The silliness of the Saks scandal

posted at 2:10 pm on October 22, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Apparently, spending money on Sarah Palin’s outfits has become the latest kerfuffle on both sides of the aisle.  The RNC spent around $150,000 in September on wardrobe and beauty supplies for its VP nominee in places like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.  This has supposedly threatened Palin’s middle-class appeal and brought into question the GOP’s spending strategy for the campaign:

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

Does this violate FEC regulations?  Only if Palin intended on keeping the clothes — which she doesn’t.  The RNC made clear that the outfits will go to charitable donations, and one might imagine that they could generate some hefty bids if placed for auction after the election.  She won’t keep any of it, unless she buys it back from the RNC.

Mark Tapscott speaks for some on the Right who see this as a betrayal of middle-class values:

Every time I think the campaign professionals at the Republican National Committee can’t possibly do anything else to sink the party, they do something else that simply defies logical explanation. Like taking a candidate who epitomizes Middle American values and spending $150,000 to dress her up in Saks Fifth Avenue finery.

Apparently, they just couldn’t stand the thought of a GOP candidate for vice president actually wearing the same clothes on the campaign trail that she wears in real life. No, they had to go make her look like … one of them.

I think this is a bit overwrought.  Everyone knew Palin would be in the media microscope, her every move undergoing scrutiny.  Thanks to a ridiculous double standard, women who don’t dress well don’t get common-man brownie points — they get pilloried.  Ask Katherine Harris what the press did to her after the 2000 election, ridiculing her make-up, hair, and clothing as a means of political crucifixion.  The RNC understood the reality of the media environment and acted accordingly.  (For that matter, take a look at what the media did to Hillary Clinton or to John Roberts’ children in the past on their clothing.)

Dressing nicely or shopping at Saks or Neiman-Marcus does not disqualify someone from the middle class.  Professionals do not shop for their work wardrobes at Target or Wal-Mart, not even those from the middle class.  Having sold clothing for a time myself, I understand the need to look one’s best when making a new impression, and a Sears pantsuit won’t work on the national-election level.  With the Tanning Bed Media lying in wait for Palin, she needed to make the best impression possible.

Was this a good use of funds for the RNC?  They have had more than a $100 million on hand between the campaign and the RNC in September.  They spent around 0.15% of that on Palin’s wardrobe.  It’s less than they’d pay for a single network-TV spot, and they’ll get more use out of it.

Jazz Shaw, no Palin apologist, is left scratching his head:

People spend what the can afford to spend on clothing. Personally, I tend to wait for a good sale from Joseph A. Banks when you can get a very nice men’s suit for two hundred dollars. But that’s because I’m not exactly made of money. Were I some sort of high powered CEO with a seven figure income, I’m sure that my suits would cost five grand and I’d have some Armani in the closet.

I have no idea what Sarah Palin spent on clothes when she was the Mayor of Wasilla, but now she is in the public spotlight and running for Vice President. She also strikes me as an attractive woman who cares about her appearance and probably likes to dress and look her best. The campaign obviously wants her to look her best for the media and is spending accordingly. They can afford to do it, so why wouldn’t they?

Exactly.  We have much more to discuss than the working-class implications of buying an appropriate wardrobe for the job at hand.  Middle-class values don’t start or end at the closet door.


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How much is it costing to keep Michelle Obama gagged in that hotel?

HornetSting on October 22, 2008 at 3:17 PM

This is once again an attempt to belittle Governor Palin by bringing up her appearance. Now they’re floating around a picture of Piper to show that she’s carrying a designer handbag.

I thought you were supposed to dress for the job you’re trying to get, and look like you respect the position. I think she’s doing a fine job of it.

thevastlane on October 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Oh, ignore that. Remember, O! has declared that families are off-limits. I think that was after all of the negative stories about Obama’s kids in… oh.

Wait.

Never mind.

Y-not on October 22, 2008 at 3:17 PM

Pants suits were good enough for Shrillary, why shouldn’t they be good enough for the ‘Cuda. In fact, they should be home-made pants suits………out of moose hide…….with an antler bone necklace.

