Bill O'Reilly said that she sounded like the Wicked Witch of The East the other day. That would be funny, except the woman is eighty eight years old. everyone who lives that long has a voice that grows weak and quivery. (Right-wing bloggers have savaged Thomas for her opposition to the Iraq War, often grotesquely mocking the unattractiveness of a woman who, again, is eighty fucking eight. More mainstream conservative voices have cautiously pecked at Thomas in the manner that O'Reilly did the other day. The public generally respects Thomas and won't stand to see her take the all-out savaging on TV that she gets on the internet.)
Feminist groups publicly called for an apology from O'Reilly, and one of them, Women's Media Center, sent a representative to his show. O'Reilly demanded to know why Women's Media Center hadn't complained about Tina Fey's mockery of Sarah Palin. When the poor woman meekly said that she supported Palin's right to run, O'Reilly said that she failed to do so in "public debate" which is the same as never saying anything at all of course, and so the hypocrisy stood.
If this strikes you as an extremely odd apples and vaginae comparison, well then you should have heard the passionate conviction in O'Reilly's voice. Fey was a woman mocking another woman, sure. Political figures have historically been considered more open to ribbing then civilians, true. And at any rate it was done on a show dedicated to satire while O'Reilly's show is presented as a perfectly sober news program, fair enough. But the voice man. The voice.
The Tu quoque is very much in vogue with the right these days. Right-wing radio is full of 'when Bush did A liberals screamed bloody murder! But when Obama does B what do we hear from the mainstream media? Silence, that's what. and You know why? Because they're all a bunch of traitorous Marxist god-hating commie flag burning...'
The rhetorical impulse to reach for any tattered thread that could lead to a charge of hypocrisy against ones' opponent is of course a childish one, revealing a segment of the population that feels deeply powerless and afraid.
If you listen to all of this you-too overload you will find that Sarah Palin comes up quite a hell of a lot. ('Liberal woman does A, but when Sarah Palin, terrorist commies..) Even Palin herself got into the game, complaining that the media treated her much more harshly then east-coast elitist Caroline Kennedy. (This despite the very public split among New York Democrats regarding Kennedy and a chilly air of doubt on the NYT editorial page, and oh by the way the vice-president has a higher profile then a Senator.)
On the one hand it's easy to suspect that Palin was nominated to the vice-presidency partly because of the knowledge that normal political attacks wouldn't go over so well when directed against an attractive woman. On the other hand any sincere belief that all unflattering things said about women in the public eye are basically the same would reveal one's sexism much more clearly then some crack about Helen Thomas.
But perhaps there's a perfectly good explanation for this. Perhaps Republican lust for Palin has been transformed into something higher, even sanctified. When a woman is publicly criticized conservatives reflexively think of Palin not because she's a woman too but because she is Womanhood. Sarah Palin Mater Dei. Even now my mind drifts to thoughts of the Mother Of All Tender Mercies killing and gutting a reindeer, and it's unbearably erotic. Or that time Our Lady endured a birthing labor silently so that she could give a speech in Texas; damn that's hot. How could one not be inured to protect the vehicle of our Redemption from all vulgar insults and indulge her with any office she may request? This, my friends, is why Sarah Palin won't 'just go away' She is as eternal as the cloak of stars which covers her sacred loveliness, and all we her children can do is bow and sing ave.