Friday, December 5, 2008

The Cost of Looking Electable

Sarah Palin's bills are once again in the news, as the New York Times reports that Palin's hair stylist made $42,000 and her makeup artist was paid $68,000. Add to that $55,000 for a fashion stylist and the now-infamous $150,000 for clothes, and you've got a very expensive vice-presidential candidate.

In general, I think this is a bullshit issue. I don't feel too badly for Palin because when her campaign chose a dishonest, anti-intellectual, faux populist strategy, spending more money her hair than many of the voters she was trying to woo made in a year left her open for a karmic whip.

There hasn't been any double standard here since John Edwards was called out for the cost of his haircuts, but the whole issue's phony because it presumes candidates are just like us, which they're not - certainly during campaigns. They can't easily arrange their campaign schedules around the availability of their stylists' at home; they likely pay their stylists to make themselves available at the candidates' convenience, and that costs more. And they're not making the choice between Supercuts and an Aveda salon; people running for office are likely getting their hair cut by top professionals, who cost more under normal circumstances.

There are ways where they are like us. When we apply for important new jobs, we dress the best we can and if necessary, spend what we realistically can to look like the person our prospective employers would want. They do too, but they can afford more (or get others to afford it for them).

The whole issue is part and parcel with the "Who'd you rather have a beer with?" notion of voting, where the president's just another average chucklehead like us. But he's not, he shouldn't be (as we learned in the last 8 years), and busting him or her for spending more than we would on clothes ignores a host of realities that we ought to deal with and get over.

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