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Sarah Palin: on special needs, gender bias and those clothes (video)

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will give her first major policy speech today, an address on special needs and calling for better funding of it. In Pittsburgh, Palin, as part of her belated but expanding activities with the media, also granted one of her first newspaper interviews, to the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman.

We have excerpts of that report below. Meanwhile, here's a pertinent video from MSNBC, of all places, that explains Palin's special interest in special needs, and it's not just because her infant son Trig has Down syndrome.

In an exclusive interview with Zuckman, Palin's husband Todd at her side holding Trig, Palin insisted she did not accept $150,000 worth of designer clothes from the Republican National Committee, as widely reported, and "that is not who we are."

"That whole thing is just bad!" she said. "Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are. It's kind of painful to be criticized for something when all the facts are not out there and are not reported," said Palin, saying the clothes are not worth $150,000 and will be given back, auctioned off or sent to charity.

Suddenly, thrust into the national spotlight as John McCain's running mate in late....

Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin with husband Todd and infant son Trig

... August from relative obscurity as governor of Alaska, her selection surprised and annoyed many in the media, who knew a week in advance of Barack Obama's vice presidential selection but (with some notable exceptions) had no clue about Palin, the 44-year-old mother of five who won election in 2006 against her own party's establishment on a reform platform.

Palin immediately energized the GOP base, electrified the national convention, ignited a fundraising flurry and drew huge crowds of enthusiastic supporters. She has also found herself under the microscope, accused of being inexperienced, a drag on the ticket and, most recently, the recipient of racks of expensive clothes. There have not been matching stories about the costs or colors of the male candidates' suits and shoes, nor how they are wearing their hair today.

Here are some highlights from Palin's interview:

She called the disabilities issues "a joyful challenge." Todd showed off photos of many people with Down syndrome who have come to her campaign events, and the candidate said one advocacy group sent her a bumper sticker that said "My kid has more chromosomes than your kid." "These children are not a problem, they are a priority," Palin said.

"We're on this journey with other families," she said. "We'll learn a lot from those other families, as they can count on us in the White House doing all that we can for them also. It's going to be a nice team effort here."

Palin said: "I think Hillary Clinton was held to a different standard in her primary race. Do you remember the conversations that took place about her, say superficial things that they don't talk about with men, her wardrobe and her hairstyles, all of that? That's a bit of that double standard."

"I'm not going to complain about it, I'm not going to whine about it, I'm going to plow through that, because we are embarking on something greater than that, than allowing that double standard to adversely affect us," she said.

In her speech today, Palin will lay out the campaign's plans to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, boost funding for special-needs children from birth to age 3 and allow parents to choose whether federal money for their child is used in a public, private, religious or secular school without navigating a cumbersome administrative process.

The federal government originally committed in 1975 to paying 40% of the cost of educating children with special needs, with the states paying the rest. But that has never happened; full funding would require approximately $26 billion a year, and the federal government currently pays $10.9 billion. The McCain campaign plans to phase in that increased money.

Zuckman's complete story is available here. A full transcript of the interview is available here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (42)

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The clothes are a complete NON-ISSUE. Without the clothes, Palin would have been ridiculed for dressing like a country bumpkin, with the clothes, she is ridiculed for spending a lot of money.

The clothing costs relate to how many people view you. You or I aren't speaking in front of thousands upon thousands of people every day, we can spend less, and we shouldn't judge those in those positions as if they are like us.

Michelle Obama talked about how you can't find a good pair of earings for less than $600 dollars and just spent $400 dollars for a lunchtime snack, and as I recall, she is not speaking on a daily basis.

This is the side of Palin that the McCain camp should have been showing. Forget the guns and superficial clothes stories. She should be alllowed to talk about family and (women) issues as her biography shows this an area in which she is expert. This would have been more of an appeal to the middle - where most Americans are politically. Focusing on the clothes only show how much farther female politicians need to go to be accepted by the press.

the issue isn't whether she has expensive taste and wants to spend $$$ on her wardrobe and food. The issue is us spending $150,000 in the month of september on her expensive lifestyle. Hillary may have spent money and so did Michelle, but they spend their own money, not ours. There is a big difference. How do u claim to know us, when all u do by us is spend our money. You don't see the hypocrisy in that. She touts that she's one of us, yet the moment she gets access to a couple of our $$$, she's quick to become princess diana. Go figure...

