Republican campaigns have been bashing the press for much of the last half century, and so it was of no particular surprise that the McCain campaign turned on the media last week in Minnesota.
The surprise came in the nature of the criticism--the press, Republicans argued, was sexist, demeaning and diminishing Governor Sarah Palin because she was a woman.
This was a new one from Republicans.
The GOP counterattack occurred at a critical moment. Just days after her selection, reporters in Minnesota traded in rumors that Gov. Palin might be dumped from the ticket. Conventional wisdom was hardening: The pick was a disaster.
In response, Republicans pointed to press questions about Gov. Palin's ability to serve as vice president while raising five children and rightfully pointed out that such questions would never have been asked of a man. They went even further, and, despite having spent months attacking Senator Obama's experience, argued that similar attacks on Gov. Palin were biased and out of bounds.
And they beat the press back, winning this first skirmish and ensuring that Gov. Palin survived to fight another day.
Ironically, while the McCain campaign demonstrated their ability in a fight, this particular victory would not have been possible without Hillary Clinton
Six months, ago if a member of the Clinton campaign had suggested that Senator Clinton had been subject to sexism, we would have been lambasted for playing the gender card (as we were when we produced a video in 2007 called the "The politics of Pile-On," which featured Senator Clinton's opponents attacking her). The McCain campaign was successful this past week in part because it was able to deploy all the resources of the Republican Party and its allies in making its case. While our supporters made this case passionately on blogs and in newspaper ads and in many more quiet, anonymous, frustrated conversations, the kind of coordinated response that the McCain campaign engaged in was never an option available to us on the Clinton campaign--in fact, it has been reported correctly that we engaged in endless internal debates about whether to raise this issue in 2008, but never did (except for an off-hand mention in the campaign's waning days), fearing few allies and a backlash.
Now, in retrospect, there is broad agreement that Hillary Clinton was treated differently, at least in part, because she was a woman. (This is not, by the way, the reason why Senator Clinton lost--being a woman had nothing to do with our failure to invest in caucus states.) The Democratic platform addressed the issue. Republican women like Carly Fiorina regularly decry Senator Clinton's treatment, as did Howard Dean and Michelle Obama on The View. This correct analysis has been amplified and (occasionally twisted) by the McCain campaign to lend credibility to its attacks on the media
It is deeply unfortunate that a pro-life woman who is working against almost everything Senator Clinton stands for is the beneficiary of this consensus about Clinton's treatment, but we do not get to choose who follows through the doors we open.
Howard also blogs at GothamAcme.Com