Pontifications

Pontifications


“Palin’s pregnant!” Easy, easy…It’s only her unwed 17-year-old daughter.

posted by David Gibson

I had thought the terrifying onslaught of Gustav and the efforts by the GOP to dodge the Katrina bullet–or turn it to McCain’s benefit–would be the story of the day, but the bombshell news that Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant is worth addressing given the stakes, and the nexus of religion and politics. A
Sarah & Bristol Palin.jpgnd, well, because it’s irresistible. (WaPo coverage here and NYTimes here. And a reader sends this photo from a McCain daughter’s blog, apparently of Bristol, holding baby Trig, from a People magazine shoot, as evidence that she was obviously pregnant. I’m not so sure.)

The Palin family issued a statement saying the daughter and daddy-to-be, Levi, would marry:

“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows that she has our unconditional love and support…Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media, respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.”

Naturally this will introduce some German terms–mainly schadenfreude, I think–into the political lexicon. But it is also offering “Palinistas” and McCainiacs a chance to tout Palin as even more pro-life than ever. I haven’t surfed too far, but I was struck by the title of Rod Dreher’s “Crunchy Con” post: “Palin’s daughter gets pregnant, chooses life.” Rod writes:

Will this hurt her politically? I’m thinking not. Nor should it. Unplanned teen pregnancy is not unheard of in this country. Any family could face this crisis, even conservative Christian families. I’ve known some myself. The question is: how do you deal with it? Bristol Palin is not going to abort her unborn child. She’s going to keep the baby and marry the father. Good for her. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did happen, and now she’s going to do the right thing — the hard thing. Again: good. Mother and child — and father — need support. 

My initial reaction is that Dreher is right–Palin supporters will rally around her, and will forcefully use any efforts to view this development as a chink in the Palin’s all-American, super-Christian reputation against the critics. And that might work. As Rod says, and as others have noted, this sort of thing happens to families like the Palins all the time. Sarah Palin and her daughter will be raising kids who will grow up together.

The news is so delicate for the Dems that Obama has weighed in saying:

“Back off these kinds of stories…I have said before and I will repeat again: People’s families are off limits. And people’s children are especially off limits. This shouldn’t be part of politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as a governor and or her potential perfromance as a vice president. 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 a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn’t be a topic of our politics.”

Yet so nervous is the Christian right that they’re actually giving Obama kudos–Rod calls him “classy,” even though Obama’s demonstrated class throughout the campaign, as opposed to the other camp. Then again, Obama is also in a political bind, as the GOP was saying his camp started the rumors that led to the revelation. He denied it, and wanted to put distance there, if possible.

I am not running for office, thank heaven, so at the risk of incurring such wrath (but what the heck), I think this story raises raises many other truly serious questions, beyond the obvious hole in the Palins’ holier-than-thou presentation. For one, the McCain camp apparently knew of Bristol’s pregnancy before the pick was made. So why wasn’t this made public right off the bat? Why all the hype about how wonderful the family is–when you know that may blow up in your face? According to campaign officials, the announcement was made after wild rumors began circulating on liberal blogs (not here!) that intended to counter rumors by liberal bloggers that Gov. Palin only claimed to have given birth last April, but the child (Trig, who has Down syndrome) was really Bristol’s. So how long were they going to keep this secret? For another, say, two months–until Nov. 5?

The Palins are of course also fortunate to have the means to support their pregant teenage daughter–what will she do as vice-president and potential president do ensure other young single moms have the same option? And how will she address her party’s ad nauseam rhetoric about the decline in morals and family values when the very things they blast in the rest of society are in fact happening at home?

But again, I doubt that will have traction. Indeed, it may not even be true in a few hours, in light of the news here that in the hours before her selection was announced a McCain campaign volunteer was surreptiously massaging Palin’s Wikipedia entry with more than 30 edits to make her look good. (Lecture for the first day of class this semester writes itself…)

More perilous for Palin (the candidate, not the daughter), I think, are some of the items that blogmeisters at dotCommonweal brought to light, namely, that she actually backed that infamous pork barrel “Bridge to Nowhere” when she ran for governor in 2006, even though she said at her introduction by McCain that she was against it–and McCain cited that as a reason for picking her, so she could clean up Washington. As the USA Today story says:

Asked why she supported the bridge, Palin’s communications director Bill McAlister said, “It was never at the top of her priority list, and in fact the project isn’t necessarily dead … there’s still the potential for improved ferry service or even a bridge of a less costly design.” She changed her mind, he said, when “she saw that Alaska was being perceived as taking from the country and not giving, and that impression bothered her and she wants to change it…I think that Sarah Palin is someone who has the courage to reevaluate situations as they developed.”

