September 3, 2008

The 36th Chamber of Palin

foreignaffairs_sarahpalin.jpg The CW about Sarah Palin has gelled: every new revelation about her is important because the real issue is McCain's rash decision. The McCain camp today essentially acknowledged that it's been stung by this line of attack when it declared it be "nonsense" and promised to have "no further comment."

I'm with the CW, both because it's effective and because it's true. And despite the pronouncements from on high, it's not going away for a few reasons.

1. Bristol's pregnancy is getting attention not just because of the human drama, but because it's symbolic of a long list of things McCain apparently didn't know before he tapped Palin. And the Bristol issue can't be filed away strictly as a private matter because (among other reasons we'll get to soon) it's the one that most obviously caught McCain by surprised. McCain claims that he knew about it in advance, but that's almost certainly a lie. If the campaign was aware of this, it would have included it in the official first day press release. Not prominently or anything. They'd have buried it in the last third of the bio, framed it as part of the whole pro-life thing, as they're attempting to do now, and then made clear that it was a private matter about a child that no one would discuss. Framed that way, Bristol would barely have been mentioned. That's political inoculation 101. The fact that it leaked out instead proves that McCain had no idea it was coming. If I'm wrong, and I doubt it, then McCain should certainly fire his entire media team immediately.

2. Compounding the error of point 1 (poor preparation), McCain's denial constitutes lying to the public to cover his ass. Now, my analysis isn't proof that he lied, but it's certainly enough to keep the media asking questions in an attempt to catch him in that lie.

3. The media will keep asking questions because McCain just pissed them off big time. Retaliating against CNN (with poor, doddering old Larry King as the innocent bystander) for doing its most basic job for a change is not going to fly. After all, Brown wasn't digging up personal dirt, she was appropriately testing an official campaign line: that running the Alaska National Guard counts as executive experience. Of course, some Palin apologists go as far as to say that this counts as foreign policy experience, which is simply false. The new McCain suggestion is that Palin, by virtue of having any executive experience at all, is more prepared than Obama, who has none. By that token, she is also more prepared than John McCain.

4. McCain's chief VP vetter now says that everything that had come up as a possible red flag is now out in the open. Which means that if anything else comes out McCain can't turn around and say, "well, we knew about that too." Which means that the press will have to try to find out if there is anything else there, to test claims that the vetting process was thorough. Does anyone seriously think there's not at least one more skeleton waiting to emerge from Palin's grave and go on a deadly rampage?

But let's step back a minute and point out that even the supposed upside of McCain's choice of Palin -- that it shows he's a maverick who likes to take bold chances and won't be reined in by the rules of politics -- is total fucking lie. It's been reported over and over that Palin was McCain's third choice. He wanted to name Lieberman or Ridge, but caved to the pressure of the religious right. Instead of naming the person he thought would be the best partner to help him govern the country (though what kind of man thinks Lieberman or Ridge is that person?) he went with the one calculated to help him win an election. And badly calculated at that. When the chips were down, McCain crumbled. Even if you like Palin you have to admit that.

Finally, let's dispose of this nonsense that Bristol's "condition" is out of bounds.

I believe the exact formulation of the rule is, if there's grass on the field, let's play. I know what Barack Obama said: "How a family deals with issues and you know teenage children, that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics." Um, in Europe, maybe.

Obama himself has made (other people's) parental responsibility a centerpiece of his campaign. And it's not just him. Is there a politician around today who hasn't mouthed off on the proper way for families to deal with issues regarding teenage children? Hillary Clinton wanted to ban Grand Theft Auto. Talk about something that shouldn't be the topic of our politics. McCain cited the example of his own daughter when he opposed Bill Clinton's sex-ed and contraception policies. But suddenly, our politics isn't supposed to touch on how families deal with teenage children? Or is the idea that it's OK to talk about "families" and "children" in the abstract, as long as we let actual families with children alone. Sorry, but every child impacted by lousy Republican policy is someone's actual child.