Mallard T. Drake on October 22, 2008 at 3:17 PM

Palin’s clothing allowance would pay for 3 Michelle Obama lobster lunches.

bopbottle on October 22, 2008 at 3:21 PM

They don’t have to spend this on the other politicians because the other pols have been making 6 figure salaries for year and regularly shop at these place.

If she weren’t wearing nice tailored clothes, they would mock her for her ‘kmart wardrobe’. [o/t:It makes me think of Zoolander where the model-dominatrix kept insulting the reporter by calling her "K-mart". After kicking her butt, the reporter said, "And another thing. It's Sear's Cheryl Ladd collection....and I bought it on sale!".]

I’ve donate to the RNC this year ONLY because Palin was in the competition. If they want to take some of that money and buy her a ‘performance wardrobe’, I couldn’t care less.

Out of curiosity, what size do you think the Governor wears? Is she anywhere near 5’2″ and a size 2? If she is and they auction the clothes off, I’d totally love one….it would be my suit of presidential power and it would be imbued with liberal slaying magic. ;)

JadeNYU on October 22, 2008 at 3:22 PM

BFD…all of it.

‘Cuda needs to look hot to offset the enormous caboose of Michelle Obama.

Wyznowski on October 22, 2008 at 3:27 PM

Just to repeat what others have said, but it only makes a stronger case for “Sarah the Normal” that she needed a Fairy Godmother to dress her up for the ball, unlike Step-mama Michelle, whose hardest decsion was which of her $20,000 outfits to pull out of the wardrobe for her husband’s acceptance speech.

FalseProfit on October 22, 2008 at 3:28 PM

Reading through the comments some people either don’t get it or are shilling for the other side. The clothes do not belong to Palin. They belong to the RNC who will donate them to charity who will auction them off and make more than the clothes cost.

Blake on October 22, 2008 at 3:32 PM

This is once again an attempt to belittle Governor Palin by bringing up her appearance. Now they’re floating around a picture of Piper to show that she’s carrying a designer handbag.

thevastlane on October 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Gee, was it a Prada bag? I remember seeing a photo of Obama’s girls on their way to school earlier this year, and they were carrying Prada bookbags — which some poster pointed out as a very pricey designer bag. Then there’s Michelle Obama and her $450-600 a pair Jimmy Choo designer shoes, of which she reportedly has a large collection — which undoubtedly goes nicely with the large collection of diamond jewelry that she’s also reported to own. And people are upset that the Republicans spent some money to buy Sarah Palin some nice outfits to use on the campaign trail, outfits that she can’t even keep? What a bunch of nonsense.

AZCoyote on October 22, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Palin’s clothing allowance would pay for 3 Michelle Obama lobster lunches….

that never actually happened.

Right.

Grow Fins on October 22, 2008 at 3:40 PM

AZCoyote on October 22, 2008 at 3:37 PM

I guess it’s at HuffPo. Not sure what brand it is. Looked to me like she was carrying Mom’s purse, but whatever.

thevastlane on October 22, 2008 at 3:42 PM

They belong to the RNC who will donate them to charity who will auction them off and make more than the clothes cost.

The RNC only announced they would go to charity after this became a campaign issue. Like it or not, this appears to be a case of double standards and hypocrisy–Ms Middle America Hockey Mom wearing Saks Fifth Avenue finery–seventy grands worth–while still touting herself as plain ole’ Middle American Hockey Mom.

Grow Fins on October 22, 2008 at 3:43 PM

As a conservative woman I’m glad I FINALLY found out where she got her AMAZING wardrobe…too bad it’s not in a chic, classy magazine spread, but I know that’s asking waaaay too much.

ocbrat on October 22, 2008 at 2:38 PM

I was dying to find out where Gov. Palin shops, too. It’s a relief to see a woman in politics who dresses with such femininity and style, especially after Sen. Clinton’s ubiquitous pant suits. Yikes! Just hope they have some good sales at Saks and Bergdorfs, because the retail price is too steep for me. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Mulligan on October 22, 2008 at 3:45 PM

Grow Fins on October 22, 2008 at 3:40 PM

So? Who would care if she did anyway? The Obamas are millionaires. If they want expensive dinners or lunches, then they should have it. We’re not the ones who believe in “spreading the wealth.”

