Republican heavyweights fight 'sexist' smear campaign

Steven Edwards , Canwest News Service

Published: Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The McCain campaign launched a ferocious counter-attack against what they called "falsehoods and smears" about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday.

The Republicans dispatched party heavyweights to speak out in support of the vice-presidential candidate and released an ad that belittles Democratic rival Barack Obama's experience.

The campaign charged the media had been complicit in gratuitous sexism, and leading female Republicans said they would not stand idly by without hitting back.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani toured TV networks ahead of his address Wednesday to vigorously promote Palin's suitability as John McCain's running mate.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Congressman Eric Cantor also scheduled a news conference calling on Obama to condemn one of his spokesmen who - the McCain camp says - implied Palin was no friend of Jews.

The implication was based on her "one-time" support for controversial TV pundit Pat Buchanan's former presidential bid.

"Palin was a supporter of (MSNBC analyst) Pat Buchanan, a right-winger or as many Jews call him: a Nazi sympathizer," Obama spokesman Mark Bubriski wrote in an e-mail.

The onslaught got under way as McCain arrived in St. Paul, Minn., for the Republican National Convention, where delegates were to nominate him Wednesday night as the Republican presidential candidate and to hear him accept the nomination Thursday.

McCain's and Palin's family members were on the airport tarmac to greet the senator when he arrived. They included Palin's teenaged daughter Bristol, whose pregnancy announcement Monday rocked the convention, and her boyfriend Levi Johnston, 18.

McCain kissed his wife, Cindy, and embraced his running mate.

He gave Johnston a pat on the shoulder in addition to the handshakes he had for everyone else - including Palin's oldest son Track, 19, a soldier set to be deployed to Iraq next Thursday.

The extra time spent with Johnston led pundits to suggest McCain was eager to show he fully supported the couple - and Bristol, 17, appeared to be wearing an engagement ring in line with the Palin family's statement Monday that the pair intends to marry.

Democrats have pushed to turn the swirl of rumours and potentially problematic revelations surrounding McCain's pick of Palin - a first-term governor and former small-town mayor - into an indictment of his ability to make sound judgments.

McCain had met her just twice when he named her as his running mate Friday, leading critics to charge he acted hastily to appease the party's conservatives, who are thrilled with her socially conservative stances that include opposition to abortion and support for gun ownership rights.
As part of the counter-offensive Wednesday, Steven Schmidt, senior McCain adviser, declared the campaign will answer no more questions about how she was vetted.

"Her selection came after a six-month-long rigorous vetting process where her extraordinary credentials and exceptionalism became clear," Schmidt said in a statement.

"This vetting controversy is a faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee for vice-president of the United States who has never been a part of the old boys' network that has come to dominate the news establishment in this country."

Giuliani, who himself vied for the nomination before endorsing McCain, argued in his TV appearances Palin's experience stacks up against Obama's, and charged the attacks on the mother-of-five were sexist.
"Barack Obama has never governed a city, never governed a state, never governed an agency, never run a military unit, never run anything," he told The Morning Show on CBS.

"So why are all these questions for her? Has anybody ever asked Barack Obama, can you bring up your two kids and be president of the United States? They are asking, 'Can she be vice-president and be a mother?' Come on."

In his address before delegates, Giuliani expressed outrage anyone should ask whether Palin can juggle home and governorship - adding "did they ever ask a man" if he could do that?

The campaign issued a list of allegedly sexist attacks on Palin that included comments by TV hosts and print journalists suggesting she wouldn't be able to meet the demands of office while also trying to raise her children.
"The Republican party will not stand by in the face of sexist smears," Carly Fiorina, chairwoman of RNC Victory 2008, said as she and other prominent female McCain-Palin supporters hosted a news conference at the convention.

Rosario Marin, former U.S. treasurer, focused on now-disproved Internet rumours claiming Bristol was the mother of Palin's fifth child, a boy born with Down syndrome born in April.

"As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, I am offended that the media has made much to do about that," she said.

"I am also a former mayor (like Palin) and who better than her to understand the challenges of trying to balance career and family?"

Renee Amore, Pennsylvania Republican Party deputy chairman, said that as an African-American woman she understands racism and sexism.

"These smears are meant to distract the American people and (hide) the fact that Gov. Palin has more executive experience that Barack Obama."

Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Hewlett Packard CEO, said the fact Palin is from a small-population state has no bearing on her ability make executive decisions.

"My successor at HP had ran a company that had been far smaller," she said.

"The size of the company, just like the size of the state, is less relevant than the nature of the decisions that need to be made."

The Obama campaign late Wednesday issued its own warning about the McCain counter-attack.

"In the next 36 hours, the McCain campaign will be pouring millions of dollars - if not tens of millions - into negative attack ads against Barack Obama," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign chief. But he added McCain "is offering a third term of the disastrous Bush agenda, so it's no wonder his campaign would choose to focus on attacks instead of issues."