She is good at reevaluation. A dotCommonwealer also dug up her response to a 2006 Eagle Forum election questionnaire:

QUESTION: Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

PALIN: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

Of course, as even Wikipedia knows, the pledge wasn’t written until 1892, and the phrase “Under God” wasn’t added until the 1950s–at the behest of the Knights of Columbus, natch.

Cross-potsed with Progressive Revival



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Clark

posted September 1, 2008 at 4:14 pm


This will end up being completely irrelevant down the road. What worries me most about McCain/Palin ticket is their environmental policy (especially regarding drilling in the ANWR). I think it is evermore important for us, as consumers to support ‘green businesses’ that benefit the environment. For example, Simple Stop stops your postal junk mail and benefits the environment.



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John

posted September 1, 2008 at 5:08 pm


I sense so much hypocracy in Palin, it’s unbelievable. First, the whole ethics crusader that is under investigation for ethics abuse. Second, a ‘pro-family’ politician that goes back to work a day after she gives birth to her newborn with down-syndrome. Who is taking care of that child btw? Is hiring a really good nanny part of ‘pro-family’? Now, Mrs ‘morally right’ Palin has a daughter pregnant at 17, and unmarried. She sends a clear message of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
I don’t understand it. Why should her daughter’s pregnancy not be discussed? Her family is a reflection of her values, and how she raises her kids. Remember, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If Obama’s friendship with Rev. Wright mattered, then why should this be off-limits? It seems like a double-standard.



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JAB

posted September 1, 2008 at 6:01 pm


I agree with Obama. Families and especially children are off limits. Speaking for myself, Palin’s weakness is her incredible lack of qualifications even to be vice president, much less to be elevated to Commander-in-Chief in the event of McCain’s death or disablility.
I live in a town ten times larger than the town of which she was mayor, and if you were to tell me that our mayor (whom I like) was going to be nominated vice president, I’d laugh in disbelief.



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mom from fl

posted September 1, 2008 at 6:04 pm


Sarah Palin voted against sex education. See what happens when we don’t educate? kids end up pregnant or with stds.It seems that now her daughter will need parenting skills,but who will teach her?



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Reaganite in NYC

posted September 1, 2008 at 6:16 pm


A couple of the commenters are damning Palin either as a hypocrite or questioning abstinence education (No, “mom from fl”, supporting abstinence education is NOT the same as “voting against sex education.”)
There’s no contradiction — or evidence of hypocrisy — between encouraging abstinence and learning that your teenage daughter defied you on this :-) (Anyone with kids can vouch for this!) The whole point of teaching abstinence is to underscore the sacred nature of sex AND the inevitable consequence of sustained intimacy that is open to the transmission of life: the likelihood that God, through this intimacy, will create new human life.
What is the alternative to encouraging abstinence among teenagers? Some will say that it is using birth control (and hint that having an abortion is the ultimate “safety net” against pregnancy) … but all that does (as we’ve learned in the last 45+ years) is to commodotize the sexual act and rob it of its profound meaning.
How can one be anything other than thoroughly amazed at the courage of this 17-year old woman and her boyfriend to have the child and get married?
Compare their attitude with the one enunciated by the left-wing’s preferred Presidential candidate in 2008, who said in April:
“Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”
Senator Obama would see this situation as punishment. The Palins see this as a gift. Since “Pontifications” is moderated by a Catholic journalist, which position do you suppose more closely adheres to Catholic teaching?



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jollyroger

posted September 1, 2008 at 6:55 pm


I believe Bristol is three months pregnant and this will be her second child. Stay tuned.



