palin is selling. It ain't her brains.

I'll go with TNR's Michelle Cottle on this: "Palin is a national political phenom in large part because she is a certain type of man's fantasy of a go-getter gal: Sassy, pretty, and slightly flirtatious, with a professed love of firearms and sports and a distaste for those icky ol' traditional chick issues that feminists so tiresomely gripe about."


>> ... is it sexist to use visuals that play up a woman's physical attractiveness when the point of the article is that she's all about image, including physical attractiveness?

No, no more than it is sexist to run a photo of Mariah Carey or Angelina Jolie in full pose. Posing doesn't happen by accident. People pose for photos playing up their physical attractiveness because that is exactly what they want to do. Palin's appeal is much the same as that of the celebs-of-the-moment that turn up on shows like Entertainment Tonight, etc. I.e., an appeal rooted entirely in image.

If the pic was for a running magazine, Palin could have chosen to pose in a a baggy running suit. She's an Alaskan, so I suppose she wears that more often than the shorts.

The decision to pose for the photo highlights the lack of political acumen that characterizes Palin. You have no certain control over a photo's use once it's taken, so the only way to influence the public use of your images is to exert control on the kind of photos that are, in fact, taken.


Mr. Obama was all about image too, and Newsweek has certainly done its share in advancing him. I have yet to see Stalin-like posters of Palin being sold.

But Newsweek would love to sell the idea that Palin is nothing but image. A better question would be to ask why they believe that to be the case. Instead, what comes across to me in the broader analysis of this particular Palin theme is the jealousy of some wonkish women who can't accept the fact that the homecoming queen might have more going for her than good looks, and goofy male nerds who could never get a date with her. Both feel that she is encroaching on their territory- the prize of power- reserved for those who may not look that good but work hard to make up for it.

I seem to recall quite a bit of swooning over Bill Clinton by liberal women too ("He could have had a movie star, but he chose one of us instead"). Maybe that's why Hillary is so idolized by these women- she's the nerd who bagged the quarterback.

There is no question that Palin's looks have helped her politically, but that is a double edged (double standard) sword as the Newsweek piece illustrates. There are many jealous and angry people out there who are willing to dismiss her successes as solely the product of being attractive. So is it sexist? Yeah, it's a qualified sexism though. It's one that whispers to its female readers "don't get pissed off, we hate her as much as you do and you know we would never do this to someone on our side."


Can you imagine that in "almost 2010," we're seeing the media genuflect to someone who is trying to run either the country or the political discourse from a Facebook page?

Roger Greene

Excellent Spag.

Ishmael wrote, "First, let's kill all the journalists!" I thought someone already did.

Brandon Burgess

"Palin is a national political phenom in large part because she is a certain type of man's fantasy..."

--Right and those who don't agree with Obama do so because he is a black man with power. By the way, I'm not a Palin supporter.


... Newsweek would love to sell the idea that Palin is nothing but image.

How do you know that? Evidence? Or, is it that you asume any point of view different from yours must, by definition, be unprincipled?

...Newsweek would love to sell the idea that Palin is nothing but image. A better question would be to ask why they believe that to be the case.

Because she's vacuous, manipulative, shallow, and ill-educated? Because she's almost always wrong?

Palin lies when she argues she believes in the Constitution and America. What she believes in is a country populated by and run for the advantage of people just like her. She thinks she's special because she's a white evagelical.


Funny...I thought her success was that she was picked from obscurity by John McCain. Or does getting picked to run for VP qualify as a success? Guess, I'm trying to figure our just what she has been so successful at...

greensboro transplant

I wonder what it says about the left that they save their most vicious attacks for members of groups they think they own. For example, Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin, Condoleeza Rice, etc.

As far as being the GOP's candidate goes, Palin ain't got a shot. She's fun. She's vivacious, but she doesn't have a prayer.