Esthier on October 22, 2008 at 3:48 PM

Oops, I mean Neiman Marcus, not Bergdorfs.

Mulligan on October 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM

The RNC only announced they would go to charity after this became a campaign issue. Like it or not, this appears to be a case of double standards and hypocrisy–Ms Middle America Hockey Mom wearing Saks Fifth Avenue finery–seventy grands worth–while still touting herself as plain ole’ Middle American Hockey Mom.

Grow Fins on October 22, 2008 at 3:43 PM

Maybe the charity idea is new (just because they didn’t make the idea public, it doesn’t mean they hadn’t already planned on doing just that), but it is true that Palin can’t keep the clothes. That’s just a fact. They obviously had some kind of plan.

And since they’re not her clothes, it does nothing to tarnish her image. She didn’t buy them. She’s only wearing them the way people wear costumes on Halloween.

Just because I dressed up as my husband last year, that doesn’t actually make me a full bearded man. It did, however, make me a brunette for almost a year, but I’ve since learned my lesson on hair dye.

Besides, John Edwards with his mansion of a house and millions of dollars kept claiming he was one of the people despite actually personally being extremely wealthy. The Palins barely break into the last tax bracket. If he can claim it, then so can they.

Esthier on October 22, 2008 at 3:54 PM

The RNC only announced they would go to charity after this became a campaign issue. Like it or not, this appears to be a case of double standards and hypocrisy–Ms Middle America Hockey Mom wearing Saks Fifth Avenue finery–seventy grands worth–while still touting herself as plain ole’ Middle American Hockey Mom.

Grow Fins on October 22, 2008 at 3:43 PM

How is she “selling herself” as a middle America Hockey Mom when she truly does have a middle class income and truly is/was a hockey mom? She did mention that she moved on to become the Governor, right? What exactly should she be wearing in your expert opinion? Or wait, I suppose you think she should just be at home in sweats taking care of her children.

thevastlane on October 22, 2008 at 3:56 PM

The RNC only announced they would go to charity after this became a campaign issue. Like it or not, this appears to be a case of double standards and hypocrisy–Ms Middle America Hockey Mom wearing Saks Fifth Avenue finery–seventy grands worth–while still touting herself as plain ole’ Middle American Hockey Mom.

Grow Fins on October 22, 2008 at 3:43 PM

You forgot to put /sarc at the end of your post.

jewells45 on October 22, 2008 at 3:57 PM

Good heavens. Keep your narratives straight. Is she a grubby hick in desperate need of a bath and a clean set of clothes, or is she an Emelda Marcos clone that’s spent her life draped in Saks?

She has a middle class image because she is middle class. She’s normal.

spmat on October 22, 2008 at 4:00 PM

BTW, notice Joe the Plumbers suit? Who paid for that…those little rascals, dressing up all those average Americans. Imagine, giving the middle class a hand-out…

right2bright on October 22, 2008 at 4:00 PM

“THE LEFT: WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE F*CK WE’RE TALKING ABOUT”

Metro on October 22, 2008 at 4:07 PM

I have shopped at Saks for years and I am not wealthy. Saks carries lines like Jones New York, Donna Karan, and Ellen Tracy that are not high-end designer labels, though you can still easily spend $500-$1000 on a decent suit from those lines. They carry the same stuff you find at Macy’s or Nordstrom.

Neiman Marcus I don’t get, unless she was in a city where that is the only store around. My late uncle from Dallas used to call it Needless Markup. Very snobby store.