Todd is right: Children are a priority. That is why McCain voted against insuring them. his education advisor Lisa Keegan stated that responsibility would fall to the schools. I agree his policy is bizarre, that is how you know I am not making this up.
McCain does not belong on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached out to Sara Palin to hire a special needs person for her Gorverners office as he has done for his office. My understanding was this request was made even prior to her becoming a VP candiate. She still has not hired a special needs person -

It's not the clothes, it's Palin's repeated misuse of funds, other people's money, the power of her office or position.

It's not the clothes, it's the Republican Party's handling of their candidate like she's an air-headed Barbie doll who's only real role is to look good. And that is her only role.

It's not the clothes, it's the attempted manipulation of her media image and the use of Palin as propganda at a level comparable to what one would find in any commmunist country or dictatorship.

No wonder so many Republicans are jumping ship. The party has finally been taken over by the extreme right-wing and fundamentalist christians.

OK this is very important.

To every single person that says if she didn't buy expensive clothes we would have pointed out that her clothes were, I don't know, normal, you are completely full of it and need to shut up.

If that were the case, it would have been brought up already. Before the figures were released, nobody knew or cared about what she was wearing except that her rimless glasses were popular and became a fashion fad.

Besides her glasses her outfits have never been discussed, even when she was wearing regular formal attire.

So please, save us your whining and over-analysis of the situation.

Fact of the matter is, $150,000.00 on a few pieces of clothing is absolutely ridiculous. The fact that it was paid for by donations is even more ridiculous, and what's more is that it's illegal.

Why is it illegal? Because John McCain himself authored, supported and helped pass a bill to keep specifically this sort of thing from happening.

All I have to say is: John Edwards $400 hair cut.

So please, once again, shut up.

Palin's a millionaire she could have bought her own clothes just like all the other candidates instead of going on a RNC funded shopping spree.

I agree, the clothes don't matter. But it's because her appeal is mostly to men who fantasize about her not wearing any.
She's very ambitious but not very smart and has shown a willingness to retell lies that have already been exposed as lies.
Her views are far to the right of mine and most people's. She's also shown a remarkable lack of depth in her interviews. Somebody called her answers "word spray."
Not my cup of tea.

How can we still believe anything she says ?
She has proven on numerous occasions that she does not stick too close to the truth : bridge to nowwhere, claiming there was nothing unethical in her Troopergate behaviour when the report clearly stated differently, etc. etc.
Worse is that she retroactively adjusted expense claims for her kids travel. If everything was above board to begin with, why did these have to be changed ? This is even worse than lying, it is fraud !!
Is this the kind of ethical behaviour we would want in a VP, or president if something happens to McCain. She is even destroying more of the little respect that the rest of the world still has for US politicians.

We are the parents of a special needs daughter, aged 34, our only child. She has been nothing but complete joy to us and our family. We have had many years of struggle to get what she deserves in life. We, too, are worried about her when we die and completely support Sarah Palin regarding the need to put special needs people at the front of the line! After all, our daughter is a perfect person in an imperfect world!

Palin and the McCains are just little people, like most of us.

Todd Palin never, ever looks at his wife. Never. He seems completely self-absorbed. There is no love for her in his eyes.

You are right, Mr. Machi, the clothes are a complete non-issue. The issue is who paid for them. Governor Palin certainly didn't.

Sorry, I believe that special needs is as an issue is important to her because her child has special needs. She should just admit the truth, and I would have more respect for her. I had a child with special needs, and have a degree in working with children with special needs, so I understand why the issue is so important, but I wish she would just admit it to herself and to the voters.Now she is using the issue tas a straegy o get sympathy from other parents and get their votes, but she does not fool me, and I don't trust her. She is shrewd and shallow, and self serving, power hungry, and loves being in the limelifht, as most beauty queens do. I havn't bought one piece of clothing in over a year because I had to pay off excessive medical bills, and just the fact that the campaign went to extremes by buying her expensive clothes just shows how out of touch they are with the middle class, because they are desperate to win, and using Palin as a trophy figure by vainly boosting her image, by spending ridiculous amounts of money on clothes, hair and make up just so sell her 'image," to the voters. I am not impressed, and I am insulted to think that McCain thinks that Palin represents the common woman. She does not represent me or anthing I stand for.Sarah Palin is nothing but a self centered superficial power hungry, money loving woman. I buy everthing at a discount and on sale, and at a reasonable cost, so the spendthrift republicans are an insult to me and my frugal lifestyle.

Her child who has special needs, this child needs his mother home with him, not his mother running around the country while he is on a govt program. When does this hag get it, she voluntarly has these kids so when are you a mother or a self absorbed ego. What a hipocrit

this woman is a great person, a great mother, very kind hearted and loving but this is not the required qualifications that the VP on the most powerful nation.

