Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It Kind of Makes You Nostalgic for a $400 Haircut, Doesn't It?

Oh, those pesky expenditure records! After spending countless hours ragging on John Edwards' $400 haircut when Edwards running in the Democratic primaries, the Republican National Committee was forced to confess that they have shelled out over $150,000 for Sarah Palin's clothing, cosmetics and accessories. As the stock market was crashing and Americans from coast to coast were fretting about buying groceries and paying their mortgages, Governor Palin was being sent on shopping sprees to Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The breakdown on all this is that, while talking (or should I say, "talkin'") about being a regular, small-town hockey mom, and invoking her folksy "Joe-Six-Pack" imagery, Palin was spending nearly $2,500 a day on swanky clothing and costume jewelry from high-end department stores. As a former hockey mom, I can assure you that this is not the norm.

RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt thinks it's all much ado about nothing. The the GOP originally refused comment on the disclosure, the controversy generated on the Internet and on news programs like Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Hardball with Chris Matthews, they were forced to speak on the topic a little more clearly. Schmitt said this morning:
"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses. It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."
Schmitt makes a good point. Is this story any more newsworthy than John Edwards' haircuts? Well, I would argue that it is, and for the same reason Republicans said Edwards' coiffure was news. It speaks to judgement. It speaks to what people say, versus what they actually do. While taking up the gauntlet in his war on poverty, Edwards was getting highlights and trims that cost $400. It doesn't look good.

By the same token, while criss-crossing the country, dropping her g's and hurling her "you betchas", Palin has been costing the campaign more per week on clothes than most families of four see in a month. The McCain campaign and the RNC are both having a difficult time these days with fundraising and financing, and Republicans who've contributed large amounts of money to the campaign, thinking that they were buying air-time or funding rallies, now discover that they're buying Prada and Chanel. As the final days of the campaign come to a close, television and radio ads are critical, especially when reaching out to undecided voters who live in key battleground states.

Regardless of any plan to donate the clothing to charity after the campaign (and we're holding them to that, as pointless and idiotic as the offer is), the money wasn't spent on what I'm sure Republican donors were being told it would be spent on. That money is gone now, and it isn't coming back. So, now the RNC has to go out and stump for dollars, while trying to reassure big-money donors that the cash won't go to Palin's make-up, hair color or handbags. Furthermore, on-the-fence voters trying to decide which candidate to vote for might not be thrilled that the RNC is willing to spend six figures on Palin's clothes while promising to tax their health care benefits. So it is important in that respect.

Oh, and, one more little thing. John Edwards may have gotten $400 haircuts at campaign expense, but he eventually reimbursed the money for all those expenses. How much of the $150,000 will Sarah Palin reimburse to the RNC?


Note: This post was corrected to reflect that the criticism of Edwards' haircut expenditures took place during the primaries last year. It only SEEMS like this has all been going on for four years. (Jesus, I'm tired.)

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