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Judging Sarah Palin by her covers

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It's a plan, and it works. Americans, however much they may protest to the contrary, have a soft spot for damsels in distress, no matter how faux the foe.

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So, Palin doesn't like her Newsweek cover. It's sexist. It's out of context. If you've somehow missed it, the photo shows Palin in black shorts, a red, long-sleeved top and running shoes. She has one elbow propped on the back of a chair draped in an American flag and is clutching two BlackBerrys in her hand. She is smiling.

Originally taken for Runner's World magazine to go with a profile of the former governor, an avid runner, the picture couldn't be any more flattering or wholesomely all-American if Norman Rockwell had painted it. In a word, the photo is fantastic.

It is perhaps sexy, depending on the beholder's eyes, but it couldn't be construed as sexual. Sexist? Would we show a man similarly posed? Only if he positioned himself that way -- and looked as good. We've seen dozens of far-less flattering photos of George W. Bush in various athletic pursuits. And who can forget the photo of Barack Obama striding shirtless through the Hawaiian surf?

Yet, Palin called Newsweek's selection of the photo "unfortunate." On her Facebook page, she wrote, "When it comes to Sarah Palin, this 'news' magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. . . .

"The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: It shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention -- even if out of context."

Point taken. Indeed, if anyone can learn anything from this, it shows that one shouldn't judge a book -- or a candidate -- by its cover.

Radar off.

kathleenparker@washpost.com


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