The pregnancy of Bristol Palin, the unwed, seventeen-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin, is no reflection on her mother’s morals or judgment, and it shouldn’t be of more than passing interest to the American public. It will be of interest, nonetheless, because the Palins are up for consideration as America’s Second Family, and they and the nation are still getting to know one another. But it oughtn’t disqualify Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate.
If, on the other hand, it emerges that Sarah Palin failed to tell John McCain about her daughter’s pregnancy before he announced that he was selecting her—and McCain’s spokesman is refusing to say when McCain learned of it—that would be evidence of poor judgment on Palin’s part, and the failure would be relevant to the larger conversation about her. And if McCain failed to vet Palin adequately enough to find out such facts whether or not she chose to tell him, it would show lack of judgment on his part.
As near as I can tell, Moe Tkacik of Gawker was the first in the East Coast mediasphere to break the Bristol Palin story. A rumor had been going around the Internet that not Sarah but Bristol was the mother of Trig, the Palin child with Down syndrome. Moe had the enterprise to interview by email an Alaskan teenager whose car Bristol ran into in February 2008, when she would have been in her seventh month of pregnancy, if the rumor were true. The teenager told Moe that he remembers no signs of pregnancy. Moreover, Moe discovered an Alaskan blog post where a commenter calling herself Sue Williams wrote that she sees the same physician that Sarah Palin sees, that the physician would not collude in a cover-up, and that it’s common knowledge around Palin’s hometown Wasilla that Bristol is five months pregnant. “Trust me,” Williams wrote, “this is a Valley of few secrets. Everyone knows everyone and everything. There’s no way at all the hospital staff would be able/be willing to pull off that kind of a cover-up.” Today Williams’s claim was proved true by Palin’s admission. Oddly, the rumor about Trig’s maternity is showing remarkable tenacity. If Moe’s evidence and the Palin family’s announcement aren’t sufficient to disabuse people of it, there’s also a photo of Sarah Palin looking substantially pregnant when she was supposed to be pregnant.
I repeat, Bristol’s pregnancy has no political meaning in itself. Christian conservatives forgive such lapses; liberals don’t care about them. And the absurd rumor about Trig’s maternity has less than no political meaning. It’s a distraction that will turn some away from wanting to investigate Palin’s past. That would be a pity and a foolishness, because her past is pertinent to any judgment of her. It’s hardly necessary to resort to outlandish claims to expose the flaws in Palin’s character. There is a wealth of cold hard documentary fact. Just a few hours ago, the Washington Post reported that Palin ran a political fundraising group in Alaska named after Ted Stevens, the senator indicted for corruption in July. This follows the revelation that she was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it and the earlier embarrassment of being caught out in a lie in the matter of her firing Walt Monegan, the commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Public Safety. Literally as I write this, I hear that ABC is reporting that before Palin became a Republican, she belonged to a party that promulgates the idea that Alaska should secede and sent a special video message to the fringe group earlier this year.
I began writing this post with the intention of urging the sleuths of the internet to look further at the extensive documentation of Palin—to skip the pregnancy hunting and focus on such smoking guns as the email that Palin received from a victim of sexual harassment shortly before Palin appointed the harasser, Chuck Kopp, to be the Public Safety commissioner in Monegan’s stead. (A treasury of such documentation was digitized during the Troopergate scandal, and is available at the website of the Alaska CBS affiliate KTVA and at that of the Anchorage Daily News.) But in the onslaught of revelations, I throw up my hands. May I make a suggestion to the Republican Party? I hesitate to make it, because I honestly think it would be a good idea: Give up on Palin. Instead use your convention as conventions were first designed to be used, to choose a candidate by haggling and (more important) by comparing notes.
And for those outside the Republican party, here’s an anonymous plea from the comments to Matthew Mosk’s Washington Post story revealing that Palin ran a fundraising group for Stevens:
I live in Juneau, Alaska and work with Sarah professionally and also with countless others that work with her as well. I also voted for her. Please someone start asking the right questions. I know the babygate issue makes for hot news but people need to start asking about her weak management style. Ask if people the work with her respect her and are motivated by her. Ask about the turnover rate on her staff. Do more research into the troopergate issue. Report more on the fact that she supported countless things, including the bridge to nowhere and later flip-flopped and is now using it to promote your reformer status. And also don’t make the mistake of believing all government folks in Alaska are corrupt. They are not so please don’t dismiss their concerns or comments. Please continue to look deeper. Those of us that know her best know this is not the end of this story and there is still more to come out.