I like Sarah Palin. I would like to loooove Sarah Palin. After all, how many other unapologetically conservative, attractive, outspoken female politicians does America have?
For a long time, I was a firm Palin supporter. Last autumn, during her tenure as John McCain’s vice presidential nominee, it made sense to give Governor Palin the benefit of the doubt. It seemed entirely possible that many of her widely-reported missteps were the inevitable consequence of a relatively inexperienced candidate confronting a hostile media in the white hot glare of a national campaign. And some of the attacks against her – both from the left and the right – were so snobbish and so unfair that it was impossible not to root for her, and heartily.
Recently, however, my confidence in Governor Palin’s judgment has begun to ebb – most dramatically, this week. What in the world was she thinking to allow her daughter Bristol, an eighteen year old unmarried mother, to proffer a national interview?
No doubt Bristol’s motives were entirely pure. It seems that she intended to present herself as an advocate against teen pregnancy, warning, “It's so much easier if you're married, and if you have a house and career. ... It's not a situation you want to strive for." But Bristol also made headlines by characterizing abstinence for teens as “unrealistic.” That comment is likely to be the interview’s most lasting legacy – and it’s hardly one that will inspirit many of her mother’s most committed supporters.
Bristol Palin is only eighteen years old, and lacks any experience in handling the media. So it was entirely foreseeable that some gaffe or misstatement would overshadow any intended benefit she (or her mother) hoped would come from the interview. What’s more, the interview placed Governor Palin herself in the awkward position of praising her unmarried daughter as “a strong and bold young woman, and . . . an amazing mom.” That may be true, but how does it square with her earlier position that Bristol’s private life should be just that – private? And shouldn’t she have recognized that such accolades might inadvertently suggest to other young, unmarried women that they, too, could be “amazing moms”?