A reader chimes in:

I just want to ask: can anyone, anyone, imagine Condoleeza Rice or Margaret Thatcher or even Hillary Clinton for God's sake, winking at the nation and/or being coquettish in any national format?

Yeah. Just checking.

The damage John McCain's baldfaced sexism and Sarah Palin's cocktail waitress act have done to American feminism has yet to be fully assessed. Palin has actually forced me to realize that, however much I despise Hillary Clinton, I have never doubted her professionalism and capacity to fight and win on her own terms in a male-dominated world by meeting and exceeding the standards of any male counterpart. (It was not her fault she ran against the political genius of his generation.) I cannot even imagine her winking and flirting on stage, although the New Hampshire tears were a bit of a stunt.

Thatcher remains the standard. She was not above using feminine wiles in charming individuals; but in public, in debate, in the Commons, she beat men at their own game, using nothing but knowledge, forensics, expertise, argument and courage.

From Thatcher to Palin is not a slide downwards for conservative women. It's a free-fall. And McCain did it.

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