And as numerous people have noted, Palin has ensured that her daughter's pregnancy should be a political issue by repeatedly referring to her decision to keep the child. That opens up an entirely legitimate, and extremely important, question Palin should answer if and when she gets around to answering questions: "In praising your daughter's decision, aren't you implying that she has the right to make a decision? If this decision is a private family matter, why do you want to take that decision away from families and give it to the government?" Palin has also stressed that Bristol will marry her hottie boyfriend, and will have the full love and support of her family. But lots of teenage girls who aren't so fortunate in either respect. With the matter of "decision making," or "choice," as it's sometimes called, having been put squarely on the table by Palin herself, shouldn't she be obliged to discuss why it's right to take away the right to make that decision from less fortunate girls? Not abstract ones, but actual ones. Children who are every bit as human as her own daughter.

Update: NRO's Byron York, of all people, says it out loud: "If the Obamas had a 17 year-old daughter who was unmarried and pregnant by a tough-talking black kid, my guess is if that they all appeared onstage at a Democratic convention and the delegates were cheering wildly, a number of conservatives might be discussing the issue of dysfunctional black families."

[Magazine cover by Andrew Hearst, of course]

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I'd agree if we were dealing with an educated electorate. Unfortunately, the legacy of the GOP (going back to Newt's Contract) is one of steadily dumbing down discourse (take that, Safire) to the point where complex issues are reduced to what God does/doesn't want.

God wants babies, even mentally challenged ones, because that tests us as compassionate persons.

God wants us to kill Muslims, even if they get to be President (or maybe especially if).

And any attempts to delve into the finer points of argument result in charges of "liberal", "elitist", "uppity" or "uppity elitist liberal".

Of course, that's the GOP base and no amount of logic will change their minds and God bless them, they're entitled to their opinions.

But the undecideds/independents are the real challenge. And that's what worries me. Apparently teen pregnancy is so widespread that every family either has or knows a pregnant teen. Pointing out Palin's hypocrisy is easily spun into -"See, the liberals are looking down at you, again".

I'm very uneasy about the whole thing and only hope that Obama/Biden are really as smart as I think they are in handling this.

Has McCain said anything about families being off limits? That would be pretty galling when you remember him joking about how ugly Chelsea was. But I believe that anyone with the hubris to run for public office forfeits the right to privacy. If their families don't like it, then they shouldn't be allowed to campaign for them.

I'm afraid that I have to disagree with you here Radosh - we don't have all the information yet (remember, this happened just a couple of day ago) and there are actually other possibilities that don’t include a fatally stupid McCain team or a hypocritical Palin. My theory (and I'm sticking to it even though it seems far-fetched) is that the Palins themselves did not know about the pregnancy until after Sarah Palin was announced as VP.

Just imagine that you are a 17-year-old girl in a Christian right type political family who got unexpectedly pregnant (probably on prom night - 4-5 months gone? Do the math.) . You have no idea what to do – the months go by…etc Believe me, teenage girls are so absolutely capable of denial about an unexpected pregnancy that they often deny it until the day they girl birth – especially the ones who have been raised strictly or in ignorance, or both.

And then, *out of the blue*, you mom is picked to be VP because she’s a conservative mother of the year type. What do you do, 17-year-old pregnant girl who’ll soon be unable to conceal it? Everything is about to come crashing down on you. You panic, you tell. Your shocked parents put the best possible spin on it. They knew all along, they say. What are they supposed to say? We had no idea? We don’t communicate with our kids?

I know that there have been some reports that “everyone” knew that she was pregnant but, although I usually believe most everything that I read the tabloids, I don’t find that very credible. Maybe her friends knew and that’s “everybody”…but it’s still possible that no adults knew, including her parents. One thing that supports this theory is that I find it hard to believe that if Palin knew about the pregnancy beforehand she would have accepted the nomination and subjected her daughter to this kind of media frenzy. She would have to be crazy and ambitious and cold-hearted to have made such a decision with that kind of knowledge. Is there actually any evidence that she is that bad? Until there is, this is most logical scenario.

Look at the pictures of Bristol that have been posted of her with the baby – and don’t focus on the baby and baby conspiracy theories – focus on her face. She looks terrified and guilty and lost.

And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

"McCain apparently didn't know (about the pregnancy) before he tapped Palin." He tapped that? Yeah, he wishes.

sims - I did consider that possibility, but rejected it after the "everybody knew" stories, which I guess I find more credible than you.

However an honest-to-goodness source informs me that the truth lies somewhere between your analysis and mine. McCain and Palin come off slightly better, but not great. It's a twist I hadn't considered -- and one I'm attempting to confirm from other sources.

BTW, I don't actually have any other sources, so if you are one, drop me a line.

