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.