Time for Decency: What They Said

If you are are tempted to make political use of the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy, please heed these words.

First, from Hilzoy:

It's easy, in the midst of a political campaign, to forget that the people involved are, after all, people. Some of them -- Sarah Palin, for instance -- place themselves under a media spotlight of their own free will. Others -- her daughter, for instance -- wind up there through no fault of their own. Imagine yourself in her position: there you are, seventeen years old, pregnant, unmarried. Maybe you understand what happened and why; and maybe your parents and friends do as well. But zillions of bloggers and reporters and pundits are about to make the most personal details of your life into a political issue, and they don't understand it at all. And yet, despite that, they are about to use you and your unborn child to score points on one another, without any regard whatsoever for you and your actual situation.

I want no part of this. None at all. To those of you who think otherwise: that's your right. But ask yourself how you felt when Republicans scored points using Chelsea Clinton, who didn't ask to be dragged into the spotlight either.

. . .

If the past is any guide, some people will respond to this post by saying that the Republicans would not hesitate to use Democrats' teenage children to score political points. That may be. Three responses: first, so what? Just because they do it doesn't mean that we should. Second, any argument for going there would have to assume that this would, in fact, be a political winner, and thus that not using it would entail some sort of political sacrifice. I am not at all convinced that that is true. Most importantly, though, there are some lines I'm not willing to cross no matter what the other side does.

Second, here is Barack Obama:

I have heard some of the news on this and so let me be as clear as possible. I have said before and I will repeat again, 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 governor Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18. And how family deals with issues and teenage children that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that is off limits.

In the days and weeks ahead, there will be plenty of legitimate questions about Palin (such as her membership in the fringe Alaskan Independence Party, her deception about her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere, and Troopergate). Leave her family--especially her children--out of the fray.


John Bassett said…
Well, in a perfect world the family lives of politicians would be perfectly private, but this is not a perfect world. Nor is is the fault of the voters. ALL politicians, including Obama, regularly show off the smiling faces of their spouses and children in order to score political points with the voters. However, once you start showing off the kids, it's fair to notice that one of them has something unusual going on.

I think why this story has attracted the attention of the voters is the sense of hypocrisy. Palin has made a made her faith part of her political appeal, and like most Republicans, a belief in traditional sexual morality is a key element to this faith. Not only does this pregnancy call into question how well the Palins are able to convey these values to their children, it also suggests that the policies that the Republican Party pushes here, such as no contraceptives and abstinence-only education in schools, are complete failures even in the most optimal of circumstances.

So, yes, there may be elements of schadenfreude here for Democrats, but there's also something worth public scrutiny, too.
Chuck Blanchard said…

I think that all of the points that you want to make can be made without dragging Palin's children into the controversy.

I think we need to draw lines of decency in policitcs, and this is one line I am unwilling to cross
Michael said…
There is a broader question here. How far should Democrats go to win? If McBush wins and the killing in Iraq goes on for another 8 years, was that not enough justification to out Palin's family situation? Of course she has far more embarrassing issues yet to be addressed.

This question may go beyond the ego satisfying idea of winning.

The denial of health care to those who cannot pay, kills many Americans every day. I am not saying that Obama would do anything to save those people denied health care. What I am trying to say is that there are times when being rude and playing dirty might be preferable to allowing the suffering and killing to go on.

Chuck, if you had lived in France during the early 40s, would you have considered being rude and playing dirty with the Germans?

Again, the point I am trying to make is that there can be things at stake that make rudeness the lesser of two evils.

In the coming presidential campaign, politeness will not garner one vote.

The outcome of this election will determine whether people live or die.
Anonymous said…
Quite frankly, if politicians would not tread on the people of this country, the citizens would not care to tread on them.

I think it is right for Obama to not want to comment on Ms. Palin's daughter because Bristol is not the candidate. But her mother and her failed policies are in the spotlight because she threw herself into this game. She better be able to run with the big dogs and not pout when she gets kicked to the corner.

Righteous hypocrites were never my cup of tea.

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