Today two large announcements were made concerning the family of Sarah Palin, the VP on the McCain-Palin ticket. The first, and most shocking, is that Sarah Palin's daughter 17 year old Bristol is five months pregnant and plans to marry the father of the child. The second revelation, and much less shocking, is that Palin's husband was arrested for DUI twenty years ago when he was twenty-two years old.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of all of this, I do want to say that I feel for Bristol Palin. To be shoved into the national spotlight as the young daughter of a Vice Presidential candidate is rough enough, but to be known as the unmarried pregnant daughter of the Vice Presidential candidate is even tougher. To make things worse (and really one of the only reasons that I am going into this at all) is the fact that Sarah Palin has, in the past, backed abstinence-only education. At this point it is almost common knowledge that sexual education that incorporates contraceptives education begets lower pregnancy rates among teens.
So where does this leave Palin? Her and her husband put out a statement saying that Bristol will marry the father of her child, saying that Bristol "has our unconditional love and support." While this is the best thing a person can do when they find themselves pregnant and in a "family values" family such as Bristol is, I sincerely hope that this is what Bristol wanted to do and not what her parents wanted her to do. While I do not think that Mrs. Palin is the type of person who would do this (simply because I do not know her), the worst thing to do in this situation is to force one's daughter to do something that she does not want to do to save political face. Hopefully Bristol and her boyfriend are in love and want to marry each other and they are simply not doing it because everyone around them is pressuring them to.
An important thing to remember here is that Sarah Palin is not 100% responsible for her daughter's actions. However, it is also important to note that Palin's support of abstinence-only education contributes to higher teen pregnancy levels (see the report cited earlier). I am not saying that if Palin had supported comprehensive sex education that her daughter would not have become pregnant - no one can paint a direct link without knowing 100% of the facts of what happened (which is really none of anyone's business by Bristol's and anyone else she would share it to). But Palin and other social conservatives who continue to support abstinence-only education can share partial responsibility for unwanted teen pregnancies.
As for the revelation that Todd Palin was arrested for DUI when he was twenty-two: this is not a huge deal in my mind. People do stupid things when they are young, and I cannot imagine that rural Alaska rarely sees these types of things. It's not like he's George W. Bush and did it at the age of 30 when he should have known better or he's Dick Cheney and did not learn from one DUI charge and got two in eight months. If he were running for something, that would be one thing, but he is simply the husband of someone running for something.
But all of this begs the question: why did Palin accept this job? Another question: why did McCain allow her to do this, knowing what he knew? If I were Palin, the last thing I would want to do is put my daughter on the national stage. She had to know that this would get out; why not save her daughter the embarassment? If I were McCain, I would thank Palin for her contributions to Alaska and the Republican Party in general but would not consider her for my VP. Not solely because her daughter was pregnant, but because she clearly had some personal issues to deal with and putting her family in the national spotlight would be unfair. But this choice begs the question: if Palin, given the personal problems that running for VP would probably only exacerbate, was McCain's best choice among the nation's Republicans, how bad were the rest of them? Peace.
Photos - Sarah Palin (www.en.wikipedia.org), McCain and Palin (www.news.bbc.co.uk), Sarah and Todd Palin (www.bostonherald.com)