(Again, please pardon my politics, so skip it if you don’t care.)
It’s as if I woke up in a dream world this afternoon after working overnight, when we were all Gustav-obsessed (and rightfully so, it doesn’t look as bad as Katrina, but it still sucks; my sympathies to the Gulf residents) and when I read my usual web sites, I had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
In that picture of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, you see her daughter Bristol holding Palin’s youngest son, Trig. There had been a series of rumors (I first read about them at Sports on My Mind) that Trig might be Bristol’s child, and in order to rebut those particular things, John McCain’s campaign decided to release the information that Bristol is currently five months pregnant.
(I wasn’t quite convinced on the “Trig is Bristol’s baby” rumors, even though the signs were very, very fishy. Who flies from Dallias to Anchorage, with a stop in Seattle, and then drives way out to Wasilla to have a child?)
Asked if Ms. Palin will be able to judge the demands of the vice-presidency with her complicated family life, [McCain strategist Steve] Schmidt said, “She’s been a very effective governor and again I can’t imagine that question being asked of a man.”
The McCain campaign says it was aware of her daughter’s pregnancy before it named her as the running mate on Friday.
Mrs. Palin’s statement identified the father only by a first name, Levi. “Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family,” the statement said. “We ask the media, respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.”
Schmidt is only now using the whole sexism angle in playing damage control — the campaign had no problem with tokenism on a very light vice presidential candidate whom they didn’t vet properly. He’s being very savvy by letting this out during Gustav and on Labor Day — very few people are going to notice. When asked about it, Barack Obama took the smart way out of this, at least on his end.
Mr. Obama said the pregnancy “has no relevance to Governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president.” He added that, “my mother had me when she was 18. How family deals with issues and teen-age children – that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics.”
Although this is the politically smart thing to say, it’s wrong.
He’s right that how the family deals with issues and teenage pregnancy internally is not a political issue. The problem is that Palin and McCain want to have it both ways. Palin is a staunch pro-life advocate: no abortion even in the case of rape or incest, and, as expected, a very strong supporter of abstinence-only education and no pre-marital sex. This manifests itself in the destructive public policy of the last eight years, where sex education is not “education” so much as telling kids not to have sex and praying they’ll listen — not giving them any form of education of how to protect themselves from pregnancy or disease.
A bit more from the statement Palin released is in the Washington Post:
“We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.”
There’s some crucial language in this: it implies that Bristol Palin decided, or more appropriately, chose, to have her child and marry the baby’s father; however, the choice of whether to have the baby or not is one a McCain-Palin adminsitration would ultimately seek to deny everyone else. Remember, there are two likely Supreme Court retirements ahead for the next President, with Roe v. Wade still at stake.
Essentially, this is the basest of rank hypocrisy, and why this issue is not off-limits to the rest of us. The personal decisions of the men and women who write public policy are a reflection of how those policy aims affect us all. No politician ought to be able to have it both ways when public or private actions (those revealed and made public) contradict their oft-state public policy.