Bristol Palin, the seventeen-year-old high school senior daughter of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is five months pregnant and plans to marry the baby’s father. Those are the facts and nobody involved is disputing them. The story is, of course, all over the news media.
I think it’s unfortunate that it’s all over the news. I think it’s unfortunate that we know about it. I furthermore think that it’s unfortunate that we think we ought to know about it. It’s too much information.
Both the McCain and Obama campaigns are saying things like “This is a private matter” or “Families are off-limits.” I agree with those statements—but we all know better. When Sarah Palin or anybody else enters the world of politics and especially the arena of national politics they apparently lose all claim to a private life.
The situation is complicated when the political credentials of a candidate become closely related to a family matter. So in this case, Gov. Palin is presented as a strong family values, pro-life candidate, which just happens to jibe well with her personal story: she has a young daughter who has become pregnant out of wedlock and who has chosen to keep the baby and marry the father. Indeed, some political pundits are averring that her family’s handling of this matter proves her pro-family political credentials.
On the other hand, opposition pundits are using the situation to raise questions about just how well the McCain campaign vetted Gov. Palin before naming her as the senator’s running mate. They wonder what other juicy items will be uncovered about her and her family that might call Sen. McCain’s judgment into question. You can bet that political operatives are working around the clock to discover other personal issues that can be used against Palin and against every other candidate. Wouldn't you just be proud to spend God's good gift of a life doing that kind of work?
So far as I can tell, Palin’s conservative family values position is clear; so far as I can tell, a presidential candidate’s judgment, be he the Republican or the Democratic standard-bearer, can always be called into question based on their decisions on substantive matters of legitimate national interest. We don’t need to know about candidates’ private family matters to help us make informed decisions on their candidacies.
Someone might counter, “Well, how a candidate deals with personal and family matters helps us to understand if he or she is a person of appropriate character, and that helps us to decide if he or she is qualified for the office that she or he is seeking.” I certainly see the point. It’s possible, though, for a person of outstanding personal character to have unsound public policies; it’s also possible for a person of questionable personal character to have a keen sense of what is best for the most in matters of policy.
My primary observation on the matter of Gov. Palin’s daughter is this, though: it’s none of our business. Gov. Palin is a human being with a human family and human beings with human families have human family challenges. The only revelation that the news of Bristol’s pregnancy brings is that the Palins are human beings. Thank you, but I already knew that. I don’t need to know the details.
Frankly, I grow weary of politics as voyeurism. A now middle-aged candidate smoked marijuana as a college student? An office-holder’s underage daughters got caught drinking beer? A candidate once got a divorce? This one’s daughter is pregnant? Why do I need to look into a candidate’s den or bedroom windows, especially after getting in my Way Back machine and traveling back in time a few decades, in order to decide if she or he should get my vote?
Yes, I want a close look, but I want a close look at voting records, at party platforms, and at policy positions. I want to know how McCain or Obama would lead our country. How they handle their family’s personal matters is their concern and it should be kept private.
Now that I know about Bristol Palin, I will pray for her and I hope that we all will.
I just don’t see why we need to know.