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Published: 10/25/2009

Republican style spree clashes with Palin's visit

BY ROBERTA DE BOER
BLADE COLUMNIST

Sarah Palin yesterday was in Findlay, a city presumably located in her "real" America.

About the same time the would-be Republican veep took the stage, news exploded all over the Internet that Mrs. Palin shops in an unreal America - land of $150,000-plus wardrobes and hair-and-makeup expenses for the candidate and her family.

Doggone it! Accessorizin' Caribou Barbie is pricey!

It was Politico.com which first detailed the expenditures, the cost of which was picked up by the Republican National Committee.

Financial disclosure records show the bills started in early September.

They included approximate payments to such high-end retailers as Neiman Marcus ($75,000); Saks Fifth Avenue ($50,000); Barney's New York ($800); Bloomingdale's ($5,100); Atelier (a tony menswear shop) $4,900, and even the comparatively humble Macy's ($9,500).

Oh, yeah. And something like $4,000 for hair and makeup during September. In any case, after the story broke the campaign was quick to say the clothes would go to charity after the election.

"Palin shopping spree legal?" wondered a headline on abcnews.com, which promptly answered itself: "Yes, but barely: Loophole lets party purchase wardrobe the campaign could not."

Politico.com's review of disclosure records filed by Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee revealed no similar expenditures. Then again, how much time do we spend eyeballing wardrobes of male candidates?

If Hillary was vilified for her unfashionable pantsuits, here we have a female candidate initially scrutinized as a hottie and now being skewered as an expensively dressed hottie.

Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, said it well in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. In a visual society, she said, a candidate needs "strategic spending on visuals, from stage makeup to backdrops to podiums at a flattering height - and yes, costumes."

But absent any such makeovers for either male candidate, she said, "the $150,000 spent at Saks and Neiman's reinforces the unfortunate impression that Governor Palin is merely the conservatives' favorite dress-up doll."

The post-Couric McCain campaign has kept Mrs. Palin away from practically all but the friendliest reporters. Now, though, maybe it's safe for her to take random questions - as long as it's something like a red-carpet moment at the Oscars, where the paps all shout:

"Sarah, over here! Sarah, who are you wearing?"

The ongoing Barbie-fication of John McCain's beauty pageant running mate does say something about the GOP.

But John McCain is more interesting. Here's a guy long known as a political moderate with ready wit and bipartisan spirit. Where did that guy go? Now he's more like the cartoon character Crankshaft - or Faust - than his old self.

The political makeover of John McCain should be more compelling than Sarah Palin's carefully tousled hair, red leather jackets, high-end Japanese eyeglasses, and paint-by-number triangles of peach blush.



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