Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What's Appropriate in a Campaign

The news today is about Sarah Palin's seventeen-year-old daughter who is five months pregnant and planning to marry her boyfriend. I'm puzzled why they're not already married if they want to do that - if she's five months along they've had time. Is she more in love with the baby's daddy because her mama is now a VP pick? Are her parents more in love with him for the same reason? Of course, I have no idea.

Now, I'm the first to say that candidate's children should be off limits. BUT, when you trot your kids out on the campaign trail, you're inviting trouble. You don't get it both ways - you can maintain their privacy or you can have them standing behind you while you speak. Whichever way you go, the die has been cast. You don't get it both ways. There's a reason we rarely saw Amy Carter - her parents chose to keep her out of the public eye. Obviously, Palin is not the only one who has introduced her children to the world. But, as far as I know, she's the only one who did it knowing there was a huge issue that was going to be difficult for her child.

If you know your seventeen-year-old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock and you've been a big proponent of family values and abstinence education, which fails - as you can plainly see across the dinner table - why, why, why, why, why would you introduce the whole family on national television? With her holding your baby on top of everything else? It's unfortunate for her daughter that she is the pawn in this whole thing for her mother's political gain. Wouldn't it have been better for her daughter and the rest of the family if Palin had declined the invitation to become VP. Why would a mother thrust her family into the public eye at a time like this, for a party that eschews this very sort of thing?

When you make "family values" and "abstinence" and other such things part of your platform as a politician, and then it's obvious your own house isn't in order, it makes me very suspicious about what else is amiss in your life - public or private. I know parents can't control everything their children do, but when part of your approach to politics is telling others that they're not doing it the right way - they should do it your way, without any sex education - then we're entitled to look at how well that's working for you. If it's not even working in your house - at the source, as it were - how can you possibly think it will work for anyone else?

I have nothing but compassion for her daughter. It's a difficult situation. I've known more than a couple of people who found themselves exactly where she is. They, fortunately, did not have parents holding them up to an unrealistic ideal while building a whole career on that fantasy. The daughter is caught in a web of her mother's making and she has no way out except a none-too-quick marriage.

So many questions have been raised about McCain's judgment in picking Palin, and Palin's judgment with regard to the office. Frankly, my biggest question about her judgment is what kind of mother does this to her child? What kind of mother puts her seventeen-year-old unmarried pregnant daughter in a national spotlight for a political party that supposedly despises pre-marital sex? Is that the most loving way Sarah Palin could think of to handle her daughter's pregnancy? Is she punishing her for her sins? I hope someone digs beyond the surface to figure out the personality of a mother who thinks this is the best thing she can do for her family. That's something I want to know about a potential president.
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Guy Martin said...


Interesting take. However, I guess I disagree with a lot of what you wrote, because, quite honestly, I don't think any of us (including Obama) are above reproach.

Unfortunately, the political process tends to bring out the worst skeletons in everyone's closets. Both McCain and Obama (and their respective running mates) have plenty of not so flattering things in their collective past.

I personally think that Palin is handling this pretty well - sure, it should have come out sooner, but to say that people that are running for office shouldn't bring their family into the spotlight is just not practical. Candidate's families are *always* going to be a part of the equation, whether they like it or not. If everyone with a skeleton in their closet declined to run for office, it would be a pretty empty ticket. :)

In short, I think that Obama (though I disagree vehemently with his Socialist agenda) had the right approach here when he basically said 'This is off limits, and isn't a predictor of her ability to govern' (loose paraphrase)

This particular issue is a bit personal to me, as my son (born out of wedlock) is starting college this fall, and I'd be mighty peeved if people were to suggest I was unfit to do my job because of his existence.

Feel free to disagree, but I just wanted to give another perspective. Thanks for listening. :)

Patsy Terrell said...

Thanks for writing.

I agree - completely - that no one is above reproach. Absolutely. That's the reason people often pick people like Biden or Bush Sr. - someone who's been in public office for a long time so their skeletons - you hope - are already out.

And I don't have any moral issue with her daughter being pregnant. It happens. It has happened to a whole bunch of people over the centuries - my friends, my family, my ancestors, etc. - and most people could say the same. I have absolutely NO moral issues with it at all.

Interestingly enough, no one thought children were "off limits" when Republican pundits were commenting on Obama's children the night they saw him on the big screen. One commentator I saw even called into question Michelle's parenting abilities that she didn't stop it. Obviously, different situation, but my point is that you don't get it both ways - either they're off limits or they're not. Obama took the risk of having his kids see him for the first time in days on the big screen and they were a bit overly excited. She took a risk in not rushing this marriage along in the last few months. If her daughter were already married, she could have easily been back in Alaksa with her husband and she would not have been standing in the background right between McCain and Palin in the photos, holding the baby.

My whole point - in a nutshell - is the hypocricy of it. She is a big proponent of abstience education, which obviously isn't working well in her own family. That's fine. It's your family. But when you could be president it becomes everyone's business if something you want as policy for everyone isn't even something you can pull off in your own family.

I agree the fact that her daughter is pregnant has nothing to do with her ability to govern - it's unrelated. However, the fact that her daughter is pregnant after lots of abstinence education is an indictment of something Palin strongly believes in as policy. Policy issues are everyone's business when you could be president.

And there are different ways to deal with your family being in a campaign. I don't know the names of Joe Biden's children and grandchildren. I don't know the names of McCain's. I can only think of the name of one of Obama's daughters. Sarah Palin was the one who made it a point to introduce us to her family. It wasn't a generic "my five children," it was a detailed introduction. I know the names of all of her children. I realize that's a political decision - playing on the whole family aspect - but she chose to put them in the spotlight, not leave them in the background. Once you've done that, it's done. And there are different ways to handle it. She made it a point to bring them all into the spotlight - we even know why they have the names they have.

To top it off, it just seems cruel to her daughter at this point. I've never been in her daughter's position, but I'm thinking it must be very traumatic on many levels and I doubt a marriage is going to solve that. I do know that if I'd been in that situation that my mother would not have put me in the national spotlight, standing behind her five months pregnant, for a political party that eschews premarital sex. I'm not a mother, but that just doesn't strike me as the best possible mothering that could be done in this circumstance. The decision making involved is something the public has a right to consider when this person could be come president.

The parallel with your son would not be his existence, but if at 17 he were not living by the rules you wanted to enforce for everyone. It's the applying the rules for your own family to everyone else's family, when it's not even working for you. It's like starting a model program (the individual family) to try out something, and it fails, but you still want to expand it to everyone else. The hypocricy is the big issue to me.

I genuinely appreciate your point of view. I agree completely that no one is above reproach. At every election, I pretty much hold my breath for whatever candidate I've chosen for any office, hoping we don't learn anything horrible about them. I am *much* more accepting of those "horrible" things if they haven't denied them up to that point.

On a more personal note, I hope your son enjoys his college experience. I have a great nephew who started college a few weeks ago. It's an exciting time.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.