Monday, September 1, 2008

Bristol Palin's pregnancy

Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin's 17-year old daughter, is pregnant. This is certainly an interesting campaign, isn't it?

The political implications are complicated. The NY Times has a wonderfully understated line:

It is not clear how social conservatives will respond to the latest news.
At the very least, some of them will be disappointed, for the simple reason that this family has let them down. That's going to be part of the reaction, fair or not. Everybody, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, wishes Bristol and the father and all the Palins much happiness. But it's still complicated.

I think everyone agrees that the discussion should not be about Bristol Palin. Families, particularly minor children, are off limits.

But some of those social conservatives who support McCain will be disappointed and angry, not necessarily with any of the Palin clan, but with McCain. He knew before he asked her to be VP that Bristol Palin was pregnant. And, obviously, if she's five months pregnant now, she will have the baby after the election. There's no way to hide this.

McCain had to know that this was going to be an issue in the campaign. It may be unfortunate that a 17-year old's romantic life is dragged into the spotlight of the national media, but that's how the world is these days.

But he could have managed it better than he did. Apparently many of his staff, as well as just about everyone in the Republican party, were surprised by the choice of Palin as VP. That's not a big deal; McCain is a "maverick," after all. It definitely stole the thunder from Obama the day after his great acceptance speech.

The fact that Sarah Palin has a 17-year old daughter who is unmarried and pregnant should have been a fact that was made known as soon as it was announced that she had accepted McCain's invitation to be VP. It only took a couple of days for that fact to become public. Anyone could have predicted that. Thousands of people, from reporters at large newspapers, to random bloggers, are going to be investigating and examining every detail of Sarah Palin's life. It was going to become public knowledge. Even refraining from judgment, the fact itself is newsworthy.

I think how McCain handled this has demonstrated extraordinarily poor judgment on his part. If the fact that Bristol Palin is pregnant was part of the VP announcement, there would have been some mumbling about "family values" and sex education, but it also would have been one detail in the larger picture, and not a big deal. But now it is its own news story, and the issues of "family values" etc. are front and center. Social conservatives bash Hollywood and liberals for promoting sexual promiscuity among teenagers. They were thrilled that, with Sarah Palin, they had another solid role model, a "hockey mom" who would be a voice of moral authority on these issues.

Not anymore. I'm certainly not going to take Sarah Palin seriously as a moral authority on things like sex ed.

And there is no way in hell I am going to listen to John McCain preach about "family values."

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