By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Exploiting Bristol Palin

Josh Marshall puts forth a provocative argument that I half-agree with: that it’s the McCain campaign, not the media, that has wallowed in Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, while the media have been drilling down on the investigation into Sarah Palin’s firing of the state-police commissioner, her hypocrisy over the “Bridge to Nowhere,” her and her husband’s ties to the wacky Alaskan Independence Party and the like.

I think Marshall is on to something, but it’s not as clear-cut as he makes it sound. I have seen a lot of coverage, nearly all of it stupid and irrelevant, about Bristol Palin, her pregnancy and her self-described “redneck” boyfriend. It’s not all coming from the McCain camp. But the campaign is clearly exploiting it.

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  1. Esther

    I just saw 4-month-old Trig at the convention. What is a 4-month-old baby doing there? Talk about exploitive. It’s such hypocrisy. Sure, they don’t want you to talk about Bristol’s baby, but they trot out that little fellow wherever and whenever they can. He should be in his crib sleeping right now.

  2. jvwalt

    The media is not totally without fault in the Palin family coverage, but the McCain campaign is clearly seizing on said coverage and trying to drive the whole controversy into a narrow debate about journalistic ethics and family privacy. Beats having to actually defend the nomination of a clearly unqualified person. Or answer questions, so far unasked, about why conservatives are so strongly against affirmative action and yet are willing to swallow a nomination that was clearly gender-based. No one can convince me that Sarah Palin was the best possible choice for the job.

  3. Doug Shugarts

    Nothing new here, really. While most of the public fixates on a distraction, in this case the the sex life of a 16-year-old girl, harder questions that a campaign wishes to sidestep go unasked and unanswered. Hunter S. Thompson, predictably, said it best in his 1970 essay, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”“And unlike most of the others in the press box, we didn’t give a hoot in hell what was happening on the track. We had come there to watch the real beasts perform.”Doug Shugarts

  4. Sean Roche

    Dan,I wish that such a great example of the McCain camp’s hypocrisy and ineptness wasn’t also a sensitive personal issue, but it is. Sarah Palin has an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter. And, she used her line item veto to cut funding for unwed teenage girls and their babies. McCain and Palin celebrate the choice that Bristol Palin made while they seek to deny other women (really poor women) that same choice. These are very real policy issues that are manifest in this young woman.The VP selection is McCain’s most significant decision of his campaign, and his campaign didn’t vet Sarah Palin and learn about Bristol Palin’s situation with enough time to develop a coherent or thoughtful strategy for how to ease her into the glare of a presidential campaign. Sarah Palin introduces herself to the world with her pregnant daughter stuck in a truck taking care of the baby (Cindy McCain did a fine job tonight, so you know it wasn’t out of necessity), doesn’t mention that she’s about to become a grandmother, or that there’s a wedding in the near future. Pregnancy as shame. Then, hand forced, the campaign reveals the pregnancy as a private matter, not disclosing the young man’s name. Pregnancy and marriage as private matter. Then, buoyed by the base’s touching support, the father-to-be is paraded around as part of the Palin family, appearing on the tarmac hugging McCain and then at the convention in the family box and down on the stage. Pregnancy as proof of a messy, real American family. But, then, in her speech, Palin didn’t introduce her daughter’s intended or brag that she was about to become a grandmother. Pregnancy as … who knows?This is in a span of six days!Of course, the campaign disarray on the issue is mostly due to the fact that McCain, Mr. Maverick, didn’t want to upset the base with one of his preferred picks. So, he was forced to back up and make a hasty pick and this is the baggage that attends the pick.I didn’t put Bristol Palin in the national limelight. The MSM didn’t put Bristol Palin in the national limelight. The Obama campaign didn’t put Bristol Palin in the national limelight. Liberal bloggers didn’t put Bristol Palin in the national limelight. Fully aware of her daughter’s pregancy, Sarah Palin put Bristol Palin in the national limelight. And she and the McCain campaign haven’t figured out how to protect her.Oh, and Esther, not only was Trig on the convention floor, he and his middle sister were out a good hour before anyone else in the family. Because Rudy Giuilani soothes the fussy infant?

  5. Peter Porcupine

    DK – Please advise. How do you respond to vicious and fictional personal attacks without being accused of ‘exploiting’ those involved in explaing your answer? If the kids weren’t there, wouldn’t we just be hearing – what is she hiding?

  6. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I am referring to the McCain campaign’s claim that the media are attacking Palin’s family, when they are doing no such thing.

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