Straight-shooting Palin hits the target

Tue, Sep 2, 2008, 01:00

GIVE ME A BREAK:Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has life skills we need in the White House - from her experience in the parent teacher association to the beauty pageant

SHE'S A HUNTIN', shootin', fishin' pioneer American gal and a hockey mom to boot. She puts down the BlackBerry just long enough to pick up the breast pump and her youngest child with Down syndrome is as beautiful to her as her other four children. At 44, she's a babe to boot and her husband is a 1,150-mile dog-sledding hunk who is a teacher combined with being a contractor for BP oil - and he plainly adores her. She has it all.

Pro-life, pro-guns, Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin: what's not to love? The moment her candidacy was announced by presidential candidate John McCain - who surely knew that if you want the job done right, pick a busy woman — I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. And I loved it. Palin breaks all the rules.

A former beauty queen, with five kids, the governor of Alaska gets up at 4am to bring kids to hockey, she shoots moose, has a son going to Iraq, wears sexy librarian glasses and vows that while Hillary may have shattered the glass ceiling, she, Sarah, is going to be the one to break through to the top.

"That's really rubbing our faces in it," said a friend.

"Rubbing Hillary's face in it," said another.

"Every other woman is palin' in comparison," we agreed.

As I write, I'm hearing some guy on Todaywith Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio 1 describing the demands of campaigning (as if he knew) and asking: "She has five kids. How's she going to cope?" And I'm reading deprecating columns about her in the US press - written by women who think that Palin's credentials of being a runner-up for Miss Alaska, running the parent teacher association (PTA), being mayor of a town of 6,000 and then governor of Alaska, cannot possibly be enough experience to run a country, should 72-year-old cancer survivor John McCain become incapacitated.

Ladies, sister columnists in the press, have any of you attempted to run a PTA meeting lately? PTA meetings are as hardcore as politics gets. As for beauty pageants - just you try keeping your cool while a dozen other women are trying to scratch your eyes out.

Sarah Palin has life skills that we need in the White House.

The pundits are calling her a Dan Quayle with a beehive and they paint her as the perfect foil to Obama because she shares with him a charisma that means people love listening to her even when they don't say much.

Hmm . . . I think the people we should really be comparing Sarah Palin to are Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama. From the outset, the US presidential campaign has been about women: how they are perceived, how they present themselves. From the moment Hillary Clinton entered the race, women were struggling to identify with her. From the moment Oprah Winfrey celebrated Michelle Obama - "Mrs O" - in O, The Oprah Magazine, another generation of young American women had no problem identifying with Michelle, with her Yale degree and her $300,000-a-year university job. Then Voguemagazine countered by presenting an air-brushed Cindy McCain, who looked as fragile and fake as a desperate housewife after her latest plastic surgery.

It's been a beauty pageant all along - so who better to throw into the race than Ms Congeniality herself, Sarah Palin? Okay, so she's a Christian of some hue who has suggested that creationism be taught in schools, that's a mark against her - but then Obama was in thrall to Rev Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ for 20 years until Wright's views no longer fitted Obama's profile.

If you're looking for true substance, then Sarah Palin is your woman, which is why McCain so cleverly chose her.

A footnote: she's the total opposite of his wife, Cindy - an heiress with so many homes she can't count them. Sarah can't lose count because she has only one house and, while the two women share the same bouffant hairstyle, that's where the similarity ends. Sarah is strong enough to take Cindy's place on the campaign trail, since Cindy is so fragile that her arm was broken by a supporter shaking her hand and has never had the appetite for mixing with the masses. Sarah is strong, charismatic, able to brave minus-10 degree temperatures and still shoot straight at the moose in the distance while lactating.

But the best thing about Sarah is that she's competitive while remaining charming at the same time. She's not like Annie, in Annie Get Your Gun, the prototypical American pioneer woman who hid her power in order to get her man by deliberately losing a shooting contest (like Hillary did by pandering to Bill).

Sarah would never do anything so silly. She'd charm them out of the contest first, but if pushed to follow through she'd shoot and she'd win, baby at her breast.

Ladies, get ready for a new definition of female leadership.

kholmquist@irish-times.ie