The main problem with Sarah Palin's beef against Newsweek is this: Palin says "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin," but books don't have skin, Sarah. Also, she trades on her looks incessantly.

Palin thinks Newsweek's use of a photo commissioned by Runner's World, for which she posed, is out-of-context on the cover of a newsmagazine and therefore "sexist." It's not clear what possible context the Newsweek cover could ever fit in. Yes, it was shot for Runner's World, but it's her showing off her legs, standing inside an office, holding two Blackberries, while leaning against an American flag. She says this was supposed to illustrate a story about "health and fitness—a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation." But when the editors of Runner's World selected a photo (see below, via Mediaite), they picked an image of her actually — or at least plausibly — engaged in the "health and fitness" activity she was dressed for.

When this nonsensical image of the leggy lady who never wanders far from her Blackberries, flag or running shorts is used to illustrate a story about the creation of the image of Sarah Palin, on the other hand—a subject to which Sarah Palin devotes herself —its meaning is transformed into something...mean! Which, well, it was supposed to be. To Christopher Hitchens, whose story the cover illustrates, Palin is an ideologically empty phenomenon who, if she ever attained actual political power again, would quickly betray the people (white ragers) who are most devoted to her:

The Palin problem, then, might be that she cynically incites a crowd that she has no real intention of pleasing. If she were ever to get herself to the nation's capital, the teabaggers would be just as much on the outside as they are now, and would simply have been the instruments that helped get her elected.

And there's this:

The task and duty of a serious politician, as Edmund Burke emphasized so well, is to reason with such people and not to act as their megaphone or ventriloquist. Sarah Palin appears to have no testable core conviction except the belief (which none of her defenders denies that she holds, or at least has held and not yet repudiated) that the end of days and the Second Coming will occur in her lifetime. This completes the already strong case for allowing her to pass the rest of her natural life span as a private citizen.

No, Hitchens (and most likely Newsweek too) does not take her very seriously. And that must be enraging to her. So her corner replies: They were making fun of her, because she's a girl who has legs! One idiot on MSNBC just proclaimed that he went back through 60 Newsweek covers—that would take him back to October 2008—and couldn't find an identical photograph, which he held up as evidence of a sexist leftist media double standard.

Aside from the fact that, according to a Newsweek insider we talked to, it was two female staffers who found the Runner's World picture and presented it to editor Jon Meacham as a cover candidate, the problem here is that, yes, the photo was taken out of the context in which it was taken. It was taken in the context of a content-free lark over which Sarah Palin had control and was engineered to make her look good by showing off the fact that she looks good.

It was recontextualized by Newsweek into the real world, a world in which a staged photo of the woman who hijacked the 2008 presidential election beaming goofily into the camera and holding her two Blackberries and American flag like random iconography thrown in to justify the fact that she's modeling her legs is frightening and laughable. The reason Palin posed for the Runner's World photo is that she wanted people to see her legs and think of her as youthful, vibrant, fit, and in control, and she thought that a good way to do it was to just throw any old American flag around and let those gams loose. The reason Newsweek chose it for the cover was to communicate that this is how Sarah Palin sees herself. Sarah Palin likes the imagery, and her adherents like the imagery; the problem emerges when people who don't reflexively and unthinkingly love Sarah Palin encounter the imagery. Then it's sexist.

It was also sexist when Newsweek ran an unretouched photo of her in closeup where you could make out her facial hair. And it will be sexist next year when they run another photo that references the fact Palin is a human being with a body, and it will be sexist so long as Newsweek, or anyone else who dares gaze at Miss Sarah, isn't sufficiently deferential to her image of herself. She wants to be the hot mom, and she wants to be the emerging political power center. She wants those two identities to reinforce one another, but she doesn't want anyone to screw with the messaging.

You'd think that a former beauty pageant contestant would have long ago come to terms with her body issues. And she seemed awful comfortable with her body in this clip from yesterday's Oprah appearance, when a camera crew followed her on a workout in Alaska, when she was so keen on making sure the camera got a shot of those legs that she wore shorts, in November, in fucking Alaska.