Tuesday, September 2, 2008



There is so much to say about Sarah Palin, and John McCain’s selection of her (for now) as his running mate that it is difficult to know where to commence and even more difficult to encapsulate my argument, but here goes:

--My initial reaction was that this was a silly pick; McCain threw the Hail Mary when doing so was not necessary. (See my 8/18/08 and 8/28/08 posts.) Tactically, he would have been better off with a safe pick, like Tim Pawlenty or a slightly more daring pick, like Kaye Bailey Hutchison. My feelings have not changed on my assessment of the tactical benefits for selecting Sarah Palin. The experience/celebrity argument will resonate with a substantial number of voters, largely justifiably, no matter how effectively the GOP spins it.

--The more I learned about Sarah Palin (Which was just about everything; even I, who follows these things with, if not the rigor I once did, with more attention than most people, knew almost nothing about Sarah Palin.), the more I liked her politics, ideas, and, especially, her approach to the political establishment. I would even go so far as to say that if she were at the top of the ticket, I might even consider voting Republican, but still probably wouldn’t. Further, the argument that she has more administrative experience than Barack Obama or Joe Biden makes sense; she has actually run something, which is more than one can say about Messrs. Obama, Biden, or McCain. (Funny how Ms. Palin’s defender never seem to mention the last when engaging in the “having run something” defense.) Further, given the derision the GOP, and its standard-bearer, have given Mr. Obama’s level of experience, the bar they have chosen to boost Ms. Palin over is very low.

--The pregnancy of Ms. Palin’s 17 year old daughter Bristol does change things. Tactically, one has to wonder how those not very engaged voters (who will ultimately decide the election) who would like her story line will react to this one. I know several of those relatively apolitical Moms who were initially drawn to her who are now hesitating. Tactically, this can’t help.

--I’m not comfortable with the argument that Ms. Palin is an evangelical Christian, the type that likes to tell everyone else how to run their families, but can’t seem to run her own. It fails, or at least is unsatisfactory and/or mean spirited, at any number of points. But this simplistic argument will appeal to a lot of undecideds.

--My bigger problem with the pregnancy, or, really, Ms. Palin’s reaction to it, is her use of the word “proud” when describing both her daughter’s decisions to have the baby and to marry his or her father and Ms. Palin’s and her husband’s feelings regarding becoming the grandparents of a child of a teen mother. If Palin had said that she was proud that her daughter decided not to abort the baby, I would wholeheartedly agree. But is she proud of the fact that her daughter has decided to marry the 18 year old father of her child? It seems like adoption would the best option here for the unborn child and for his or her parents. That would be a decision of which one could be justifiably proud. But to be proud of teenage motherhood? The self-appointed champions of the unborn and of family values seem to be rallying around this decision. Hmm….If the idea of teenagers’ getting married because of pregnancy is the Religious Right’s idea of family values (which it sure seems like they would like to impose on all of us), perhaps the Religious Right is as scary as my liberal and moderate friends seem to think. Teen pregnancy is a HUGE problem in this country, and, as politically incorrect as it seems to be, restoring some of the stigma formerly attached to it might help reduce teen pregnancy. Having a potential VP of the United States tell us how “proud” she will be to be the grandparent of the child of a teen mom doesn’t help.

--It seems to me that Ms. Palin, with a Down’s syndrome baby and a pregnant daughter, has a lot on her plate at the moment. Is this the time to be running for a job like VP that could soon turn into the biggest job in the world? It is one of the odd juxtapositions of this campaign that it is people, primarily women, on the more liberal end of the spectrum who are making this argument while “family values” conservatives tend to argue that it is perfectly acceptable for Ms. Palin to be (Let’s be brutally honest here.) displaying at least a degree of neglect of her family’s current dire needs, and exposing her very vulnerable daughter to some harsh worldwide publicity at a very tough time, in order to further her own career. That’s the funny thing about principles: They seem to be amazingly disposable when they become inconvenient or interfere with ambition.

--John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam? (Only once per post, Susan, I promise.)) tells us he was aware of the pregnancy when he offered Ms. Palin the VP spot on the ticket. Do you believe that? I don’t. Why would one take on all this baggage and grief? Is energizing the base worth it? If McCain is indeed lying and he did not know about the pregnancy, then Palin either lied or was not asked the final question: “Is there anything I should know before I ask you to be my running mate?” One or both members of the GOP ticket do not look great under this scenario. If Mr. McCain is not lying and did indeed know of the Bristol’s pregnancy, it says a lot about his judgment, his stubbornness, his ability to make an effective cost/benefit analysis, and/or his new found subservience to the Religious Right base. He looks bad under any scenario.

