Politics & Policy

Pregnant Pause

Trying to end the Palin candidacy before it begins.

Bristol Palin, the world now knows, is five months’ pregnant. The McCain campaign released a statement from Governor Palin and her husband expressing loving support for their daughter, who will have her child and plans to marry the father — like Miss Palin, a high-school senior. It is obviously a wrenching situation for the family, but the Palins appear to be handling it appropriately, living by their values.

Shouldn’t that be the end of the matter? John McCain certainly thinks so. The circumstances were raised when Gov. Palin was being vetted, and he nevertheless selected her as his running-mate — an inspired choice, if enthusiasm from Republicans and conservatives is any guide. Barack Obama and his chosen running-mate, Sen. Joe Biden, have admirably stipulated that candidates’ children should be off-limits and that the Palins’ family matters are irrelevant to the upcoming election.

Would that the ticket’s surrogates and supporters followed their candidates’ lead. Instead, there is a feeding frenzy — a race to the bottom between the left-wing blogosphere and the mainstream media, with the bloggers ahead by a hair.

The New York Times’s webpage on Tuesday led with no fewer than three stories about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. CNN has tried to exploit Miss Palin as a laboratory specimen for a high-profile examination of sex-education. MSNBC and the Huffington Post are titillating viewers with exposes on Miss Palin’s boyfriend. Slate, owned by the Washington Post, is running a “Name Bristol Palin’s Baby” contest. US Weekly has “Babies, Lies, and Scandal” on its cover. But unsavory as all this is, it can’t hold a candle to Andrew Sullivan.

Once a respectable journalist, The Atlantic’s self-declared champion of respect for privacy and of civil discourse now obsesses over Miss Palin, airing baseless and abhorrent questions about the motherhood of Trig, Gov. Palin’s infant son, born this year with Down syndrome. One wonders if David Bradley bought The Atlantic — a venerable institution that once published Mark Twain and Martin Luther King — so that he could associate it with the most despicable ravings of the left-wing blogosphere. What price in reputation is Bradley willing to pay for increased unique-visitor numbers from among the fever swamps?

This shameful but predictable media performance stands in marked contrast to the rigorous “hands-off” privacy policy dutifully honored by the press throughout the Clinton years for the president’s then-teenage daughter, Chelsea. Indeed earlier this year, though Miss Clinton was now well into her twenties and an impressively poised surrogate for her mother’s campaign, NBC News suspended reporter David Shuster for asserting that Sen. Clinton’s campaign was “pimping” her daughter — a classless formulation, to be sure. But where’s the hyper-sensitivity about a candidate’s child now?

When Al Gore’s son was arrested on narcotics and speeding charges in 2007, moreover, the national press was a model of sympathetic restraint. The muted coverage was devoid of calls for a national “teaching moment” on drug abuse or responsible driving. The message was plain and correct: No news here, move along.

The Republican base and other people of good will are angry over this grotesque display. It is obvious what the media and Democrats are up to here. They want to define Sarah Palin as a failure before she even has a chance to succeed. Hence the speculation that McCain will dump her from the ticket. How absurd. All we know about Palin’s performance as a candidate so far is that she gave polished performances at her unveiling in Ohio and at a rally the next day in Pennsylvania. The supposed embarrassments — about her alleged membership in the fringe Alaskan Independence Party and her woefully incomplete vetting — are concoctions of a media stumbling over itself to prove a conclusion it has already reached.

So far, it is the press that has embarrassed itself, not the governor from Alaska.

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