This image provided by Newsweek shows the news magazine’s Nov. 23, 2009 cover, featuring a photo of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. (Brian Adams–Rapport/AP/Newsweek)

The conservative Twitterverse reacted strongly and negatively (quel shock!) to my defense of Valerie Jarrett. The resulting “instalanche” featured all sorts of personal insults and righteous umbrage. I made liberal use of Twitter’s block feature. But there were numerous accusations of hypocrisy that cannot go ignored — because they were right.

Many of the snarling conservatives pointed to a piece I wrote about Sarah Palin in July 2011. I recall having fun writing it because it combined politics and fashion and contemplated how the latter impacts one’s viability in the former. Yet, I couldn’t help but wince at some of what I wrote.

Folks want to be able to envision someone sitting in the Oval Office. They don’t necessarily want to envision them in the pages of Esquire magazine’s “Sexiest Woman Alive 2011” or Maxim. She can’t possibly be taken seriously as a presidential contender dressed like that, especially since this is the second time she has graced Newsweek in a less-than-presidential pose.

As a good liberal, I should know better than to comment on a woman’s appearance, especially professionally. It should have no bearing on her abilities or competence. At least, that’s the point many conservatives who usually pooh-pooh accusations of sexism or rail against “war on women” rhetoric were making. The motivation behind calling out my sexist double standard isn’t important. What is important is that I acknowledge it.

My problem with Palin was never about her clothes. It was about her substance — or lack thereof. How she dressed for two magazine covers was irrelevant compared to her utter lack of preparation to be the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, her willingness to ditch the governorship of Alaska after only half a term and her inability to articulate a vision for her party and the country that rose above pablum and snarky one-liners. My argument against her would have had a stronger foundation had I kept the focus on that.

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