Governor Palin appeared in Vogue, for crying out loud. She’s a former beauty queen. So what if she is a bit of a clothes horse? It’s a pretty minor deal if you ask me.

rockmom on October 22, 2008 at 4:08 PM

I really don’t have a problem with Palin dressed up in nice apparel. What I do have a problem is the double standard held by conservatives. When John Edwards gets a $200 haircut he is a wasteful vain pretty boy. But when Palin gets thousands of dollars in free apparel it just necessary attire for the job.

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:08 PM

By the way, I know lots of middle class women who are clothes horses and spend a fortune on clothes and handbags and jewelry. My ex-sister-in-law is a secretary, and lives in a tiny house that has holes in the walls and 20-year-old beat up furniture. But she wears $100 Wacoal bras and always has a brand new designer handbag. She probably has a wardrobe worth $50,000.

You should see the ladies in my nail salon in my middle-class town. Driving 10-year-old cars, but dripping with gold chains and diamonds, carrying Louis Vuitton bags, and getting flashy manicures and pedicures every week. Always cracks me up.

rockmom on October 22, 2008 at 4:15 PM

I really don’t have a problem with Palin dressed up in nice apparel. What I do have a problem is the double standard held by conservatives. When John Edwards gets a $200 haircut he is a wasteful vain pretty boy. But when Palin gets thousands of dollars in free apparel it just necessary attire for the job.

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:08 PM

Sarah Palin is not out there selling herself as a champion of the poor and downtrodden.

Liberals who revere the Kennedys, the Heinz-Kerrys, the Jon Corzines, the Pelosis, the Feinsteins, and the Edwardses really should STFU about this.

rockmom on October 22, 2008 at 4:18 PM

When John Edwards gets a $200 haircut he is a wasteful vain pretty boy. But when Palin gets thousands of dollars in free apparel it just necessary attire for the job.

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:08 PM

It was a $400 haircut, and it was stupid. He has a hair cut you could get at Supercuts.

Plus, it’s news when a man is vain, not so much when a woman, especially a former beauty queen, is. Also, she’s not the one getting the clothes. It’s the campaign doing that for her.

If Edwards’ campaign was flying his hairdresser in, at least he would have been able to say he had no say in the matter. But instead, that was all on him.

Yes, it’s a double standard, but in general it’s used against women who are expected to spend over an hour getting ready whereas men only take 20 minutes.

Esthier on October 22, 2008 at 4:31 PM

When John Edwards gets a $200 haircut he is a wasteful vain pretty boy. But when Palin gets thousands of dollars in free apparel it just necessary attire for the job.

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:08 PM

You’re right — there is a double-standard for female Vice Presidential nominees versus failed male Presidential candidates.

Sarah needed to have her wardrobe upgraded when she became the nominee. My hubby needed new suits when he became a VP and has to wear a tux when he mingles with a certain set. Big deal.

And, as Ed pointed out above, there is a double standard for women in politics, as there is in many professions as well as in personal life (frankly, I never trust a guy who spends more money on his hair than I do). Some women are successful at using that double standard to their advantage (Palin looks fabulous in what she wears — that sure doesn’t hurt), other women ignore it and are successful anyway (Hillary and her pantsuits).

Y-not on October 22, 2008 at 4:34 PM

If people are really concerned about something like this, they do not have enough to think about.

Terrye on October 22, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Plus, it’s news when a man is vain, not so much when a woman, especially a former beauty queen, is. Also, she’s not the one getting the clothes. It’s the campaign doing that for her.

One of the things that I do admire about Palin is that she did try to be somewhat econmical when Gov of Alaska, selling the personal jet and getting rid of her personal chef. I think she missed an opportunity to display more conservative thrift. I mean does it really take 150,000k to make Palin look fantastic?

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:51 PM

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:51 PM

Maybe so, but I don’t really see how she had a say in the matter. The campaign has been horrible in how it’s used her, and I’m sure she would have preferred for many things to have been different.

Esthier on October 22, 2008 at 5:17 PM

As all leftists know, this kind of campaign money is supposed to be reserved for crucial items like styrofoam Greek temples.