With all the respect I have for her, she has very low intellectual capabilities, very to no limited knoweldge in foreign policy and economic matters. She has no experience in negotiations and problem handling (real world problem handling) so I do not know how anyone in their right mind can support her.

For the love of your country, you should be more wise than to vote for someone with zero experience and put all the burden on one person who still has a very old fashioned manner of governing and has very little credibility with other countries who have come to despise the States and this sentiment is growing by the day.

You need someone who can alter this image and internally help the US fix their problems, namely the economic problems. It has been very clearly shown that a pure capitalist market with no regulation is hindering to the economy and to the people.

Even if you're or were a republican, I do not understand how you don't see that the world is changing and economic principles on which the financial systems laid are no longer valid. The country and the world has to move towards more regulation, while ensuring consumer safety in this transitional period, which will be done with guaranteed health care, etc.

Sarah Palin is very new to disability. As a parent of a child with special needs, I think what little knowlege I had when my child was very young. I think about how long it has taken me to gather information and get to this understanding I now have of disability (he is now 11 years old). She cannot always make wise comments, because she has not had time in her parenting a child with a disability to gain great wisdom.

She may indeed be the best thing that could ever happen to us as families of children with special needs, but let us all not think with our hearts about what we want so bad, but think with our heads, and proceed wtih caution. I would hate to think of our expectations being so high that we feel let down - be sure both your expectations are realistic and that her promises sound realistic.

Thanks Sarah palin for your continued honesty. They sent an army to Alaska to find information to destroy you. Instead they found a state that loves you. They found that you are the Commander in Cheif of the only full time active duty National Guard in the USA. they had to find that you know more about how to solve our energy problems than anyone in the USA. They found that you are truly on of the most honest people left. They found that unlike Obama, you could never vote to drag an unborn baby out of the birth canal by its legs and force siccors into its brain. Then suck it's brains out. This Obama voted to perform this and other horrible things on children.
Thank you for giving us the late breaking news. We can no longer trust the media. We deepend on you for the truth.
In the past months you have had many try to destroy you, just like they have tried to destroy Joe the Plumber for just asking a question.
There was a person like this that would destroy anyone that disagreed with him as Obama is trying to do. But this person is now gone, and we are working hard to help his country (Iraq) begin again.
Thanks, Sarah Palin

Well it appears that she is ripped apart by people no matter what she does! So, that being said, let's ignore all the really important stuff - like she is a 'pro life" advocate and believes in the unity of marriage the way God intends it to be. Oh wait, the American people have sold out on that and money is all that is important or what is Governor Palin wearing today?! I am really disappointed and left wondering where all the God fearing moral people are in this world who needs to be standing up for "real" core values. Better watch out America - you might just get what you DON'T want if you don't look at the REAL facts about Obama.

Palin and McCain will eliminate social services for special needs families. Palin shares your joy in having a child that brings you joy, but she does not share your pain. She has money and doesn't worry about how to pay the bills or how the children will be cared for once she's gone.

Don't get fooled by this wolf in a $150,000 sheepskin.

"Michelle Obama talked about how you can't find a good pair of earings for less than $600 dollars and just spent $400 dollars for a lunchtime snack... "

The lunch story was a lie. The newspaper that originally published it has admitted that is had no basis in fact and has retracted it. The earring comment was an off-the-cuff statement of how the economic stimulus package is enough for a splurge, but not enough to make a real, long-term difference in people's lives. The full quote:

"You're getting $600 - what can you do with that? Not to be ungrateful or anything, but maybe it pays down a bill, but it doesn't pay down every bill every month," she said. "The short-term quick fix kinda stuff sounds good, and it may even feel good that first month when you get that check, and then you go out and you buy a pair of earrings."

Knock off the smear campaign and try to deal with the issues - for a change.

As we know actions speak louder than words -- as governor of Alaska Palin has slashed state funding for special needs education by about $5,000 per child. I don't think that shows support for special needs children. It seems like she's changed her tune since she now has one.

God help us. In about 10 days, this woman could conceivably be a (72-year-old) heartbeat away from the presidency.

In speaking about her commitment to special needs children, Sarah Palin described herself as "...someone who is promising that they will have this friend and advocate in the White House who will help them". Given her demonstrated ignorance of the VP job description, maybe she's not even aware that the VP resides at Number One Observatory Circle - not the White House. ;-)

Oh well - hopefully after November 4th she'll be on her way back north to reside again at the Governor's Mansion in Juneau...I mean her house in Wasilla...I mean her house in Wasilla, with the people of Alaska paying a per-diem for her to sleep in her own bed...