The best outcome for the GOP, Mr. McCain, Ms. Palin, her family, and especially Bristol, would be for Palin to “voluntarily” leave the ticket in order to attend to her family’s needs, which are indeed very great right now. It’s the right thing to do morally; Ms. Palin is a very strong woman whose family really needs her now. It might even turn out to be the right thing to do politically. Mr. McCain and the GOP can do without the baggage Ms. Palin brings. And Ms. Palin is a very young woman whose time will come again, and her living the values she propounds can only help her with her base when she resumes her political career, as I certainly hope she does…at a more opportune time.


Reid, the godson who apparently fell too far from the tree said...

I could not disagree with you more one this one.

Although I am no fan of self-proclaimed evangelical Christians (whether it is on traditional right wing social issues or new found leftist environmental issues), Sarah Palin did not “fail to run” her own family. Rather, her daughter at age 17 had sex—a shocking concept to many of the readers I am sure—and now the family has to confront the results of that decision. Ms. Palin did not choose to have a child at 17 (and I am ignorant of her sexual choices at age 17), and I am unaware of how she has asked others to make choices different than she has made. How Ms. Palin handles the decisions made on a going forward basis is far more of an indicator how she runs “her family” than the fact that her daughter had intercourse that resulted in a pregnancy. So far, Ms. Palin is doing a great job in my book. Certainly, I am willing to bet that most of America will identify with her rather than a 70+ year old guy who has to decide whether to sleep in D.C., Sedona, Phoenix or one of his 4 other houses, a 30 year incumbent senator, or even a Harvard educated-civil rights/constitutional lawyer/professor.

Ms. Palin simply has no reason not to be proud of her daughter’s choices to forego an abortion or to get married. For all we know, these were informed choices about which we do not know the facts and which we should be inclined to support if we want “families” in this country to succeed. She is proud of her daughter, not some unknown “teenage mom,” and should be proud to be a grandparent of a child that will be loved enormously. The child should not be born into any stigma, lack any love or be put up for adoption because of the age or decision of its mother. Hopefully, the Palin family will now have two more people they can love and help grow into honest, decent members of society. It is especially ironic for anyone who is pro-family to call for the needless adoption of a child who has an apparently loving, extended family who will help raise this child. The base line support this child has for its future success in this situation is so much better than what many orphan or other children face in this nation today. When a family has the means and love to support and teenage daughter/mom and the unborn child, it seems to me that the correct “family value” is to love and cherish that unborn baby and offering all the support it needs to thrive. I see no evidence that Ms. Palin is neglecting her family, her daughter or her unborn grandchild in any of her choices. Any assertion to the contrary lacks factual support.

With respect to the call for Ms. Palin to exit the race because she has so much going on in her personal life, I don’t recall anyone asking McCain to resign from the senate when he adopted a young child. Is it because Ms. Palin has an infant or because the infant has down’s syndrome? Has anyone really asked what job Mr. Palin has and whether he can perform the role of primary care giver? I also do not recall anyone second guessing Joe Biden’s decision to stay in political office following his family tragedy. As far as I can tell, his kids turned out very well and admirably. And even if you do not like him, no one can argue with how Barack Obama turned out after being born to and raised by a teenage mother. It also wouldn’t make sense for either Barack or Michelle to have to stop campaigning, cease working for U of C or give up public life simply because they have children in upcoming awkward teenage years or may face obstacles in raising a young daughter in D.C.. For me, it is an important life lesson to show (not only tell) your children that you need to continue to fulfill your professional and social roles and obligations even when you face obstacles. Numerous families have faced unplanned pregnancies (including me, my family and my in-laws) and have continued to perform their vocations admirably and even thrive. It seems especially hypocritical to call for Ms. Palin to drop out at this point and in this situation where the family obviously has the support of Mr. Palin and extended family to help raise the infant and the unborn grandchild. It is even more ironic than “Libertarians” telling people how they should define “family” or calling for a national language dictated by the federal government.
I think Ms. Palin has made a wise choice that shows that one can raise a successful family, have a career and serve the public in whatever one role one chooses. The fact that she can actually handle multiple obligations successfully should be lauded, not be used as a request for her to leave her chosen profession.