Andrew Brod

GT's claim about groups the left thinks it owns is revealing. Has the left savaged Thomas and Palin? Definitely. But it didn't attack Condie Rice in the same way. Sure, the left opposed Rice's foreign policy, but that opposition was nothing like the hatred exhibited toward Thomas and Palin. By including Rice in this short pantheon, GT shows that he/she has missed the broader point. It's not about groups. It's about competence.

Rice is obviously a talented person, however right or wrong she was about foreign policy. In constrast, Thomas is a satire on affirmative action, chosen by the Republicans from a pool of conservative attorneys solely because of the color of his skin. Palin cleverly invokes the allegedly liberal bogeyman ism of sexism whenever her inadequacies are noted. Neither Thomas nor Palin has impressed anyone who wasn't in the same partisan camp. Rice is a different story altogether, even though she's in a group the left thinks it owns.

Spag's comparison of Palin and Obama is similarly laughable. It's perfectly reasonable to disagree with Obama, but it's ludicrous to put him in the same intellectual boat as Palin.

Back to GT's claim. The irony here is that while the right accuses the left of hyper-awareness of race, class, gender, etc., it's actually the right which is fixated on such issues.


JC, I think that is what Ed said when he wrote: "...when the point of the article is that she's all about image." Perhaps you should ask him whether he believes that "any point of view different from yours must, by definition, be unprincipled."

Other than that, you make some really great points in favor of your argument that should settle the debate once and for all.

Andrew, Obama is brilliant. So brilliant that he requires a teleprompter and so far has accomplished what? Jimmy Carter was very smart, too. Of course, that wasn't really the issue. The issue is how much of the hype is image. So far, Obama's image has carried him much farther than his abilities. In fact, his image is the only thing keeping his poll numbers hovering at the 50% mark.

greensboro transplant

the hit dog always hollers.

i'll concede that rice wasn't as vilified as the others. but neither was she celebrated by the dems/press the way she would have been if she had been the first african-american woman to hold the position. just another facet of the same belief system.

obama appears to be an intelligent man. he is no doubt a strong leader and is charismatic. But, can andrew or others point to any writings or accomplishments that demonstrate the genius that's attributed to him?

the left always talks about how intelligent their idols are. but they never talk about their wisdom. i haven't seen obama demonstrate a shred of wisdom.

greensboro transplant

meant to say that rice was not celebrated the way she's been if she had been a dem.


GT - I didn't vote for a genius. I voted for someone who would actually pay attention and carefully consider the main issues of our day not based on ideology like the previous president, but on the facts before him.

Spag - what did Bush accomplish in his first 10 months in office? Just curious as to why that is the measuring stick for Obama.


Glenwood, you are going off topic. Perhaps a better topical question would be "what is the measuring stick for Sarah Palin?"

Ed Cone

Newsweek doesn't think much of Palin, and they make that clear.

Which leads us to the cover photo question.

If it was a straight profile, the photo would be weird and objectionable in this context.

But that's not what's on the pages.

The magazine says Palin is all about image, to the point of "duping the hicks."

So they went with a shot that was all about image.

We all have opinions about Palin herself, but those opinions don't necessarily define this issue.

For example, the first link is to a site that's very unfriendly to Palin, which objects to the photo.


Sorry, spag, but from your comment: Obama is brilliant. So brilliant that he requires a teleprompter and so far has accomplished what?
You were asking what Obama has accomplished and my question is what sort of measuring stick 10 months is...seems on topic to me, or if not, then it was you that went off topic.


The point was what it means to be "all about image". Many people believe that Mr. Obama is "all about image". That assertion was countered by a claim that he was more substantive than that. Which drew the response from me "how so?" Which comes back to the original point, what does it mean to be "all about image" and who decides what the image is?


"neither was she celebrated by the dems/press the way she would have been if she had been the first african-american woman to hold the position." -- GT

Wasn't she? I think you just underscored AB's point, that if the "left" were all about groups, they would have indeed celebrated Condi Rice. That they didn't should tell you that policy and agenda are more important.


I agree Roch. Pandering to groups and selective praising/outrage are merely tactics to advance that policy and agenda. Insincere and ultimately destructive, but often effective. For a while anyway.


