A core Democratic talking point against Sarah Palin is beginning to take shape: she is, critics say, the female counterpart of the current President of the United States, not only in terms of policy and social conservatism, but even personality.
"She's not a pitbull in lipstick," said one female Democratic operative, referencing a line from Palin's convention speech. "She's George Bush in lipstick."
From her hard-right stances on abortion and contraception and the deep affection she engenders from conservative evangelical leaders, to her involvement in a possible "abuse of power" scandal in Alaska and even her charming demeanor, some see in Palin the second coming of the 43rd president.
The Palin-as-Bush theme comes just in time: with less than two months before election day, Democrats have a limited window to define McCain's vice presidential pick in the eyes of voters. Her relatively sparse record, particularly on key national issues, made finding a line of attack more difficult. And the McCain campaign's efforts to paint the media coverage of Palin as sexist, and to link the Obama campaign to that coverage, only complicated matters further.
Obama himself made the Palin-Bush comparison during his Sunday appearance on ABC's This Week, calling her "somebody who may be even more aligned with George Bush - or Dick Cheney, or the politics we've seen over the last eight years - than John McCain himself is."
Later, Robert Gibbs, senior aide to the Democratic nominee, fleshed out the case in an interview on CNN. "Sarah Palin doesn't think climate change is man made. Both John McCain and Sarah Palin want to outlaw abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. I'll let you decide who you think is extreme, but you've got a candidate in Sarah Palin who says she's against the bridge for nowhere, but she campaigned on it. She says she's against lobbyists getting pork for her state when she hired a lobbyist to get pork for her state. And now she stands in the way of an ethics investigation to look into her actions that was approved by the Republican legislature. I'm telling you...she's going to fit in just great at Washington because that's what happening right now."
Moreover, on a relatively high-profile environmental issue, Palin actually went to court to take on the Bush administration from the right, objecting to the president's decision to list polar bears on the endangered species list. (The UK Independent, in its understated form, noted that Palin "has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush.")
The McCain campaign's reply to this message was summed up by Nancy Pfotenhauer, who responded to Gibbs on CNN: "That is a total crock, Robert, and you know it." McCain staffers say the ethics investigation in Alaska will find Palin did nothing improper, and that she has worked against earmarks as governor.
Unfortunately for McCain, however, it is not only Democrats who see ties between Palin and the current President.
On Saturday, former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote on his National Review blog, "George W. Bush had very slight executive experience before becoming president. His views were not well known. He won the nomination exactly in the same way that Palin has won the hearts of so many conservatives: by sending cultural cues to convince them that he was one of them, understood them, sympathized with them. So that made everything else irrelevant in 2000 - as it seems again to be doing in 2008."
But in the end, Frum wrote, Bush lacked "important aspects of leadership which is how we got into the mess from which he needed to rescue the country and himself."
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