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


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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....

... 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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