If not for 9/11, Bush would have been a one-term president. He wasn't setting the world on fire otherwise.

To claim Palin has accomplishments on a par with Obama, one would need to find legitimate parallels to Harvard law and the law review, teaching con law, serving as Senator from a that actually has people and isn't subsidized by the oil cartel, beating the Clinton machine, raising several hundred millions in campaign money, and being elected president.

Previous accomplishments are not a valid indicator of presidential success, or even election. What had Lincoln accomplished before his election?

Hostility toward Palin derives from her demonstrated incomptence, her lack of knowledge about and interest in the world around her, and her insistence on leveraging her physical appearance yet attacking anyone who points it out.


"Previous accomplishments are not a valid indicator of presidential success, or even election. What had Lincoln accomplished before his election?"

You answer part of the question right there. For some reason though, you are unable to apply that standard to Palin.

The last paragraph is nothing more than unsubstantiated venting. "Demonstrated incompetence" for example. If it has been demonstrated, you should have no problem pointing it out. I also don't recall her "leveraging her physical appearance" beyond putting on makeup and allowing herself to be photographed as all female politicians do. Perhaps its time for you to let your high school hang ups go.

Ed Cone

"I also don't recall her 'leveraging her physical appearance' beyond putting on makeup and allowing herself to be photographed as all female politicians do."

Other than the cover image under discussion, of course.


Which was taken from a fitness article in a fitness magazine where one might expect someone to be dressed in fitness clothing.

Ed Cone

Yes, the origin of the photo has been discussed.

But now we know that the pose and the outfit are nothing beyond putting on makeup and allowing herself to be photographed as all female politicians do, well, controversy over!

Media Matters will be so relieved.


That isn't HER fault, that's Newsweek's who took a photo (without authorization of Palin or the owner) from a completely contextual article in another magazine and tried to pass it off as something else. There was nothing unusual at all about such a layout in a fitness magazine. Hardly an act of Palin "insisting on leveraging her appearance".

I get the impression that some believe that because she is an attractive woman, unless she plays down her looks she is necessarily playing them up. To me that's pretty sexist and sounds like the high school-ish envy of the not-so-attractive girls intent on leveling the playing field. I mean really, how dare she look so good in her running attire? The next thing you know, she might even dress up for an inaugural ball or something and allow the press to take pictures.

Get back to me when she does Playboy, then you might have a point.


I'm not worried about Palin running in 2012. The Republicans will destroy her simply because she is a woman who is seeking the presidency. The GOP is still a white male party.

Andrew Brod

I love it when men invoke sexism by denigrating "the not-so-attractive girls." Talk about being unclear on the concept.


Who cares about whether Palin has smarts or not? The last thing hard-core Republicans want is someone who has ambitions of actually leading. They want the person to be LED, by big business, by the religious right, by the top 1% (which Palin has huge ambitions to join) and by the military. Palin fits this requirement to a T.
Ever since the Nixon/Kennedy debates it has been established that a candidate be photogenic and possess a quality of being "popular" with peers (it is not what you know it is who you know) as well as being charming enough to disarm hard questions. Sarah Palin's supporters are working hard to squeeze her into that box and promote the heck out of her right to the 2012 elections. It is certain she will run and we can be assured that every dirty trick ever invented will be used against her opponents.


Sam, you are not arguing that context is important, are you?


Roch, context is always important. But there is something such as objective context (i.e., a runner's magazine might contain images of runners in runners clothing), and then there is Roch Smith Jr. context which is whatever Roch's subjective characterization of something is, that is the only context there is. As applied to this case, that might look something like this: The only reason Palin dressed like that is to sell sex to her fat, white, redneck male following. Of course, if Michelle Obama ever does such a spread, it will be because it's a runner's magazine that contains images of runners in runners clothing, and Sam you are a moron for not seeing the difference.

Ed Cone

Seems to me there are a couple of arguments getting confused here.

