So What?

Andrew Sullivan’s latest on Trig Palin’s maternity is uncomfortable reading. After wading through the muck, I’m left wondering why he feels the need to badger the poor woman over the circumstances of her son’s birth. Even if everything he says is true – the pregnancy was staged to protect her daughter; the entire story is fraudulent; the press is silently complicit – I still have no idea why we should care. If Palin is lying to protect her daughter, I have nothing but sympathy for the poor woman and her family. And after all this time, the justification behind Sullivan’s one-man inquisition is still incredibly weak:

And yet in the campaign, the pregnancy and baby were offered at every moment as a reason to vote for Palin. If the Bridge To Nowhere is worth checking out, why aren’t the pregnancy’s bizarre details? Without the Down Syndrome pregnancy, Palin would not have had the rock-star appeal to the pro-life base that contributed to her selection. She made it a political issue by holding up the baby at the convention.

To suggest that a staged pregnancy is the root of Palin’s political ascendancy is absurdly reductive. Anyone following the campaign could point to ten other reasons why she immediately connected with the Republican base.

But beyond all this is the issue of basic courtesy. Politics, of course, is a full-contact sport, and when it comes to contentious issues or even personal failings that illuminate a candidate’s character, I’m all for roughing the other team up. But when it comes to someone’s family or personal life, there are certain things that simply aren’t done. As a practical matter, making politics even less palatable by propagating mindless conspiracism is a good way to discourage civic participation, but even if this weren’t the case, I think people deserve a certain degree of privacy and respect. Basic courtesy should still apply when someone decides to run for office. Sullivan, who devotes so much time and effort to defending the dignity of historically marginalized groups, ought to know better.

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4 Comments

Filed under Alaska, Free Speech, Politics, The Media

4 responses to “So What?

  1. I can’t help but think that maybe this has to do with the way that Sullivan’s personal life has been dragged through the dirt. He probably does know, more than other journalists, how it feels to have strangers obsessing over ostensibly private activities.

  2. I think the biggest problem with Andrew on this topic is that there aren’t really any consequences he faces. Andrew won’t be fired from The Atlantic over it, they need him too much. It won’t tarnish his reputation, Andrew is already known for being kind of erratic in this way. And even if he does lose some traffic over it, Andrew’s readership is huge enough that it won’t make any serious difference.

    Unfortunately, Andrew has made it his mission to destroy Palin by any means necessary (or almost) so that she becomes too damaged to ascend to a conservative leadership position. I don’t think there is anything that can be done to dissuade him.

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  4. John Carpenter

    Re: there aren’t really any consequences he faces.

    Given that New York Times Co. v. Sullivan–no relationship to Andrew Sullivan–made public figures virtually bulletproof in tortious actions for libel, one cannot pursue such a witch hunt, no matter how cleverly justified, without undesired consequences.

    By any reasonable standard, Andrew Sullivan’s investment in demeaning Sarah Palin is a bit over the top. As John Cantwell Kiley noted, “There is a
    primal, unconditional law written on the heart that you cannot choose the way that you know to be wrong, inferior to, or less perfect than some other way, with impugnity.”

    At some level, Mr. Sullivan must comprehend that
    compulsively pointing a bony finger at Governor Palin and rumbling, “J’accuse!” is an “inferior” way
    of dealing with his overt contempt for the woman.
    It is unlikely, however, that he is aware of the
    extent to which Sarah Palin has hijacked his reason. A reasonable person would have never questioned the facts surrounding Trig’s birth. That
    Mr. Sullivan still believes it to be the stuff of a cheap victorian potboiler is indeed “unsettling”. He–and those so obsessed–would be wise to reread Melville’s cautionary tale of a man similarly pursuing the object of his loathing.

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