Would that John McCain had expressed equal outrage about the vicious rumors circulating the web about Barack Obama as he did appropriately today about Bristol Palin. Her pregnancy, as Obama told reporters, has nothing to do with her mother’s qualifications to hold public office and family, most especially children, are off limits. Governor Palin and her husband are not the first parents to face teen pregnancy and they won’t be the last. Anyone who has children can appreciate what they, and most especially Bristol, has been going through. Fortunately we all live in a country, where she has the choice to bring that baby to term in line with her own convictions and we can only wish them the best.
That this has become first page news tells a lot about our time and the level of national discourse. It should also be a reminder to Governor Palin that she has now entered a different arena where hardball is not just the name of a television show but the reality of politics. Whether he likes it or not, it also says something profound about John McCain. If reports are correct, the Senator spent months considering his running mate and vetting potential candidates. In the end, he selected someone whom he had only personally met a few days earlier. Some have said it was a tactical decision, a way to change the conversation and, perhaps more importantly, appeal to women voters. It’s hard not to add that it appears to have been impulsive decision.
We have spent more than a year learning about and vetting the Presidential candidates. Unbelievably, we’re told many American voters don’t yet know Barack Obama and even John McCain. Perhaps that’s true, but not because they weren’t given the opportunity. Vice Presidential candidates are not exposed to such scrutiny and, unless they have themselves been contenders for the top job or have an extensive public record, the person who will be a heartbeat away from the Presidency is often an unknown quantity. There is something very bizarre about that and, in times like these, particularly unsettling.
McCain says he knew about this very personal matter when he selected Governor Palin. Rest assured there will be a lot digging to find out if that’s true and legitimately so. If he in fact did not know, what else about the candidate might his “vetting” have missed? If he did know, why in naming a running mate with such strong views on reproductive choice, did he decide not to disclose it? Was Bristol’s carrying her little brother in that harness calculated to hide her own pregnancy? Family as Obama says is strictly off limits, but when an unknown candidate for the second highest office in the land decides to parade her family before the country on national television, she has in fact invaded their privacy and opened the door to scrutiny.
No one knows how this will play out in the days ahead. I have great misgivings about a potential Vice President who is against choice and in favor of teaching creationism. These positions reflect her religious beliefs, which is what makes her so attractive to the Party’s hard right. What people of faith believe and what moves their personal behavior and decisions are their own business. When their personal religious convictions are imposed on the rest of us that’s very different. This is not the moment to discuss the implications of unwanted pregnancies, but the cat is out of the bag. We are likely to come back to it soon.