Matteo on October 22, 2008 at 5:43 PM

Actually, shortly after she broke on the national scene and reporters were in Wasilla, one of the people they had interviewed was a woman who owned a second hand shop that Sarah had frequented – she would buy designer clothes second hand, and the owner remarked that she recognized one of the things that Sarah was wearing as something Sarah had purchased in her shop.

Queen0fCups on October 22, 2008 at 5:43 PM

She can’t win for losin’. When she wore her own clothes, they ridiculed her; when the campaign buys her clothes, they ridicule her.

Redhead Infidel on October 22, 2008 at 5:54 PM

I mean does it really take 150,000k to make Palin look fantastic?

Ric on October 22, 2008 at 4:51 PM

Apparently you’ve never bought women’s clothing.

Political men tend to wear blue, grey, or black suits. To complement those, they need white shirts, a dozen ties, and black socks. They can wear the same belts, shoes, and accessories (pick either gold or silver accents and keep the same watch and cufflinks). A clothes hound political man might also have tans and browns in his wardrobe. Same shirts, same accessories, many of the same ties, different socks, and cordovan belt/shoes.

Women’s attire is much more complicated and requires much more accessorizing — even the underwear is different, depending on the outfit. A woman has to match her underclothes, her hose, her shoes, her bag, her belt (when needed), her jewelry, etc etc to fit the outfit and the occasion.

On top of that, it is much harder to fit women’s clothing. A man can go to one suit store, get measured, and leave with a dozen suits. Not so a woman. The cheaper the clothes, the less likely they are to fit a standard size chart. Better brands tend to fit better. Frankly, I would not be at all surprised if, in the interest of time and efficiency, Palin had to use a personal shopper to get her wardrobe assembled so quickly.

And, the fact of the matter is that I’ve seen Gov. Palin mix and match pieces in her wardrobe. She’s not wearing them once and throwing them away.

At the end of the day, we’re talking about private funds paying to outfit a vice presidential nominee. I don’t mind if my donation went to pay for her lipstick, for pete’s sake, as long as she continues to do such a terrific job representing conservatives.

Y-not on October 22, 2008 at 6:06 PM

How much does $150,000 equal in ACORN votes for Obama?

That’s a lotta smokes and soda pop.

Teddy on October 22, 2008 at 6:22 PM

Permit me to winge for minute.

Heckuva job, RNC Michelle Malkin.

In what way does it help conservatives — or hurt Obama — for Michelle Malkin to promote the notion that the RNC or McCain campaign did anything wrong or even did anything that gives the appearance (to any non-kool aid drinker) of something wrong? Ed’s post clearly gives this “story” the weight it deserves; Michelle’s tosses another log on the media-generated fire. Really disappointing.

Y-not on October 22, 2008 at 6:31 PM

JHC on October 22, 2008 at 6:37 PM

Gentlemen, here’s a clue. Women loved the shopping scene in “Pretty Woman” the best. Not Richard Gere with flowers. The shopping scene. To go from ordinary Hockey mom to glam VP candidate, and not have to do the actual shopping?? Oh, I love this story!

Anyone who thinks this will turn off the average woman voter, you don’t know your women-type people. This is so fun!

bonnie_ on October 22, 2008 at 6:46 PM

I think Michelle was pointing out the media making a big deal – I did not get the sense that she personally thought it was a big deal.

Queen0fCups on October 22, 2008 at 6:51 PM

I think Michelle was pointing out the media making a big deal – I did not get the sense that she personally thought it was a big deal.

