Monday, September 01, 2008

High road, everybody


Okay. Brand-spanking-new VP candidate Sarah Palin's daughter is seventeen and pregnant. The jokes just write themselves, don't they?

Me, I don't care. Really I don't. I'm a new parent. Handling a baby isn't easy and if I were seventeen and had to face it, things would not have been pretty. I don't even think it's any reflection on Palin's parenting skills. Teenagers do dumb things. I did several. Nobody got pregnant (especially not me) but maybe I just went to the wrong parties. Teenagers do dumb things. So please - please - don't fall into the trap of making this an issue.

Let's call it a crapshoot. It happens. And when a right-to-lifer stands behind her agenda rather than taking care of things quietly in a private clinic with a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do sermon in waiting in case the story breaks, hey. Good on her. It's a family matter, I'll buy that line. Anybody who throws mud is going to be wearing it as well. McCain's people have already drawn first blood (onto themselves) with a cute little comment along these lines:

"The despicable rumors that have been spread by liberal blogs, some even with Barak Obama's name in them, is a real anchor around the Democratic ticket, pulling them down in the mud in a way that certainly juxtaposes themselves against their 'campaign of change.'"

You could harp on the point that if the rumour turns out to be true ("Psst...her daughter's pregnant, pass it on"), it's not exactly despicable. Were there rumours that I missed over the last 96hrs or so? This is what happens when I leave town. McCain's spokesperson has a point, however. I can't think of a bigger fish in a barrel than Palin's sooner-than-scheduled grandchild. And every time it gets kicked at, it's that much more ammunition for the soft-Republican ticket ("They beat-up on a mom, man! A mom with a kid! Who's a mom!"). It's a weird variation on the bullet-proof vest; come up with a VP candidate where the potential scandal will show up early, and then accuse anyone who brings it up as being mean-spirited. McCain's campaign can pre-emptively whine and talk down the Democrats without any party-approved communication in the matter. "They started it" is going to come up a lot in the next few weeks, get ready.

It's Labour Day. This story will kick into full gear tomorrow. If Palin takes care of her daughter, helps her to be a teenage mom, raises a healthy kid, that's great. Keep out of the process. Ms. Palin and family, from this point on, are sacrosanct. Let them deal with a family matter as they wish. For the rest of the world, however, some questions are in order:

To the media celebrity (shudder) of your choice: Check out their transcripts and check out their previous opinions about unwed teens and their parentage. If said commentators come to Palin's defense, remind them politely of their previous positions and see if there's a switch. I'm sure they'll be delighted to discuss it.

To McCain's people: You've said he knew about this. Get a direct on-the-record quote about how it influenced his decision.

To Obama's: He's got daughters, he's going to steer clear of this as far as humanly possible. Perhaps let him drop a few words to the faithful suggesting the same. Update: As of around 2:30pm on Sept. 1st, Obama made a statement. Read the comments. Some are pretty venal. From both sides.

To all those who believed the Clinton/Lewinsky unpleasantness was best dealt with outside of the political sphere: Ms. Palin's just given you a chance to practice your 'it ain't my family' position. Yeah, it isn't the same thing. But just make an informed decision, okay?

To the producers of Juno: ...okay. That was cheap. Let's move on.

To the Alaskan State Government: What (if any) state programs are in place to address teen pregnancy? Birth control clinics? And if your abstinence program consists saying "Don't do it" and heading out for a coffee, it doesn't count as counselling. And what have Ms. Palin's past positions been on the issue? As stated previously, let the woman alone, let's just peek at the record. It'll be interesting if there's a disconnect that's not addressed.

To the spiritual leader of your choice: Get their take on it. Why not? Might be a good time to either reaffirm your beliefts or agree to disagree. Either way, it's always a good excuse for coffee. Maybe cake, even.

For the rest of us: Ignore it and focus on issues that actually matter.

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