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Ed

posted September 1, 2008 at 7:08 pm


Good that the girl chooses to go with the birth. Bad about talking marriage. When our son came home in junior year with an annoucement that he was to be a father we took the advice of the wise to not force or encourage a marriage. Grandaughter was born and raised co-parenting. Our son with help raised her … she just entered college .. all is well.
‘shot gun wedding’ and teenage marriage is NOT pro-family… check it out



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Charles Cosimano

posted September 2, 2008 at 12:53 am


I have a 15 year old step-granddaughter. If, by some disaster, she should become pregnant at 17, she is not going to get married, she is not going to have a baby. She is going to get an abortion and the morality be damned.



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Daddy Dracula

posted September 2, 2008 at 4:59 am


The media and the liberal blogs will, after a short while, begin to blast those who still stand behind Palin as hypocrites who don’t stand behind our values by “offing the traitor” so to speak. They will blast those who turn away from her as being traitors for not standing behind our people. So, no matter which way you turn, the media will become an even more ridiculous joke.
Perhaps the reason McCain’s campaign never revealed this tidbit to the press nor ever seemed to consider it a major campaign hurdle is that it is really nobody else’s business. Palin’s daughter having a kid out of wedlock (does anybody even use that phrase “out of wedlock” anymore?) at 17 will have nothing to do with how she handles her job as VP.
I am kinda curious about Obama’s opinion. Did anybody ask him in the first place or did he just go off and say that? In some backhanded way is he telling the press or the McCain campaign to not come near his family? If someone asks me a question to which the answer is “it’s none of your business”, I would simply answer “it’s none of your business” I wouldn’t have an obviously scripted remark (yes, it was scripted. He says “I uh..” alot even still when his remarks are unscripted.) right handy.
If it’s truly none of his business, why is he interjecting himself into it? For something that wasn’t Obama’s business, there was an awful lot of preparation. Some people read “class and dignity” into Obama’s comment. I read “veiled threat”. “Don’t question my patriotism.” “Don’t question my family”. What next? “Don’t question my authority.” “Don’t question my policies?”



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dee

posted September 2, 2008 at 10:57 am


This has been a strangely sexist period in politics, whether with the Dems dumping on Hillary for a Senator with less than 150 days experience before announcing his campaign — and Hillary’s former supporters, such as David Geffen, dumping on her in the NY Times, or Nancy Pelosi (previously) becoming Speaker og the House, and now the man above declaring his “stepgradaughter WILL get an abortion” if she gets pregnnant at 17…..nevermind what the young woman WANTS.
Let’s put Palin in the Whitehouse…to spite this anti-female croneyism where an inexperienced 150 day old Senator is preferable to an experienced woman such as Clinton (when the economy was in the black, not the red) and Palin, or even Pelosi. Damn the myth of the teenage slut, what century are we living in that we treat pregnancy, a normal bodily function, and women as if they need to wear the scarlet letter in an age when the music, entertainment, and ads kids see are full of allusions to using people sexually and throwing them away. Between all that and the way women are being treated here (and babies).



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Karl

posted September 2, 2008 at 2:28 pm


To quote Reagonite “Senator Obama would see this situation as punishment.” That is complete revisionist slander. It ignores the fact that black teen mothers have been vilified in the press for years. The republicans have demonized the welfare mother to great success in the past. If it was Sen Obama’s daughter, the mud slinging would force Obama from the race. But, a white Governors daughter is praised.



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Reaganite in NYC

posted September 2, 2008 at 2:34 pm


Karl: “To quote Reagonite ‘Senator Obama would see this situation as punishment.’ That is complete revisionist slander.’
Karl, it is not revisionist nor is it slander. It’s what the man said at a campaign rally in April.
In fairness to Obama, it may or may not be what he really feels. Perhaps he wishes he had expressed himself differently. We don’t know. But it is what he said.
OK, Karl? Now, enough with the name calling (“revisionist slander”).



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Karl

posted September 2, 2008 at 3:13 pm


I’d like to see that quote. I don’t believe Sen Obama would call teen pregnancy a punishment for some deed. (Pat Robertson possibly, as he thought Katrina was punishment, but Sen Obama does not seem the type to imagine punishment for deeds). Pregnancy is a consequence, not a punishment.