Queen0fCups on October 22, 2008 at 6:51 PM

I don’t think so. Compare Ed’s post:

Apparently, spending money on Sarah Palin’s outfits has become the latest kerfuffle on both sides of the aisle. The RNC spent around $150,000 in September on wardrobe and beauty supplies for its VP nominee in places like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. This has supposedly threatened Palin’s middle-class appeal and brought into question the GOP’s spending strategy for the campaign

with Michelle’s:
Ugh.
or
The RNC has squandered its time and money on a lot of stupid things.
or
I’m with Mark Tapscott:
“Every time I think the campaign professionals at the Republican National Committee can’t possibly do anything else to sink the party, they do something else that simply defies logical explanation. Like taking a candidate who epitomizes Middle American values and spending $150,000 to dress her up in Saks Fifth Avenue finery.
Apparently, they just couldn’t stand the thought of a GOP candidate for vice president actually wearing the same clothes on the campaign trail that she wears in real life. No, they had to go make her look like … one of them.”

[bold added]

She seems so out of touch with how political parties and campaigns work. I’m finding that her posts are becoming too ideological and her recommendations too impractical, for this campaign, anyway.

No big deal, but kind of a shame.

Y-not on October 22, 2008 at 7:32 PM

I wonder if there’s any doubt left on who the Politico is for…

Cr4sh Dummy on October 22, 2008 at 7:55 PM

I think she and her family’s earned that wardrobe. After all, they have been stripped bare and given an exam that even Hillary hasn’t been subjected to – even by the ‘pundits’ who are supposed to be on our side!

Sporty1946 on October 22, 2008 at 8:00 PM

Perhaps this is why MM is sometimes called Screech? I love her but she fires off a bit too quick sometimes without thinking of the ramifications. Oh say like dumping on teh Fred for not having enough energy.

aikidoka on October 22, 2008 at 8:01 PM

This is news……..

Haven’t heard them complaining about the “Obama” channel on my Dish network. Wonder how many millions that cost?

drunkenmaster on October 22, 2008 at 8:07 PM

Isn’t this the same stupid crap the media pilloried Fred Thompson for because he didn’t show up in Iowa with manure covered 10 dollar boots?

Speedwagon82 on October 22, 2008 at 8:52 PM

Nothing to see here, move along…

PersonalLiberty on October 22, 2008 at 8:58 PM

Yeah…. nothing to see here… but when it was a populist Democrat getting expensive haircuts it seemed to be a talking point.

lexhamfox on October 22, 2008 at 10:03 PM

I think she and her family’s earned that wardrobe. After all, they have been stripped bare and given an exam that even Hillary hasn’t been subjected to – even by the ‘pundits’ who are supposed to be on our side!

Sporty1946 on October 22, 2008 at 8:00 PM

So you agree in this case that sharing the wealth (contributions to the GOP) is okay?

Bradky on October 22, 2008 at 11:23 PM

Her clothes belong to the RNC and they will be donated after the election.

csdeven on October 23, 2008 at 12:50 AM

The tanning bed, dammit. What about the tanning bed? How can the media let go of this major scandal so quickly?
What…oh, OK…the clothes, dammit. What about the clothes?
What page are we on?

SKYFOX on October 23, 2008 at 4:57 AM

She’s from friggin’ Alaska! Half of the images we’ve seen of her in her home state show her wearing outdoor gear like hunting clothes and winter coats. She walks to work in what you might wear skiing, not some fancy gear that officials in DC wear.

She’s a “real person” and doesn’t have thousands of dollars in clothes like all of these people, but now she’s on the national scene and clearly needs this stuff. It’s just like when I compare Vermont (where I live, and grew up) to Nashville (where I lived for 5 years). You can wear a lot of different things, and there is a lot more style and fashion. Then you come back here and everyone looks like they’re on their way to deer camp, but they’re really just at the grocery store or headed for work.

RightWinged on October 23, 2008 at 5:17 AM

So you agree in this case that sharing the wealth (contributions to the GOP) is okay?

Bradky on October 22, 2008 at 11:23 PM

This is ridiculous! We have had more stories about this, heard more fake outrage and even have a breakdown of these expenditures – and yet to see or hear a story from the Drive-by guys on the millions of ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS to THAT ONE!
As far as the $400 haircut that was made fun of – what kind of guy gets a $400 haircut except the Breck Girl, John Edwards.

Sporty1946 on October 23, 2008 at 8:01 AM

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