Six Characters in Search of a Blogger

1.3 Elizabeth Hasselbeck in Oz

Oh, Elizabeth Hasselbeck (picture me shaking my head in pity.)  How often she has made me grit my teeth or clench my fists or talk back to the television in the past two years.  I know she has accepted Barack Obama as her President.  Maybe not quite the way she has accepted Jesus as her Savior, but still, it’s a start.   But I know it’s hard for her.  I’m sure she was alarmed on November 5 when she woke up in Oz and found the world had turned into technicolor, filled with sparkles and music and singing, with lollipop guilds and lullaby leagues dancing for joy because of the Obama win.  She wasn’t in political Kansas anymore.  Alas, many red states had gone blue (or even purple.)  

The View's Elizabeth Hasselbeck

Elizabeth Hasselbeck

Yes, November 5 must have been a very hard day for Elizabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of The View on ABC and one of the most prominent conservative TV personalities on the regular networks.  Hasselbeck, at least since last year’s famous on-air feuds with Rosie O’Donnell, has made a name for herself by staunchly defending President Bush and the war in Iraq, as well as promoting the McCain/Palin ticket without question, going so far as to continually raise the issue of the Obama-Bill Ayers connection.  While she has openly declared herself to be without a specific party affiliation, her considerable lean towards the right side of the political spectrum has been obvious:  she is anti-abortion; anti-gay marriage rights; anti-euthanasia; and pro the Iraq war and the Bush Doctrine.  Not to mention she admittedly loves the FOX news channel, has guest hosted on “Fox and Friends,” and has even been rumored to be leaving The View to get her own show at FOX.  Check out some vintage partisan parrying on The View below:

Besides using The View as a platform for her political opinions (which, after all, is what the show is all about), Hasselbeck took her advocacy to a new level in campaign 2008.  She was a keynote speaker at a Republican National Convention luncheon honoring Cindy McCain, where she threw an only slightly veiled insult at Michelle Obama, comparing the potential First Ladies’ appearances on The View:

“Cindy came into our hair and makeup room, fresh as can be, and unlike another wife of a political candidate who shall remain nameless, she didn’t come with a list of topics that we weren’t allowed to touch.  Nope, that’s because she has nothing to hide.”

Now, depending on how you read the quote, you could infer that Michelle Obama has some pretty ominous secrets, and that (according to Hasselbeck’s syntax) Michelle might be less than “fresh.”  Hmm.  I’ll leave that one alone.  But what I find infuriating about Hasselbeck, and about several conservative hard-liners this year, is that while they are quick to sling nasty accusations, they are slow to realize that these accusations might magnify the faults in their own candidates.  Take, for instance, Obama’s association with his “pal,” (1960s domestic terrorist William Ayers), that Hasselbeck so fervently trumpeted for weeks.  If she wants to make it an issue, that’s fine.  Mud gets slung in political campaigns, and everything about a candidate should be considered.  But she never once analyzed McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal (“he was cleared,” she said dismissively), nor did she mull the more troubling associations “First Dude” Todd Palin brought to the McCain/Palin ticket–namely, his membership in the secessionist Alaska Independence Party.   

Then, of course, there is Wardrobegate, (also known as NeimanMarcusgate, HillbilliesGoneWildatSaksgate, and SpiffingUptheFirstDudeandtheKidsontheRNC’sDimegate.)  While on the trail in Florida campaigning for Sarah Palin a few weeks ago, Hasselbeck was quick to recuse Palin of any guilt in the scandal, instead accusing the media of being “sexist” by pursuing the story.  But what she didn’t seem to understand is that the accusations were not about the clothes themselves, but about the image the campaign was projecting to the American people by putting Palin in them.  Hockey moms (outside of Manhattan) don’t usually wear, say, Valentino.  And Joe the Plumber can’t afford Armani (well, at least not until his country music career takes off.)

And as much as Hasselbeck may complain about the double standard (that the Democrats didn’t suffer the same scrutiny), perhaps she forgets how much news circulated around Michelle Obama’s appearance on The View over the summer when the dress she wore–a chic $148 off-the-rack number–quickly sold out online when women found out they could afford it.  Not to mention the fairly critical opinion polls about the red and black dress the future First Lady wore on election night.  Like it or not, Hasselbeck must realize that you can’t claim to be the “party of the average guy” when the VP candidate has a wardrobe two, three or four times the value of most peoples’ salaries.  When building a political image, these factors must be taken into consideration (just think of the object lesson in John Edwards preaching about poverty and then getting a $400 haircut.)  And saying “Palin didn’t know” is no excuse, because there’s just no excuse for ignorance. I’m sure Michelle Obama’s decisions about wardrobe were both deliberate and cost-conscious–she was acutely aware of what she was representing to the country.  Actions (like wardrobe purchases) speak volumes. 

But back to the yellow brick road for a moment.  I know Elizabeth Hasselbeck has probably learned not to stray from the golden path of the party line because bad things might happen to her.  She could get fired from her job, like columnist Christopher Buckley.  She could get death threats, like journalist Kathleen Parker.  She could be quietly exiled into obscurity, like ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.  Or she could just wander into a field of flowers filled with the scent of forgetfulness, like blogger Andrew Sullivan, author Christopher Hitchens and others, content to dream until a better version of conservatism emerges.  (Quick word of warning before they go to sleep, though: watch out for Dick Cheney and his flying monkeys.)  

But, despite the scary consequences of moving off of the brick road, Hasselbeck shouldn’t think for a moment that she has to link arms with her roadtrip pals–the one without the brain (Palin), the one without the heart (McCain), and the one without the courage (Bush)–just because they also happen to be conservatives. She–and other Republicans like her–shouldn’t be afraid to ask them questions.  Like hey, Sarah, do extreme cold temperatures in Alaska impair brain function and disable intellectual curiosity?  And excuse me, John, what happened to that heart of yours when you hired the same cynical operatives who destroyed you in 2000 to sling smears at Obama?  And, geez, George, why didn’t you just have the courage to say you were wrong about WMDs in Iraq in the first place?  

But if she continues to stay on the path with her friends, and she gets to the Emerald City, I’m going to give her a little advice about the Great and Powerful Oz.  I will say this:  

Elizabeth, he will try to boss you around, and scare the hell out of you with his big, bald head, his fearmongering and firethrowing.  But when you are frightened the most, look for a little booth in the corner.  Roll back the curtain, and see:  it’s just a little man named Karl Rove, furiously pulling levers, pushing buttons, and flicking switches in his political control booth.  You don’t really have to do what he says.  You can say “no.”  You can say, “it ends here.”

The power is in those ruby red pumps of yours, Elizabeth.  It has been all along.  Click your heels, or simply walk away.  For once, let your shoes do the talking.