Memo to: Joe Biden
Re: Playing the Optical Card

I know you’ve got a lot of high-priced political consultants guiding your every move, so the last thing you probably need is some free advice from an optical industry pundit. But since you and Barack are now in the home stretch of this hotly contested campaign, you need to seize every chance you get to score points with voters. That’s why it’s time to play the optical card.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how much attention Sarah Palin has drawn with her stylish specs. As my 20/20 colleague Gloria Nicola pointed out in a recent USA Today article, Palin’s rimless Kawasaki frames make a strong fashion statement that reinforces her distinctive image. Apparently, Palin selected the frame over 300 different styles her optician showed her.

While one questions whether a male candidate’s eyewear would arouse such interest, the fact is women all over America—at least Republican women—are now flocking to dispensaries in search of those glasses or similar looking ones. How many other celebrities have ignited that type of interest in their eyewear?

Yet Palin has squandered a valuable opportunity by not using her newfound celebrity to redirect attention away from her eyewear and onto a more serious topic—the need for more Americans to have access to eyecare. Many people in low income brackets don’t receive vision care insurance and can’t afford to see an eyecare professional or purchase a pair of glasses. Many children don’t receive adequate vision screening and, as a result, can’t learn to read and are unable to function in school. These are just the most pressing examples of the need for a national healthcare policy that provides basic eyecare to anyone who needs it, regardless of age, income or employment status.

By shifting the conversation away from Palin’s style and putting it back onto issues of substance, you’ll be doing us all a favor.

—Andrew Karp