Friday, June 12, 2009

For What It's Worth, Palin Is Milking Letterman's Gaffe

As if anyone needs to be reminded, going after an elected official's daughter is so far out of bounds, it's not funny. Unless you absolutely must hate Sarah Palin.

It's pretty obvious that David Letterman intended to poke fun at Bristol Palin and not her 14-year-old sister Willow. But even then, isn't some sort of ethical lapse that occurred in Letterman's mind to have gone after Bristol? What is her crime? And does it make a difference if the joke is meant for an 18-year-old instead of someone who is 14?

Seriously, I've never been keen on attacking one's kids. When Jenna and Barbara Bush were caught with fake IDs in a Texas restaurant, I admit it was hilarious. Everyone in town and on campus knew who they were and their ages. Holy Pete, their dad was Governor for six years prior to his presidency. But they reminded me of being that age and what they did isn't different from what many other college-age kids do - passing off a fake ID to buy alcohol. Even as they brought this problem on themselves, the media eventually let it go because after all, it's their dad that is the elected official, not them. They were not decision makers responsible for what would be one of the most controversial administrations ever, and they didn't choose to have a father with political ambitions.

Sarah Palin's kids remind me of that moment. Her daughter made a mistake; a mistake that is not unique to her, but one that imposes strict consequences on those like her that get pregnant before they finish high school. It isn't to say that Bristol is better off than most girls - her mother and father are most likely going to be contributing to her child's well-being so not to grow up desperate for food and shelter. But the fact that she is Gov. Palin's daughter means a spotlight will be shined on her versus a nobody who won't have the pressure of the media's glaring eye and self-righteous judgment laid out before all of us.

Which is why when I read in Rolling Stone (I shouldn't) that the father of Bristol's child (Levi somebody) has 'slammed' Bristol for her abstinence stance, or David Letterman ridicules her (or Willow-by-extension), I cringe. She shouldn't be made part of the ongoing debate about sex education in America. Bristol is a private citizen whose mother happens to have been the Republican Vice Presidential nominee. And she happens to have had a child at an age even I consider too young.

True, she happened to take a position on the side of abstinence. A position I feel is dangerous. But at least she was asked the question. You can disagree, but don't foment outrage over someone's opinion if it's been requested and not volunteered.

Gov. Palin, for what it's worth, has gotten a lot of mileage out of this. She reminds me of Hillary Clinton in a lot of ways. At the onset of their introduction to the public sixteen years apart from each other, they were each controversial. People just automatically hated both for no other reason than the letter that should appear next to their name, be it D, R, G, or me N (as in None-of-the-above). Things work both ways in America. If you're a powerful woman, no matter your partisan affiliation, you are instantly hated by the other team.

Maybe Palin is using this as a means to boost her popularity which has taken a hit since the election in 2008. Wait, maybe? Okay, she is using this to promote Sarah Palin. I believe she is genuinely angry. Perhaps Letterman did not sound as sincere in his apology. But it's time to move on.

Accept an invitation to appear on the Late Show? Do as you wish. But don't use it as a means to bring yourself down to his level. Your daughter (both of them, actually) have been exploited enough. From you, to Dave, to copy guys at the newsdesk, it's been done and you need to let it go.

For the record, Todd Palin, is no better. Yes, he has every right to be an outraged father. But he doesn't need two press releases. One that says, "I'm disgusted, I'm mad, leave my daugher out of this." is enough.

Needless to say, I need to go crawl back under my rock and go without blogging for another six months.

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