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Phyllis

posted September 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm


The Palin mothers (elder and younger) could have avoided all the criticisms by choosing abortion. They did not. Which is exactly the point.



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pagansister

posted September 2, 2008 at 8:20 pm


Bristol chose (we assume, not coerced) to not abort. However, we assume she also is choosing to marry the dad. Getting married because of a pregnancy is not a substancial reason for marriage, but politically it is better to have her marry the father of her child, after all, her mom is a vice-presidential candidate. Her mom is pro-life, and this makes mom look good.
Looks like Bristol didn’t follow the advice to not have sex until marriage…and isn’t the only one in the world to get pregnant accidently. However I think Sarah should now realize that perhaps sex education with information about birth control and condoms just might be a good idea!



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Mere Catholic

posted September 2, 2008 at 9:18 pm


Quoting Charles Cosimano:
“I have a 15 year old step-granddaughter. If, by some disaster, she should become pregnant at 17, she is not going to get married, she is not going to have a baby. She is going to get an abortion and the morality be damned”
Lovely, Mr.Cosimano. A hypothetical coercion of your grandchild: is this what one means by being pro-choice?



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Reaganite in NYC

posted September 3, 2008 at 12:35 am


“Karl”
… at 3:13 PM on 9/2 asks of me: “I’d like to see that quote. I don’t believe Sen Obama would call teen pregnancy a punishment for some deed. (Pat Robertson possibly, as he thought Katrina was punishment, but Sen Obama does not seem the type to imagine punishment for deeds). Pregnancy is a consequence, not a punishment.”
OK, “Karl,” here’s the source and the quote: Saturday, March 29, 2:23 PM EST, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Senator Barack Obama speaking at a town hall meeting (broadcast live on CNN that day as part of their so-called “Ballot Bowl” progamming). Here’s what Obama said:
“Look, I’ve got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”



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Carolyn

posted September 3, 2008 at 10:51 am


If anyone is wondering why Bristol’s pregnancy was not immediately announced, it’s PR 101–bury negative news when people are preoccupied with other issues (like Gustav) or a holiday weekend.
As the New York Times reported on the issue:
“We are going to flush the toilet,” said Tucker Eskew, who is a senior adviser to Ms. Palin, describing the campaign’s plans for Labor Day, when much of the nation was busy with family and social activities.



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Ben Flores

posted September 3, 2008 at 12:22 pm


Leave the young lady alone, life is hard enough. Check the mother out she’s the one running for office!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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E. Browne

posted September 3, 2008 at 2:34 pm


How old is the father???? Does anyone know where to find photos of Gov Palin’s pregnant with their last child?



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pagansister

posted September 3, 2008 at 3:37 pm


The father of Bristol Palin’s child is 18. Gov. Palin’s last child, a boy who is 4 months old, is a Down’s Syndrome child. As to pictures of her pregnant? Who knows?



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Little Bear

posted September 4, 2008 at 7:34 pm


My, my Bristol made an error of judgement. She’s not the first teen aged girl to do so. And unfortunately, she won’t be the last. But she is not running for Vice President. Rather than worry about what Sarah Palin looked like when she was pregnant, let’s get over the sexest language. Let’s look at what Sarah Palin DID as Governor. Let’s see what she can offer the country as a vice presidental candidate. In fact, let’s allow ALL the candidates to present their plans, debate one another, and then make our choices.



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James Brucker

posted September 5, 2008 at 1:39 am


As governor Palin cut funding for the young and unwed mothers. She promoted abstinence only sex education. She and McCain slashed funding to help prevent unplanned teen pregnancy. VP selectee Palin has used all of her children as stage prompts and promoted her enlisted son’s military service. She can’t pick and choose what child we focus on.
She needs to answer why her preferred sex-ed program failed her daughter.
The leaders of the religious right and other social conservatives needs to answer why they have condemned premartial sex and teen pregnancy in the past, but now support Palin. This is not an attack on Bristol, these are legitimate questions on what appears to be very hypercritical stances by some of the leaders social conservative movement in America



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Anonymous

posted September 21, 2008 at 11:14 pm


I agree I think that she should be left alone and that you should look at the mother. The daughter has nothing to do with office so focus on the more important things. Other wise you’ll have some crazy lady running the V.P office



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