Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Off limits?

Hi Everybody!

So the media is going after Bristol Palin's pregnancy like sharks to a chum basket.  Some on the right are pointing out that there is a tradition of the media leaving children of candidates alone.  Barack Obama has come out and said the same and said that if he finds anyone in his campaign acting as provocateurs in this story, he'll fire them.  

So here are my questions:  

Do we think that such a tradition actually exists?  

Does taking strident, ideological positions on family decisions (like abortion and teen sex education etc) open candidates up to criticism about their personal lives and their family crisis - including the behavior of their own children?


USwest said...

I tend to agree that children should be off limits. I agree with Obama that the contest is between candidates on issues, not between candidates and children. I think we really need to take our politics to a higher and better place. I wouldn't like it one bit if Republican's tried to turn Obama's children into political hay. not to mention that making the children an issue, or giving them too much visibility increases the security risk to them and their parents.

That said, I stress that this morning NPR reported that Palin stated she was proud of "her daughter's decision to give birth". That's right. It was a DECISION, a CHOICE. That is how it should stay, Ms. pro-life-no exceptions-Palin.

I just hope, however, that the Republican party's desire to show support for Palin and her daughter doesn't result in inadvertant sanctioning teenage pregnancy, or making Bristol some sort of hero. The message may be construed that way by some less wise young people. That is yet another good reason to leave it alone, as Obama has said.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I like very much USWest's note about Palin's use of "pride" and "decision" when referring to her daughter. Funny how people always become pro-life when it is their own family!

If she were true to her own political convictions, Palin would have said, "I am deeply ashamed of my daughter's sinful fornication. My husband and I will do whatever it takes to ensure our irresponsible daughter does not murder her unborn child."

Bob said...

I think Dr. S meant "pro-choice" rather than "pro-life"?


Yes, there is a tradition of a hands-off policy towards children of important political figures. Aside from any notion of principle, it's simply counterproductive. It's conventional wisdom (and I think rightly so) that significant investigations/allegations/press releases/interviews with kids will generate enormous backlash against whoever's perceived as doing the exploiting. I don't think there's any more reason for the "tradition" than that.

There's fuzziness, of course, and some people are quicker to play the "my children's privacy" card, and more stridently. Also, it's not a two-way street -- candidates show off their lovely children as campaign props all the time. But the general principle of not harassing the children is well established.

However, that's distinct from questioning/probing/parsing what politicians say about their family. And, much as I wish people didn't make arguments based on single conveniently chosen data points, I doubt some op-ed is going to catch a lot of grassroots indignation for using the facts as reported as an example of the effects of abstinence-only education, etc.

As _my_ ill-chosen example: it would probably be "out-of-bounds" to interview Bristol Palin about her decision, investigate the "timeline" to guess whether she was knocked up at the prom, etc. It's not at all inappropriate to point out that this is a typical result of abstinence-only sex education.

Questioning Sarah Palin (or family) about the family's conversations on the topic: out of bounds (or at least she could simply refuse to answer with no political repercussions.) It seems to me a safe but pointed reply from Dems to reporters asking about the situation or Sarah Palin's quote on it would be: "We all agree that Bristol Palin's decisions are a private matter, and none of our business. I hope we all agree that the decisions of anyone's daughter are a private matter, and not the business of politics or government."

Bob said...

Oh, and for another example of something that's "off-limits" to accountable journalism/politics, check out my post over here. Needless to say, not being a journalist or a politician, I am accountable to no one. Also, don't send this link to my boss. :)

Raised By Republicans said...

I'm thinking of cruel jokes that were circulated on the internet(s) about Chelsea Clinton's appearance were even repeated publicly by John McCain. I'm remembering that jokes about Amy Carter's appearance were fairly common as well when she was a child. Both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were roasted by Republicans for having embarrassing brothers.

Bush's campaign orchestrated attacks on McCain in the 2000 primary about his supposedly African-American child (it turned out McCain had an Indonesian daughter that he adopted and had kept under wraps).

I like Bob's proscribed response about family decisions being no one else's business - not even the government's.

Anonymous said...

While I don't think it appropriate to drag a 17 year old into a presidential campaign, I do think voters need to think about a few things -- Why did Palin decide to drag HER 17 year old into a presidential campaign? Will Palin change her views on comprehensive sex education in school? Should this woman even be in this race?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Here's what some prominent Democrat should say"

"Ms. Palin, I'm respect the fact that you and your family have had two very difficult decisions to discuss in the last few months about your pregnant teenage daughter and your own pregnancy. Families everywhere in America, mothers everywhere in America, understand what it is like to sit around the kitchen table late at night struggling with these intimate issues. You and your daughter made the decision you and your daughter felt was right. I honor that. But you ahve not been content to leave it at that. You want to make abortion illegal in all cases, for all people. You want to take away everyoen else's choice. Why do you believe that you have the right to force everyone else to make the same decisions you did about how to deal with these difficult pregnancies? Why do you, Sarah Palin, get the right to decide for every other mother in America? That's wrong. That's not what America is all about."

The Law Talking Guy said...

Oh, and you can't say "I'm a hockey Mom with four wonderful children and a working-class husband" and then demand the public not ask questions about your family. She and McCain wanted to advertise Palin as America's EveryMom. Live by the talking point, die by the facts.

Raised By Republicans said...

Palin's answer to LTG's question would almost certainly be "Because abortion is murder."

That could make it obvious to the PUMAs who she is. But it would provoke cheers from the Republican base.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather sit down with her and ask her about the conversations she has with her children regarding their health, sex, decision making, judgement, etc. Obviously, she feels that sex education has no place in schools, but does SHE take it upon herself to educate her own children? This "she's keeping the baby and we're so proud" crap wouldn't fly if the dems were in the same situation.

Raised By Republicans said...

Anonymous is right. The double standard about family issues by Republicans is glaring.

First they make her family THE big campaign talking point about her. Then they cry foul when the media reveals some skeletons in the family.

The hypocrisy of the religious right shouldn't surprise either. After we're talking about people who talk about a "culture of life" but fetishize the military and push for the death penalty. We're talking about people who complain about government intervention in business but insist on government intervention in personal decisions. Hypocrisy is these people's stock and trade.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG and RbR are right. The Republicans made a big whoop-de-doo about her family. They hyped her being a "hockey mom" and made a big deal that one of her children was autistic. There was no talk of "off limits" then. They made her character an issue (and since she has no experience, it's the only issue). Too bad.

Anonymous said...

I think we have a great national tradition of *saying* that the children of candidates are off-limits.

There was a big flap over Chelsea Clinton going to a posh private school rather than to public school, there's been a fair bit of Bush-twin coverage, etc. It's the kind of thing people gossip about at playgroup* or Mommy and Me yoga after reviewing the most recent celebrity baby names. And by people, I mean, "women McCain hoped to attract by picking Palin."

One thing that does kind of bug me is the sentiment that Palin is a per se bad mother because her teenager got pregnant. That assumes an awful lot about both mother and daughter.

-Seventh Sister

*I am not now nor have I ever been a member of a playgroup.

Raised By Republicans said...

When Rudy Giuliani said, "How dare they question whether Governor Palin will have time to be a good mother to her children and be vice President" I distinctly saw Bristol roll her eyes.

Look, here's the dirty little secret. Palin has been governor for a year and a half. Her husband works as a fisherman and oil worker up on the North Slope. I'm imagining that these kids pretty much have been on their own for the last couple of years. Which would explain the pictures on the interenet(s) of the Palin girl flaunting her under age drinking.