By Larry Rohter
HENDERSON, Nev. — Speaking at a boisterous rally near Las Vegas, Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, on Tuesday sharply attacked Sen. Barack Obama as a faux feminist, criticizing him for not choosing Sen. Hillary Clinton as his running mate and accusing him of paying the women who work on his Senate staff less than their male colleagues.
Ms. Palin spoke flanked by female supporters she described as members of the Democratic platform committee and the National Organization for Women. She took a strongly feminist tack throughout, criticizing practices such as honor killings in the Muslim world as well as inequities closer to home and singling out female owners of small businesses, especially one she described as “Irma the Restaurant Owner.”
“Our opponents think they have the women’s vote all locked up, which is a little presumptuous since only our side has a woman on the ticket,” she said. She added, referring to Mr. Obama: “When it came time for choosing a vice president, somehow he couldn’t bring himself to choose a woman who got 18 million votes in the primaries.”
Ignoring her differences with leading feminist groups over issues such as abortion, Ms. Palin presented herself as a feminist pioneer. She referred favorably not only to Mrs. Clinton but also to former Representative Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1984, and wondered out loud why 24 years had elapsed before another woman was put on a national ticket.
“Are you ready to break the highest glass ceiling in America?” she asked. “It’s about time we shattered that glass ceiling for once and for all,” she added, as the crowd chanted her name.
Without directly calling Mr. Obama a hypocrite, she accused him of not practicing what he preaches. She referred to information that she said shows that women in Mr. Obama’s office earn only 83 percent of the wages paid to male employees, a salary difference that she estimated at $5,000 a year. “What’s with that?” she asked.
“I know one senator who actually does pay women equally,” she continued, referring to Sen. John McCain, her running mate. “That’s something I admire about John McCain,” she said. “He’s not someone who makes excuses.”
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, dismissed the criticism.
“Senator Obama has fought for equal pay for an equal day’s work, while Senator McCain has suggested that women don’t get equal pay because they need more education and training,” Ms. Dunn said in a statement. “While Senator Obama has proposed a plan to help working women, the McCain-Palin campaign offers just more negative attacks and distortions.”