Friday, September 05, 2008

Why the Palin pregnancy does not deserve privacy

For once, I wish Barack Obama weren't so ethical.

It has been announced that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol (who names their daughter BRISTOL anyway?) is 5 months pregnant. This has ignited a media firestorm, but the Democrats have been extra careful not to use the issue as ammunition against their opponents. Obama has been quoted as saying, "I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president."

That's very nice and considerate of the gentleman from Illinois, and I'm a fan of the idealism he inspires and all, but can we be realistic for a moment here? Yes, the families of high-profile politicians should be off-limits, but they never are, and it's kind of foolish to insist on it when their spouse/father/mother/sibling is running for office, and in this case, the second highest seat of government in the world's most powerful nation. Moreover, if they're involved in an issue that is relevant to the politician's career, as in the case of the Palins, then it's understandable and unavoidable that they will get dragged into it. Sarah Palin is a staunch advocate of family values and abstinence, and opposes making sex education a requisite in American schools. Now here she is with a pregnant teenage daughter. Obama says this has no relevance to Palin's potential performance as a vice president. I beg to disagree. If Palin can't even manage her children, what does that say about her capability to help manage an entire country? Moreover, Bristol's pregnancy makes a mockery out of her mother's support of abstinence-only programs, and casts a shadow of doubt over Palin's judgment. It's like Bill Gates' kids going out and buying a Mac; if your own children don't respect your operating system (so to speak), then why should anyone else?

And may I just say that I hate it when politicians and celebrities invoke their right to privacy? I'm sorry, but I think they forfeited that right when they chose to pursue a career that puts them squarely in the public eye. In exchange for power and fame and fortune, they have to put up with pesky members of the press who hound their every step and record their every move. And that goes for the people they're connected with, whether it's someone they're dating, someone they married, or someone they gave birth to. And I call that a fair deal.
Celebrity babies like TomKat's Suri or Brangelina's multi-racial brood get photographed by paparazzi all the time; it's the price to be paid for their parents' lifestyle. Princes William and Harry grew up in the media spotlight by virtue of their being born into the Royal Family, and borne by Britain's most famous Princess. The Bush twins' escapades were easy material for punchlines for Leno and Letterman. What makes Sarah Palin's offspring so special that they should be spared, especially when one of them gets pregnant by a self-professed "f***in' redneck" who doesn't want kids?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not chastising Bristol Palin for having poor taste in men or getting knocked up at 17. No one is attacking the daughter directly, she's just collateral damage. It's the mother who's under fire. And she put herself AND her family in the line of fire by deciding to run for vice president. I'm not just questioning the wisdom of running for vice president when she just gave birth to a baby with Down's syndrome (yes, women can hold down a job and be good mothers at the same time, but not all working moms have kids with special needs, and certainly not all of them are running for vice president of the United States of America). What I'm pointing out is that Palin implicitly agreed to subject her family to public scrutiny when she accepted John McCain's offer to be his running mate, so she has no right to ask people to respect her daughter's privacy when it was she who compromised it in the first place. She knew her daughter was pregnant going into this. She knew this would become a huge, blown-out-of-proportion deal. She knew the whole world would end up talking and forming harsh opinions about her daughter. She knew she'd be throwing Bristol to the wolves. I don't know about any of you, but I'm not about to nominate Palin for Mother of the Year. As the saying goes, charity begins at home. But apparently, not in the Palin home.

When it comes to selecting government officials, I believe that character is as important, if not more important, than competence. And family values and relationships reveal a lot about an individual's character. So why should that be off-limits? The public has a right to know, so the media is duty-bound to use it as fodder. Look at John Edwards. Look at Nicolas Sarkozy. Look at Bill Clinton.

Sarah Palin may be competent as a public servant, but with the revelation of her daughter's pregnancy, and the hypocrisy with which she's handling it, one has to have serious doubts about the strength of her character. And that, I believe, is very much relevant.


At Sunday, September 07, 2008, Blogger Sean said...

I suppose that we would have expected Obama to stay out of the Palin preganancy issue. If he happens to feel that this sort of thing shouldn't enter his brand of politics at all, then that's his right.

Regardless of how Obama feels, however, the issue is already out in the open. Even if he doesn't take advantage of it, there are a number of media agencies and Democratic groups who will. It's pretty much up to Palin at this point -- she'll need to resolve this issue against her political stance if she wants to put up a consistent front.

You must excuse me if I laugh at Levi Johnston, though. When he wrote those comments, he obviously never dreamed that he would one day be impregnating the daughter of a vice-presidential candidate. It gives new meaning to "watching what you write".


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