I don't have any honest to goodness sources - it's just a process of deduction. Being a girl, I know how girls think and I wish someone would look at it from Bristol's point of view. If mom-as-VP shocked the rest of us, think of how it must have been for poor pregnant Bristol...

Also, if she knew, Sarah Palin would either have to be *very stupid* to not know that her young daughter was going to be the butt of a hundred late night jokes and have her face plastered all over the tabloids if she accpeted the nomination, or she would have to *not care*.

I think it is safe to say that Sarah Palin is not dumb. Whether she is ambitious to the point of being evil and went ahead knowing the torment in store for her child is unknown at this point.

The only other possiblity is that she didn't know until it was too late. Can anyone think of any other possibilities?

The alternate possibility, which I'm inclined to credit, can be made to jibe with your suspicions, given a few small modifications -- just as it would refute your suspicions without those modifications. Either way it DOES suggest that the entire vetting process was extremely rushed and haphazard.

No doubt it was rushed - for all the other things perhaps (the drunk driving, the troopergate thing etc.) - but perhaps not for this. I think as more info comes out (and it will!) we'll know better what kind of character Palin has - dumb, evil or just plain mom.

I should explain the reason that I don't find the "everyone knew" theory credible. In the NY tabs at least, no sources are named. And the "mother of Levi's friend" says that "everyone has known for awhile - weeks or more."

The rule of being pregnant as I remember it, even when you are happy about it, is that you don't tell anyone until 3 plus months have gone by. being 4-or barely 5 months along is really not enough time for "everyone in town" to know. And you are not showing really, so you would have to actively tell people. It might take 5 or more months for a sheltered girl in her first pregnancy to know *herself* that she was pregnant!

It just seems unbelievable to me.

This Time article seems to be the ur-text.

If the "Palin didn't know" theory turns out to be correct, it'll just emphasize the thing I find most appalling - that Palin didn't bother consulting her family on this.

"Hey kids, we're gonna spend the next three months in the media spotlight, and then in January we're all going to move to Washington DC for the next 4-8 years!" Isn't that the kind of thing a non-douchebag parent might call a family meeting to discuss?

The real issues:
1. McCain's judgment: Rash, impetuous, scary.
2. Palin's qualifications: Not questioning them would be sexist.
3. Pro-choice vs. No-choice: How does mom or daughter get credit for the "choice" to keep their respective babies when they claim not to "see" choice.
4. Republican hypocrisy: Giuliani, Fiorina, Thompson and others all lose credibility. (Note to Rudy: Have you re-read your rules for "Leadership" lately? What about the "Surround Yourself With Good People" chapter? Or how about "Prepare relentlessly" or "Everyone's Accountable All The Time")
5. Rush Limbaugh and another right-wing nutjobs: When Jamie Lynn Spears was pregnant they all screamed it was the parents fault.
6. The rest of us: We want to take this election seriously. The world could be at stake. We'd like John McCain to take it seriously too.

When you think about the human aspect it's really sick. These kids are being FORCED into a marriage for political reasons. It's like the Duke of Austria wants to add Hungary to his realm.

Did Palin praise her daughter's decision to HAVE the baby or to KEEP the baby? (I've seen both words cited, but don't remember seein an actual quote.) If that latter, it's entirely consistent with her pro-life position, since her daughter could have chosen to give the baby up for adoption.

"We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents."

Jon Stewart totally nailed Newt Gingrich on the "decision is just another word for choice" matter last night.

All good stuff, but what about having a woman with such a high propensity to get knocked up in the white house? Seriously. What if, totally hopped up on hormones, she goes all Brooke Shields on Pakistan?

I'm supporting a constitutional amendment requiring pro-life women of child bearing age to undergo a hysterectomy prior to accepting the responsibility of president or VP. It is a grave office indeed and there's no time for maternity leave, hormone rage, or post partum depression.

that daily show segment last night on rove and o'reilly's (and dick morris's) before and after bullshit should be seen by all americans!!

npm -- Good point. I must agree that "having" the baby is different from "keeping" the baby. Hard to believe that anyone in the Palin family would let this one escape, though, so it seems it does become a form of compulsory motherhood (as well as forced marriage, as noted above).

Levi is 18, and Bristol is 17. Good thing they don't live in Idaho, or he'd be a rapist.

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