You know what bugs me most about Sarah Palin?
It isn't that John McCain spent weeks claiming Barack Obama was unready to lead, then chose her as his running mate - and potential leader of the Free World - a woman who until six years ago was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population: 5,469.
It isn't that Palin's daughter has been revealed to be pregnant at 17; one can only imagine how hard it must be for the poor kid to see such a difficult and personal challenge play out in national headlines.
No, what's troubling is that in choosing the Alaska governor as his running mate, McCain makes a cynical and demeaning appeal to women upset that Hillary Clinton's presidential bid fell short and that she was snubbed by Barack Obama as his number two. Had McCain chosen a woman of greater experience or higher national profile, he might at least have a fig leaf of deniability to hide behind. In settling on the relatively unknown Palin, he throws even the fig leaf away.
Indeed, lest anyone miss the point, Palin evoked Hillary Clinton's historic run during last week's campaign rollout. Referring to Clinton's oft-quoted line about how her candidacy left 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, Palin said, "It turns out that the women in America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
The notion that Hillary's women will automatically become Sarah's carries the implicit assumption that a woman is a woman is a woman is a woman, that disaffected female supporters of Clinton will flock to Palin because she has the right reproductive organs and never mind that, politically, the two could hardly be less alike. Never mind pro-choice versus pro-life. Never mind Iraq, Iran, gas prices, the mortgage crisis, failing schools. Chromosomes conquer all.
I am reminded of what happened when Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court, stepped down in 1991. President George H.W. Bush nominated another black man, Clarence Thomas, to replace him. Bush, at least, had the decency to claim with a straight face that race had nothing to do with his decision. The McCain campaign, by contrast, can hardly hide its glee at the thought Palin will woo disgruntled women away from the Democrats.
The irony is that the GOP has spent years inveighing against so-called "identity politics." I guess it's only bad when other people do it.
And here, let me admit that I'm not quite sure why Hillary Clinton's female supporters are so disgruntled to begin with. Yes, there is disappointment, even bitterness, in seeing a candidate you believed in defeated. But that's politics.
Yes, too, Clinton faced sexism from media, from voters and even, in a dismissive aside or two, from Obama. But Obama has contended with racism and misdirected Islamophobia from day one and some might argue that McCain is battling ageism even now.
Point being, Clinton was not the only candidate to face unfair challenges. So it's hard to understand this sense one gets from her women supporters that she was not just defeated, but cheated, robbed of something that belonged to her. That doesn't square with any campaign postmortem I've seen. They all say Clinton lost because her team was dysfunctional, disorganized and out-strategized.
Granted, I'm not a woman so maybe I'm missing something. But I believe that if I were a woman, even one who had supported Clinton, I'd still be insulted at this notion that any woman will do, affronted by this attempt to manipulate my hunger for history, and offended that anyone thought me blind enough to miss the obvious:
Namely, that a woman is being objectified here. And her name is not Hillary.