One: does Sarah Palin market herself, in part, on her attractive image?

Two: If so, is that a bad thing?

As another commenter pointed out, the particular clothing and pose for that runner's mag photo were not the only ways she could have gone. I'd say it provides a quick "yes" to question one.

This is just one part of the image she sells, along with the snow machines and plain speech and so on (and selling image is nothing new, it's as American as log cabins and brush-clearing etc etc).

The more interesting question is the second one.

We've seen Obama coming out of the surf in his swim trunks. JFK was hunky. Again, etc. Is it bad for women pols to play that game?


Why is image = sexual for women when Obama's swimming picture was shot by a photog who amazingly got that close?

When Palin poses in an alluring pose for a running mag, then she's marketing herself as a "good looking" woman runner, not a woman running for exercise. If she wants to market her 'prettiness,' then that's fine as long as she doesn't deny that's what she's doing as if it were a bad thing. Hillary Clinton was editorialized harshly for wearing a blouse that someone thought showed off her cleavage too much; pretty stunning compared to the above photo, you think? (But that's Hillary, so it's ok, right?)

Palin presents herself a brutalized, discriminated against, misunderstood, and controlled-by-McCain staffers woman pol. I don't want to vote for "women pols." I will vote for people who are educated, intelligent, smart and make careful considered choices for what eventually will affect me and lots of other Americans. If her style resonates with some folks, that's fine, but to me, she doesn't have the cred or resume (Wasilla-half-term-Alaska) to be President of the U.S. and her record of finishing what she starts is lacking. She's marketing the only thing she has.

  Jon A Firebaugh

First of all, if you've ever been to a photo shoot. The model doesn't control the poses. Secondly, all politicians use their appearance for self-promotion(John Edwards $400 haircuts).

The real issue here is Newsweek's shameless pirating of the image to create the sense that Sarah Palin is using sex appeal for self-promotion. Since they got the photograph from the photographers stock agency, they may have a legal right to use it, but it shows how unethically Newsweek operates, as Runners World did not give permission for the use of the photo.

Now why would Newsweek puts Sarah Palin on the cover, with the caption "She's bad news for the GOP and everyone else, too"?
Fear. If they really believed that she was dead in the water, they wouldn't continue to try to marginalize her.

I find it interesting that this woman who was elected Mayor, Governor, and ran for Vice President, has become such a lightning rod, and characterized in posts here as unintelligent.

Dumb like a fox!

Ed Cone

"The model doesn't control the poses."

I'm guessing that Palin and her handlers had pretty much control, even when faced with the awesome power of...Runner's World.

And as I said in the post, I just don't get the "she's criticized because people fear her" meme. I agree she gets too much coverage, but I'm pretty sure most pols and strategists would love to run against her. A real cynic would argue that's the reason she gets so much press...


" she's marketing herself as a "good looking" woman runner, not a woman running for exercise."
As opposed to an "unattractive" woman runner, Sue? Did you ever actually look at the other photos in the original Runners World article?

Your argument comes down to "how dare she smile and try to look good in that article". Because we all know Sue, that the average woman in America would NEVER want to look her best in an article published across the globe.

Give me a break. Your hatred of her is blinding your logic.

Ed Cone

Of course any person, especially any politician, is going to want to look their best in a magazine photo.

The question is, what defines "best" for a woman politician?

Traditionally, even in a runner's mag, many female politicians would have opted for sweats/track suit instead of those shorts, etc. "Best" meant careful and staid and sometimes almost asexual.

Palin comes from a more casual place, literally and figuratively, than much of the country. She's younger than many national-stage pols, which not only speaks to attractiveness but to a generational attitude, which is more casual, too.

So, again, I think it's pretty clear that she's marketing youth, vitality, and attractiveness in that photo.

That leads back to the original question: was it appropriate for Newsweek to use this image-conscious photo to illustrate its argument that Palin markets a particular image?

Brandon Burgess

That's right, and Pelosi's plastic surgery only serves to make her a better leader. See how that works?

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