Babies Having Babies
By Jack Atherton - email
First, note that my column last Friday about Sarah Palin was very favorable (see More Than a Woman). I stand by everything written there regarding Governor Palin's experience, accomplishments and policies.
The news that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant leaves me, like I bet a lot of you, confused and perhaps ambivalent.
My initial reaction was incredulity. If, as they say, John McCain, much less Sarah Palin, knew about Bristol Palin's pregnancy before the selection, didn't they worry how national scrutiny would affect this teenager and her child? On the other hand, Bristol perhaps told her mother that she did not want to stand in the way of her candidacy. As this is written, we just don't know.
Governor Palin did not mention the pregnancy when she introduced her family Friday in Dayton. The presence of her husband and five children reinforced the impression that here was a woman with traditional family values who could juggle a demanding job outside the home, and pursue another that was even more demanding.
This leads to a question that may be unfair but nevertheless has to be confronted by Palin supporters. Have the demands of her jobs led Sarah Palin to neglect her children? Were conservatives to ask this of a liberal candidate they would be branded sexists. That has not kept liberals from questioning a conservative woman. They say a five month old baby, particularly one with Down Syndrome, needs more attention than can be expected from a Governor or Vice President (or indeed potential President) of the United States. And, maybe even less justly, these critics imply that a less distracted mother might have done more to help her teenage daughter remain sexually abstinent.
Others question Senator McCain's vetting process. Aides insist he knew about Bristol's pregnancy. If that's true, one might ask when he and Sarah Palin intended to inform the public. Perhaps they considered it a private matter, but this would seem naive. Governor Palin says she issued a statement Monday only to silence left-wing bloggers who claimed Bristol was the mother of her own baby brother.
The larger question involves the duty candidates owe to their party -- and the principles their party hopes to advance -- and to their country. John Edwards was entitled to keep his private life private. But as I wrote in a previous column (John Edwards' Sin), Edwards risked ruining his party's chance to win the White House had his affair been exposed after he won the nomination. That the mainstream media refused to investigate evidence published by the National Enquirer - while Edwards was still pursuing the Democratic nomination - is just more evidence of media bias.
Sarah Palin has not sinned. In fact, supporters applaud the unconditional support she and her husband are showing their daughter, and their daughter's decision to give birth to her child. Bristol is marrying the child's father. One can only wish all of them well. And then decide whether any of this should affect the election.