I do not believe Sarah Palin the abuse of power Governor of Alaska. She mentions special needs while at same time she and John McCain want to deregulate and destroy medical health care in America. Everyone please do your research. Health care costs are rising 8-9% every year. Their platform will take tax break away from employers that encourage them to provide health care benefits. Employers will stop providing coverage for their employees. They want everyone to get their own benefits. They want insurance companies to have less regulation, thus encouraging more abuse for discrimination prior existing conditions,age,etc. and/or not providing payments. If you manage to have/keep benefits from your employer total cost of those benefits will now be added to your salary as income. Result you will see your income increase & pay more taxes. Tax benefit he gives is $7000 short of total costs for a family of 4. No yearly increases will occur to keep up with increased costs. Benefit costs increase and many people will be forced to drop coverage due to costs. Older people will see Medicare benefits decrease as John McCain says he will decrease coverage to help pay for his general health care plan.

John McCain and Sarah Palin are going to destroy and deregulate health care in America and cause a national health care crisis. Deregulation in financial sector has caused the present market crisis we face. Today we face troubling times!! John McCain gets in Health Care will become the next disaster facing all Americans!! Greed comes when no rules. This is my life and I don';t want someone who takes rules away the rules governing health care insurance plans that protect my life. Look at John McCain plan- that is what he will do!! Greed will become rampant and decisions will be made without regard to your rights and your very own life. Money takes priority - corporate decision! Is this what you want?? Do you want no protection for your rights???

Sarah Palin is lying about being supporter of special needs!! She will be taking health care benefits away and saying we are now on our own. A family with a special needs child will suffer greatly!! Families will go bankrupt. No more employer provided health care benefits! Less Medicare benefits!! Health Care Crisis will occur under John McCain!!! Everyone research and see how their proposal affects you - pay lots more for benefits and maybe also see your income taxes increase!! Yes, this health care plan may make you pay more income taxes if you receive from your employer!!

These little mini-scandals about Sarah Palin, both as Governor of Alaska and as a VP candidate (the clothing expenditures, travel expenses for her kids, TrooperGate, appointing friends to State positions, charging the state to reside at her own home, etc) are, and always have been, standard operating procedure for elected officials. Sad, but true. No real news here...

They are only noteworthy in light of the fact that Sarah Palin hypocritically portrays herself as some type of "reformer" who's somehow going to rid Washington of "greed", "corruption". "waste", and "elitism". Yeah, right...

This show some decency in Sarah Palin. I agree that this country should have more funding on certain things like Special needs because I know her child is a special needs child. She is not as bad as people may think she is but shes not aware on most of the important issues of our country so she will not be fit for the job as v.p. A great site I recommend about Palin is here - They have a lot of videos from Palin's speeches, interviews and even some archival footage of her. They've done a lot of research to gather these videos at one location.

Are there any other physical therapists who think the Palins should be paying more attention to the needs of their son, Trig? This child should be in some sort of supportive seat. Instead Mrs. Palin and even the youngest daughter are seen "hauling" him around like he was a sack of potatoes. Please, please, please, Sarah if Obama can take two days away from campaigning to visit his dying grandmother, spend an hour with a physical therapist to help your son get off to a better start.

Well, for crying out loud, it's about time the McCain camp said anything "definitive" about policy plans for special needs individuals. If you look on his website, he talks about plans for early education, but plans for people with any kind of disability are SPARSE to NONE.
Just for comparison, Obama's website has a "Disabilities" link under "Issues" that outlines policy plans for people with disabilities (including creating an advisor position), as well as a specific document on Autism Spectrum Disorders. I don't know if the words autism, special needs, Down Syndrome or Intellectual Disability are anywhere ON McCain's website.
And NO, I don't believe for one minute that McCain is going to fully fund IDEA... this is clearly a last-ditch attempt to gain the sympathy vote. I mean, when is he going to do this? I thought he was going to FREEZE all government spending immediately in order to balance the budget!?!

The issue of $150,000 in clothes is is called

Hey, Sarah ! More funding for the special needs? That is socialism. You are contradicting yourself.

Palin wants to cry sexism about this, but she has allowed herself to be sold as sterotype. The whole "hockey-mom" thing is a thing of the past. Today's women have careers, and today's men are helping run households. There are just as many "hockey-dads" as there are moms. If you don't want women to be sterotyped, don't allow yourself to be sold as one.

