In addition to analyzing the media coverage of Clinton and Palin, she also turned a critical eye on how, at times, it seemed that Clinton and Palin’s own advisers at times seemed to play right into the gender trap. Sanchez points out the irony of what she says was the Clinton campaign’s insistence on focusing on their candidate’s “toughness,” as if Americans didn’t already realize that Hillary could scrap with the best of them if need be. Sanchez also points out another bit of irony that hasn’t gone unnoticed by others who have dissected the campaign — that many of these advisers who were so obsessed with projecting Clinton’s toughness were men. In fact, based on Sanchez’ analysis, Mark Penn and company did such a good job of trying to bury Clinton’s more “human” side, at least until it was almost too late, that she was tagged as the traditional, status quo candidate, the anti-change, if you will. Sanchez points out that her campaign’s decision to run her as the “safe” choice was inexplicable at a time when polls overwhelmingly showed that both Democrats and Republicans wanted some kind of change and a more hopeful message. Sanchez puts it this way:
No matter how often Clinton repeated the feminist mantra at campaign stops to underpin the historic nature of her campaign, her run, like McCain’s, was rooted in the traditional patriarchal model of “toughness.” (p. 104)
Sanchez also points out the same sort of inexplicable treatment of Palin by her campaign staff. As I was reading Sanchez retell how Palin’s aides seemed to misjudge Palin’s strengths and repeatedly put her in situations where her weaknesses would be disastrously apparent, I fully realized just what a strategic blunder that was. For example, the painful prime time interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric which took place over several days. Sanchez rightly points out that those venues did not play to her strengths. Instead, her campaign might have been wiser to have her do short, more frequent interviews. And then there was the decision to essentially keep Palin in hiding after her convention appearance. If that decision didn't strike anyone as a particularly sexist strategy, think of it this way — can you imagine a situation where McCain had announced someone like Joe Lieberman as his running mate, do you really think that after a successful convention speech, the campaign would proceed to keep him hidden from reporters except for a few prime time interviews? Of course not.
Sanchez also asks whether the focus on Palin and Michelle Obama’s mothering credentials was the result of media and pundit sexism. After all, no one really questioned whether Obama would be able to juggle raising two little girls and the Presidency. I do agree with Sanchez that the endless commentary about whether it was appropriate for Palin to seek the Vice Presidency given that she had several children, including one very young one with special needs, was infuriatingly sexist.