As to McCain’s wisdom in this pick, it is certainly better than picking Joe Biden to run as an agent of “change” from a Northern state as a 30 year senatorial incumbent. For the first time, I am actually giving McCain the benefit of the doubt that either (a) he was aware of the fact of the pregnancy or (b) he realizes that family situations happen and that he can trust smart people to handle the situation appropriately. I also applaud him for choosing someone who actually knows how to cut siding for house, pick a lure, handle a gun (without shooting fundraisers) and complete other household “chores” when other politicians can’t even remember going to a grocery store.

The Pontificator said...



Several points:

First, you completely missed the point of my fourth bullet point, to wit:

• “I’m not comfortable with the argument that Ms. Palin is an evangelical Christian, the type that likes to tell everyone else how to run their families, but can’t seem to run her own. It fails, or at least is unsatisfactory and/or mean spirited, at any number of points. But this simplistic argument will appeal to a lot of undecideds.” (Emphasis mine in this reprint.)

So we are on the same side of this one. I simply did not elaborate on the “any number of points” on which this argument fails because I thought they would be fairly obvious. One is that your kid’s having sex doesn’t mean that you “can’t run” your family. However, this argument is gaining currency with many of Palin’s opponents, and I was simply rejecting that particular argument against Palin.

Second, you missed part of the point of the fifth bullet point. We agree that she can be proud of her daughter’s decision not to have an abortion, to wit:

“If Palin had said that she was proud that her daughter decided not to abort the baby, I would wholeheartedly agree.”

However, to be proud of her 17 year old daughter’s decision to marry the father of her child? Marrying in the wake of pregnancy can be a very informed, admirable, and wise choice, but these kids aren’t out of high school! If Sarah Palin thinks that is an “informed choice,” I am not comfortable with her being that close to power. And “pride” in, as I called it “teenage motherhood”? Teenage motherhood is nothing of which to be proud. MAYBE thirty or forty years ago, but certainly not today.

Third, this child will have a loving extended family, but a nuclear family in name only. Kids in high school are completely incapable of making the decisions and commitments necessary to form a durable family. Further, one member of her extended family will be quite extended in another way: She will have her plate full being either Vice-President (or President) or Governor of Alaska and raising a child with Down’s syndrome, along with four other children. How much time will she be able to give to her grandchild?

Fourth, would Palin be neglecting her family if she were to win the Vice-Presidency, and possibly become President? As I said,

“(Let’s be brutally honest here.) (Palin would be) displaying at least a degree of neglect of her family’s current dire needs, and exposing her very vulnerable daughter to some harsh worldwide publicity at a very tough time, in order to further her own career.”

She has a child with Down’s syndrome. She has a very vulnerable daughter. She will soon have a grandchild who will, as you point out, need her extended family. Yes, she will be “displaying a degree of neglect” by choosing to put her career first when these three unusual and dire family needs demand her attention. This is not a normal family situation; it is a situation that certainly demands more time and attention than a mother who is in high political office can provide.

Fifth, I was only 15 when Joe Biden was elected to the Senate and endured his personal tragedy, but, had I been paying more attention, I might have called for him to set his ambitions aside and tend to his family. The only problem, though, is that Joe Biden was the sole breadwinner, and sole possible breadwinner. Palin and her husband have two possible breadwinners. Could her husband stay home? Sure. But it looks like, with the many challenges this family is going to face, SOMEONE has to be working on it full time.

Sixth, Barack Obama was raised by his grandparents. Bristol’s child will not be raised by her grandparents, unless the child’s paternal grandparents step in. Her maternal grandmother will simply be too busy.

Seventh, Barack and Michelle Obama have neither a child with Down ’s syndrome nor a pregnant teenager who will need lots of help.

Eighth, Senator McCain (and I’m not defending McCain, simply stating facts) did not adopt a special needs child and did not have a teen pregnancy on his hands.

Ninth, where am I telling people how to define family? Again, see my first point above.

Tenth, I can’t agree with you more on the last portion of your last paragraph.

Eleventh, you didn’t fall all that far from the tree, just far enough not to read carefully enough!