I believe it accidentally appeals to the Republicans' white trash
constituencies in a perverted way.
September 2, 2008
Palinâs Teen Daughter Is Pregnant; New G.O.P. Tumult
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
ST. PAUL â" The 17-year-old daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCainâs
running mate, is five months pregnant, the Alaskan governor announced
Monday, adding a new element of tumult to a Republican convention that
had already been disrupted by Hurricane Gustav.
The daughter, Bristol, plans to marry the father, according to the
statement, which was issued by Governor Palin and her husband, Todd.
âOur beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents
we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,â the
statement said. âAs Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood,
she knows that she has our unconditional love and support.â
The announcement came after a swirl of rumors by liberal bloggers that
the governorâs fifth child, who was born in April, was in fact her
Groups that oppose abortion rights had been thrilled with Mr. McCainâs
selection of Ms. Palin as his running mate, partly because of her
opposition to abortion. It is not clear how social conservatives will
respond to the latest news, but the initial reaction of several
delegates to the convention here was supportive of the family.
The McCain campaign said it was aware of the daughterâs pregnancy
before Mr. McCain named Ms. Palin as his running mate on Friday.
Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for the McCain campaign, was
surrounded by reporters and cameras as he walked through the media
center next door to the Xcel Center in St. Paul, where the convention
is taking place. Asked over and over when and how Mr. McCain found out
about Bristolâs pregnancy, he repeated, âSenator McCain was awareâ of
it and called it âa private family matter.â He would not say when Mr.
McCain found out or how, calling it a âprivate conversation.â
âThe fact is, John McCain had a thorough search and made the decision
to add Sarah Palin to the ticket because he believesâ that she âwill
change America,â Mr. Schmidt said.
He said how big this becomes would depend on the media. âI think the
American people will see this news and theyâd have good wishes for the
young lady and theyâll respect the privacy of the family,â he said.
Asked if Ms. Palin would be able to juggle the demands of the vice
presidency with her complicated family life, Mr. Schmidt said, âSheâs
been a very effective governor and again I canât imagine that question
being asked of a man.â
Ms. Palinâs statement identified the father only by a first name,
Levi. âBristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize
very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they
will have the love and support of our entire family,â the statement
said. âWe ask the media, respect our daughter and Leviâs privacy as
has always been the tradition of children of candidates.â
Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, was asked at a brief
press conference in Monroe, Mich., about the suggestion by some
Republicans that Democrats â" particularly liberal bloggers â" were
trying to advance rumors about the Palin family.
âOur people were not involved in any way in this and they will not
be,â Mr. Obama snapped, his voice raised. âAnd if I ever thought there
was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that,
theyâd be fired, O.K.?â
Mr. Obama said the pregnancy âhas no relevance to Governor Palinâs
performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice
president.â He added that, âmy mother had me when she was 18. How a
family deals with issues and teen-age children â" that shouldnât be the
topic of our politics.â
âSo,â he added, âI would strongly urge people to back off these kinds
Early reaction among women at the Republican convention to the news
about Bristol Palinâs pregnancy was almost uniformly supportive.
âThis happens to people in all walks of life,â said Karen Minnis, 54,
a state representative from Oregon.
She also said she had no problem with Governor Palin continuing to
campaign while her daughter is pregnant and she herself has an infant son.
âSheâs already proven herself as a very good multi-tasker,â Ms. Minnis
said. âShe comes from a great family and it just shouldnât be an issue.â
When Pam Younggren, 61, of Fargo, N.D., was told the news of the
17-year-oldâs pregnancy, she shrugged. âWell, she wouldnât be the
first one,â she said.
âWe canât control what our daughters do,â she said. âI donât see it as
a problem. She will have appropriate care for her baby.â
Mikey Hoeven, 50, who is married to the governor of North Dakota, said
that while the situation was difficult, she also said that Mrs. Palin
is âtoughâ and would get through it.
âOur hearts and prayers go out to her,â Mrs. Hoeven said. âJust being
a governor will be a challenge, but if anyone can do it, she can. This
baby ultimately will be a blessing to the family.â
The women had gathered in St. Paul at the Ordway Center for the
Performing Arts, at an event about women and heart disease. It was one
of the first events of the convention and began just after the news
about Bristol Palin was coming over their Blackberries and cellphones.
Some of them said, âOh, my Godâ when they first heard the news, but
they declined to discuss the matter with a reporter.
Many more said they could relate to Mrs. Palin and saw no problem with
her continuing to campaign.
Doni Ingram, 61, assistant director of Economic and Community
Development for the state of Alabama in Montgomery, said she felt
sympathetic to Mrs. Palin because she had raised four children herself.
âSheâs raised five kids and has a professional career, and sheâll be
just fine,â Mrs. Ingram said.
At least two Democrats were at the event. Julie Zimmerman, 27, who is
a program adviser with an educational program called The Washington
Center, said she found the news âshocking.â
She also said she hoped the Republicans would undergo âa fundamental
re-evaluation of what they mean by family valuesâ and also use the
moment to teach young women about sex education.
But she and a friend, Dr. Rachel Sondheimer, 29, also with the
Washington Center and an assistant professor of political science at
West Point, said they did not really see a problem with the situation.
âIf she thinks she can deal with her family and can do that, thatâs
fine,â Dr. Sondheimer said.
Many of the Republican women, too, had a sense that this was just
another challenge that women and mothers face all the time.
âMy heart aches for them, Iâm sure itâs a tough time for them,â said
Sandy Boehler, who is the soon-to-be Republican national
committeewoman for North Dakota. âBut we have to support them. Look at
all the working mothers. Sarah sounds very capable.â
Kathleen Wrigley, 38, who has three children and is married to the
United States Attorney for North Dakota, brought up the example of
John Edwards, who continued to campaign for president after his wife,
Elizabeth, announced last year that she had a recurrence of breast cancer.
âWhen Edwards announced that, I hated to see anyone pass judgment on
him,â she said. âThis is not for anyone else to judge. I pray for them
that they have the strength to do whatâs best.â
At a rally Saturday evening in Washington, Pa., the day after Ms.
Palin was named to the ticket, her daughter Bristol did not appear
with the rest of her family on stage. The governor said she was taking
care of the baby.
âThen we have our daughter Bristol, sheâs on the bus with the newborn,
and then we have our daughter Willow, who is here, and our youngest
daughter Piper,â Ms. Palin said as she introduced her family. âOn that
bus we have our son, Trig, who is a beautiful baby boy we welcomed
into the world just in April. Itâs his naptime, so he is with his big
sister on the bus. But we thank them for being here. â
âAnd speaking of Trig, and other things, some of lifeâs greatest
opportunities come unexpectedly,â she said. âAnd this is certainly the
case today. I never really set out to be in public affairs, much less
to run for this office.â
Michael Cooper, Jeff Zeleny and Mary Ann Giordano contributed reporting.