Monday, September 1, 2008

Repeating Gossip

[Update below]

I’ve had a couple of people ask if I’m going to write anything about the stories circulating in the blogosphere about Gov. Sarah Palin’s fifth child and the circumstances of his birth. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can find the details of the rumors elsewhere.) But I’m taking the same approach to this story as I did to the rumors and tabloid stories that were out there about John Edwards and his affair: on personal matters like that, I leave them alone until it becomes a legitimate news item, i.e. the subject of the story comes forth and addresses it directly. In Mr. Edwards’ case, he gave an interview with ABC News in which he disclosed the affair, and I wrote one blog piece about it. But Mr. Edwards is no longer a presidential candidate and as far as American politics is concerned, thanks to our puritanical — and often hypocritical — standards, his national career is over. So there’s no point in carrying on about his personal life.

As for Gov. Palin, I have to ask the following questions:

– Has the story been corroborated by more than just circumstantial evidence?

– If the story is true, is there any evidence that Gov. Palin violated the law or committed a criminal act?

– If there was an attempt to cover it up, was anyone outside of the governor’s family involved or coerced to cooperate?

– Does the story, if true, have any impact on whether or not Ms. Palin could do her job, either the one she’s currently doing as governor of Alaska, or the one she’s running for?

As far as I can tell, the rumors add up to not much more than juicy backfence gossip with a detectable odor of misogyny thrown in, so I don’t really see any point in feeding the beast. Besides, there are so many other areas to legitimately criticize Gov. Palin on — her lack of experience in national matters, her medieval views on reproductive choice, gay rights, and science, and her willingness to serve on a national ticket when anyone with any sense in the same position would turn it down for lack of qualifications (just as I would turn down an offer to be associate dean of the Yale School of Drama) — that going after her for rumors that are more worthy of supermarket tabloids seems pointless. (Yes, I know; the tabloids broke the John Edwards story. They also broke the one about Elvis working in a Burger King in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Do the math.)

I also think that progressives need to pick their battles carefully; I’m a lot more interested in Gov. Palin’s role in the allegations of abuse of power in the statehouse (and yes, this story does meet the criteria set forth above) than I am in who’s the real mom of the baby that was born in April. It may not be juicy, but it is far more informative about how she would perform in office if she ever gets elected to it.

Update: To rebut the rumors about the “whose baby is it?” story, the Palin family via the McCain campaign has released a statement saying that Gov. Palin’s daughter Bristol is five months pregnant via her boyfriend. That qualifies as a legitimate news item. All I have to say is best wishes to the family and here’s hoping the pregnancy and delivery are uneventful. Part of being pro-choice is leaving the choice up to the mother, the father, and the family and keeping absolute strangers out of the decision. Would that everyone believed that.