Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin's Daughter Pregnancy Stuns Political World

Rick Klein and Jennifer Parker, writing for ABC News, examine the ramifications of the news that Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months' pregnant and will marry her boyfriend.

Palin is an outspoken opponent of abortion, opposing the termination of a pregnancy in all cases except when the mother's life is in danger. Palin also opposed sexual education programs in schools, other than an abstinence-only curriculum, during her 2006 Alaska gubernatorial campaign.

Given all that as a backdrop, the tag of hypocrite may soon appear from the left. That tag is a political death sentence for anyone.

So far, the reaction has been predictable along party lines. Obama told reporters after a campaign event in Monroe, Mich., that “people’s families are off-limits and people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as a governor or potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories.”

But fallout has started, and there will be no let up in the coming days.

Richard Gizbert, writing for the Huffington Post, says Palin is the new Thomas Engleton, and predicts she will step away from the race within next week or so. He pins the potential move on reaction from evangelicals.

But what hurts Palin's candidacy more than anything else is the breaking news about her daughter.

It hurts because Sarah Palin was a bone John McCain threw at the Republican right.

He had problems with evangelicals and thought she could help him there. And, for a news cycle or two, it worked.

But what are the evangelicals thinking now? A teen pregnancy for a prospective vice-president's unmarried daughter?

Even though some will say the decision to keep the baby is consistent with their beliefs on abortion, it's still not the news they want to hear.

Evangelicals are socially conservative. How many of them are calling members of their congregations today, asking whether this kind of thing would have happened had Sarah Palin given up her career to be there for her children?

Bart Jones of Newsday interviewed Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf who said that the revelation shows that McCain stubbed his toe on the selection process, and that ultimately it will doom his candidacy.

The selection showed a "major lack of judgment" and a "major failure to comprehend what the reaction would be," Sheinkopf said.

"You cannot excite the base of fundamentalist Christians by telling them your daughter is pregnant out of wedlock," he said. The entire episode "makes the McCain people look stupid."

McCain supporters have been spending the day defending her. Liz Halloran of U.S. News and World Reports, met with evangelicals today and discussed the issue.

"I don't think it [hurts] at all," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who hailed Palin's nomination.

The media's breathless reaction is proof that "you just don't get it," Land said during a U.S. News lunch roundtable here that also included Jim Wallis, president and executive director of Sojourners; Randy Brinson, founder of Redeem the Vote; and Chuck Donovan, executive vice president for the Family Research Council.

"We need to take the Juno option," Wallis said, referring to last year's popular movie about a pregnant teenager who gives her baby up for adoption. Said Donovan: "It doesn't matter if it's a conservative, liberal, or an apolitical family—these things happen."

Donovan and Land both referred to the national efforts by evangelicals to encourage women and girls to do what Bristol Palin, now five months pregnant, has done and keep the child. "Pro-life people don't see a baby as a punishment," Land said.

Carla Marinucci, the political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, talked to Republican delegates in St. Paul, Minn., about their concerns. Most everyone was supportive of Palin and her family.

Most staunch Republicans in St. Paul, hearing the news, aimed to accentuate the positive: Palin's daughter is keeping the baby and getting married, a plus - the embodiment of family values, they said.

"I'm not a feminist, never have been, and I opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because it was bad law," said Jo Ellen Allen, a delegate from Newport Beach. "But women ought to be applauding her. ... This happens to the best of families."

"As a delegate, and as a woman, I respect them even more now,' said Miryam Mora, 26, a GOP delegate from Los Angeles, whose reaction mirrored many inside Xcel Energy Center. "It's a family with real issues and real problems ... but it's an amazing family."

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