Someone please explain to me how Sarah Palin is an advocate for special needs children, when she doesn't take care of her own special needs child? Merely having a special needs child does not make you an advocate for the community. That child needs his mother to hold him, love him, and focus her time and energy on the hours and hours of therapies needed to train his brain to overcome as best it can the challenges of Down's Syndrome. Who is driving him to physical therapy? Occupational therapy? Vision therapy? Doctor's appointments? Reading to him? Keeping him away from crowds and loud noises so that his senses aren't overloaded? Certainly not Todd Palin, who is busy making appearances of his own, caring for their 8-year-old daughter, and a pregnant teenage daughter as well. As a special needs mother myself, I am truly alarmed by the way this child is being used to further their political interests. It is wonderful that they chose to have a Down's Sydrome baby, and their decision goes far to bring attention to a problem in our culture -- that is this push for perfection. Some children simply are not perfect and they should be loved nonetheless. But choosing to have the child is not where the responsibility ends; focusing on them 100% so that they become the best that they can be is the true journey. It seems that he's just a prop for her political aspirations. Liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican - stepping up to the plate when you have a child with special needs is something everyone agrees with ...

Sarah Palin is a joke. Mr. Malcolm, I give you credit, you are the only pundit in the country that is serving as her publicist. Good for you, when she runs in 2012, maybe she can pick you as her press secretary.

The 'real' Sarah Palin thinks that the VP runs the Senate, and that her experience as 'regulator of oil and gas' make her more experienced than Senator Obama.

For the video, straight from the horse's mouth:

If she cared about her special needs child she would make that lout husband hold his own child instead of foisting him off on the daughters. That child needs parents.

These elected federal offices are not real inportant, you do not have to show up, you can collect a pay check, well running around the USA for a couple of years trying to get elected to a higher office.

In addition to making off with $150,000 from their shopping sprees, Palin has given over 100 jobs to her friends and to her donors with no concern for qualifications. She is not just simple minded, she is simple minded and corrupt.

That sounds just like the present administration.

I agree that those with special needs require more funding.

Here are some other ideas to help meet those needs?

How about Palin not being paid over $17,000 just to live in her OWN home as governor?
How about donating that $150,000 she spent at Neiman Marcus, etc. to groups that provide help to those who have children with special needs but not the fat paychecks of politicians.
How about using the money spent ont $700+ per night hotels and on clothes for Palin's husband for families who don't have money for those extra items special needs children need.

Of course, I agree that we need to provide help to those families with children with special needs. That's why I support Obama -- he sees the need to help all Americans with a health care proposal that will provide the same quality of health insurance that McCain, Palin and the rest of the politicians have. Of course, McCain and Palin don't support that idea. It might help too many people in need.

sarah, todd, john,&cindy have reached a new low. now they,er using their special needs baby to get the sympathy vote. these people have no class

I would believe her but she pulls out poor sleepingTrig every time she has a photo op!

She knows exactly what she is doing and she knows that poor kid should be at home or the hotel sleeping.

McCain and Palin are for school vouchers. What they don't realize is that most Special Education is provided by the Public Schools. Speech language therapy services even for private school students, are almost entirely, provided by Public School Speech Language Pathologists. Palin says she will increase funding for special education. That sounds great, but is she planning to send Trig to a Public school? If not, who is the funding for? 'No child left behind" actually has rung a death toll to Special Education, as now, all learning handicapped kids are expected to be at grade level, no matter what their disability is. That shows a fundamental ignorance about the nature of special education. Students would not be in special education if they could be at grade level!

It would be interesting to see what Sarah Palin wears when the cameras aren't on her. Clothes, makeup, and hairstyling are all part of the cost of advertising. Duh. Models don't keep the clothes they are photographed wearing. Probably most of the people who comment negatively on her new wardrobe are hypocrites because they covet designer items themselves or at least admire the idea of designer clothing so much that they purchase knock-offs or buy them at discount stores. Give me a break. And to think that the gals on the view think this is something serious to discuss other than that it is another example of bias against women in general and Sarah Palin in particular. The reason that Sarah Palin is such 'a drag on John McCain' is not who she is but the very fact that she is new. The gals on the view have given Biden a pass because we all know him and how he talks. We KNOW to take it with a grain of salt in other words. Sarah Palin is not going away no matter how hard those who hate her try. I cannot understand how it is even possible to 'hate' someone as kind and positive as Sarah Palin. The venom that pours from the mouths of all too many people these days is very revealing of the character of the American people and we should not be so foolish to blame it on President Bush or the Republican party. Do you want to know the source of this? It's community organizing. What? The 'father' of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, taught his students that part of the process of organizing is developing anger, dissatisfaction, and disruption and focusing that on the establishment, which include government and business. Hey does that sound like what the democrats do? Hmmmm..... I wonder.....


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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