Politics tends to be a matter of feeling rather than logic. One manifestation of this is what people regard as important grounds for criticism. In many cases, political attacks are focused on things that do not really matter. For example, Sarah Palin has recently come under attack for having a tanning bed in her official residence.
The TPM Muckraker has lived up to its name by attacking her on this point.The attack is a standard “her actions do not match her words.” While this can sometimes slide into an ad homimen fallacy, it can also be a reasonable attack. After all, if a person claims to be one thing (say a good person), but his actions go against this (suppose he lies, cheats and steals), then it would be reasonable to criticize him for this inconsistency.
Of course, such a criticism has to rest on a real inconsistency. In the case of Palin, the TPM Muckraker attack is based on an alleged inconsistency between Palin’s attempt to appear blue collar and the fact that she bought a tanning bed (with her own money). The main point of the attack is this: “The news of Palin’s luxurious purchase — beds can cost as much as $35,000 — presents a sharp contrast to the blue-collar persona she projects on the campaign trail.”
There are three main problems with this attack. First, while a tanning bed can cost as much as $35,000, she bought a surplus tanning bed. One would infer that a surplus bed would be cheaper than the highest priced model. Also, tanning beds can be bought for far less that $35,000. For example, Sam’s Club sells one for about $1,700 (includes delivery). Perhaps Palin bought a really expensive one-but the blog post provides no proof of that claim. As such, it is not clear that it was a luxurious purchase. Second, one common stereotype for the sort of people who buy tanning beds for home use is that they are red necks. This would actually match Palin’s attempts to come across as blue collar. So, far from hurting her blue collar image, this should help. Third, the fact she bought a tanning bed seems to be completely irrelevant to her qualifications to be the Vice President. If someone wants to make a logical case against her, it would be wiser to focus on factors that are relevant-like experience.