FINALLY, after a few submissions, my response was published on Politico’s Arena!  (No permalink yet, but it will appear by tomorrow.)

I love the Arena.  It’s a relatively new feature in which the moderators ask a question and various personalities chime in with their views — from journalists to strategist to nonprofit leaders to professors to people holding political office.

The best ones are thoughtful, honest and nonpartisan.  The worst ones are shamelessly partisan (on EITHER side) and ignore the question, bringing up something else entirely.

Today’s question: Does Palin’s wardrobe malfunction matter or is it a trivial distraction as the GOP says?

My response:

Will it affect the election? No. But the McCain campaign lost a news cycle, once again, to frivolity, and at this point, he can’t afford to lose a minute.

At first, it seems like a misogynistic double-standard. Barack Obama wears $1500 Hugo Boss suits and John McCain wears $500 Ferragamo shoes, yet only Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton are criticized when it comes to their wardrobes. For that reason alone, Palin’s wardrobe shouldn’t matter whatsoever.

However, it does matter, and for two reasons: because it was paid for with campaign money and because Palin has run her campaign based on populism. This undermines the credibility of both the McCain campaign and Palin herself.

It’s one thing for Obama, who makes millions from his memoirs, or McCain, whose wife inherited a multi-billion-dollar company, to wear expensive clothing that they can afford without donations. But does Palin have to wear a $2500 Valentino jacket, especially when it was paid for by plumbers and waitresses and teachers throughout the country, in order to get elected?

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe had been funded by John and Cindy McCain themselves. It’s less than half the cost of Cindy’s convention outfit.