Monday, September 01, 2008

Palin's Daughter

Caveat Lector: Pete points out that this is in questionable taste because it's rumor mongering and about a candidate's child, etc. So read no further if you agree that rumors should not be discussed without ample evidence or that candidate's children are always off limits no matter what.

One of the rumors that's been flying about is that Palin's fifth child (Trig) is not actually her son, but her grandson. She didn't announce she was pregnant until she was seven months and did not look demonstrably pregnant. Her 16-year old daughter was suddenly out of school with mono (for five months) so there are not a ton of pictures of her from that time. Then, when she supposedly went into labor a month early, after her water broke she flew 4,000 miles and skipped the hospital in Anchorage to return to her home town to give birth. Aside from the fact of such a choice being just plain dangerous (in fact, in the past, OBs were known to suggest an overdue woman take a short flight as the pressure change could induce labor), everyone knows that the more times you give birth, the quicker it's likely to happen. Anyway, the whole story, including pictures of the daughter from earlier in the year where she does look demonstrably pregnant, is here. I highly recommend reading it as it is just flabbergasting how totally improbable this story is.

Most liars would agree that the most convincing lies omit the details and stick to the truth as much as possible. (In fact, the best way to get caught lying is to look down as you speak or make too much eye contact and to offer too many details.) The Karl Rove school seems to believe that you can say any damn thing you want, no matter how crazy or impossible, and so long as you gnash your teeth and growl while saying it, people will buy it. And if they don't, never try to explain how your crazy story is possible, just accuse them of something, anything, and never ever back down. This story Palin has told is such a weird mix of too much detail AND too many crazy, impossible things that it shouldn't work on any level. Every time she offers a new detail, it fails to jibe with the rest. And she just brazens it out.

Now she's saying that her daughter is currently five months pregnant and therefore couldn't be Trig's mother. Um, what? My guess is that baby will be born two months "premature."

I don't think a candidate can be measured by the choices their children make. They can, however, be measured by the way they handle the fall-out of those choices. We've (my family and I) been talking about this story a lot for several days now and I wasn't going to write anything about it because I agree that candidates' children should not be brought into the process, scrutinized, etc. But in this case Palin has brought her daughter into it herself in exposing her current pregnancy in response to rumors. If she did pretend to be pregnant to cover up what she considers to be a shameful act on the part of her daughter, she made a lot of bad choices in bringing her pretend baby into the world, and that should matter to voters because it speaks to her decision-making skills. If she really was improbably pregnant, it should speak to them even more strongly. If these rumors are untrue, I apologize for having speculated. But the rumor seems more plausible than the purported truth and that is impossible to ignore.


Tina said...

Guess the news today about Palin's daughter's pregnancy makes this a dead issue.

I decided today that what I most dislike about "news" coverage now (CNN, FOX, all of them) is that you can't tell what's news anymore. I remember being so thrilled with the availability of 24-hour news when CNN first began, and there was truly great and exciting coverage of the final coup attempt in Moscow, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and the first Gulf War. But I'm afraid that the 24-hour news cycle has become a monster that must be continually fed. So we're left with over-trumped stories: Was Hurricane Gustav as serious a threat to New Orleans as the hype indicated, and weak or non-existant analysis: Will McCain's ticket be helped or hurt by his cynical selection for VP? Is he betting that invigorating his base will generate more votes than those he loses by making what seems to be an unsuitable choice?

Rip Tatermen said...

It doesn't, though, because
1) There's no proof she is five months pregnant, and
2) If it really is Sarah Palin's baby, she was bizarrely irresponsible to travel all the way back to podunk Alaska after her water broke prematurely, instead of just having the baby in Texas, or at the NICU in Anchorage. Even if it isn't her daughter's baby, the story still sounds like BS.
It's sorta moot because there are at least half a dozen other glaring issues with her, but she's either lying or nuts.

Sydney said...

Also, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks an interesting if rather pointless question: what if it were the Obamas' teenage daughter. Pointless both because they don't have a teenage daughter and because everyone knows exactly what would happen. There's a link to Dobson's response to Palin's daughter's pregnancy and, frankly, I'm shocked. What Dobson says is very nice and very understanding. It's pretty much what anyone should say: it's good that the Palins are supporting their daughter, we're all human and human's make mistakes, we hope everything turns out well for her. I wish that I could believe he'd say the same thing about anyone who found themselves in that situation.

SonicLlama said...

The decent part of me wants to agree that kids are off limits politically. I don't think that it's ethical, responsible, or decent for a pregnant seventeen year old to have to undergo national media scrutiny.


Politicians trot out their kids to be political props all of the time. The kids are used as living models and examples of a candidates decency and humanity, and if something is presented as an asset for a candidate, why not use it as an asset against a candidate.

When a politician talks about, say, their environmental record, it is entirely fair to go over their voting history and see whether or not their actions match their rhetoric. On most every issue politicians claims need to be verified and tested.

The McCain Campaign is going to try to use Palin's motherhood experience as an asset. They will parade her children about, extol her virtues as a matriarch, and talk about how tough she is, balancing motherhood and governance. Why shouldn't this issue, this supposed asset, also be scrutinized? Most people would regard a pregnant seventeen year old as something of a parental failure. Not necessarily a debilitating one, but a painful shortcoming nonetheless. I know that if I were a father and my child got pregnant, I would wonder why I hadn't done a good enough job of encouraging good judgment.

If Palin wants to use her status as a mom in politics, that status will need to withstand scrutiny. It won't be pretty, it will probably be ugly and maybe even cross over into being unfair, but I don't think that she should get a free pass as a family values/parenting candidate when she, obviously, has made some grievous mistakes in that department.

Tina said...

Interesting that Palin issued a statement saying they are "proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby," which sounds like she had a CHOICE, oddly.

Sydney said...

I totally agree, Llama. It's a really blurry line between bad taste and "you asked for it." Either Pete or NPR was saying today that if Bristol's pregnancy is off the table as a campaign issue, so is her son's deployment as a campaign asset. I'm really proud of Obama for staying quiet on this. He's good at not saying what the media will say for him and just letting a situation rip itself to shreds while he sits back, out of the fray. And he enters into the fray when it's worthwhile. A+, sir!

Tina - too true! But of course they don't see it that way. I'm sure they see it as a choice between keeping the baby to raise and giving it up for adoption. But yours is the more correct analysis.

Beau said...

In response to Rip, perhaps she was so insistent on having her newest child born in Alaska in case it actually suceeds. You can't be part of the Alaskan revolution if you weren't born there!

As far as whether kids are off limits, I think it pays to take the high road as the candidate whether it is fair or not. But as Syd says, that doesn't stop the media, and it's not like the media has much in the way of taste or a conscience these days.