Troopergate scandals and sex outside marriage don’t normally trouble the mainstream media. At least they didn’t during the Clinton years. But Sarah Palin is another story. Among her other sins, she is a “creationist” and once wore a Pat Buchanan for President button. No scrap of scandal about her or her family, therefore, can go uninvestigated.
The all-hands-on-deck coverage designed to embarrass Palin on Monday was laughable. CNN, for example, seemed to treat Palin’s views on abstinence with a solemnity equal to or greater than its coverage of Hurricane Gustav. A reporter was hastily dispatched to Anchorage to get to the bottom of her record on sex ed and her dust-up with a trooper brother-in-law.
Reporters who usually gush about multi-tasking moms arched their brows over a female candidate assuming so many responsibilities to the detriment of her family. The media can’t decide if Palin is Phyllis Schlafly or a reckless feminist pursuing careerism at the expense of her children.
Roles have been bewilderingly reversed: cultural conservatives see in Palin Joan of Arc while liberals demand to know why she isn’t toiling in the nursery.
Reporters are still steamed at John McCain for selecting a politician who once asked in an interview what vice presidents actually do. That’s a reasonable question, or used to be until recent times transformed the vice presidency into a busy post. But if vice presidents principally go to state funerals, as the cliche goes, Palin would be able to juggle the job and motherhood to John Roberts’ satisfaction (the CNN host suggested the job would preclude her from taking care of her baby with Down syndrome).
News of the teen pregnancy in the Palin household generated gotcha journalism on a scarcely believable scale on Monday. On Fox, Bill Kristol deserves points for nailing Mort Kondracke for absurdly politicizing the issue, though Kondracke was far from alone in doing so. As Kristol implied, how does the media know if Palin’s daughter didn’t adhere to its approved safe-sex methods and they just failed? Would that cause them to reconsider their stance in favor of sex ed?
This much is clear: the Palin family is horrifying to the Margaret Sanger left. In Palin, it envisions messy, unplanned Middle America coming to the White House. First off, Palin has too many children, a dismaying five. Second, she bore a child late in life who has Down syndrome, and knew this beforehand. Finally, she has a daughter who is pregnant out of wedlock, plans to have the child and marry the father — all of which smacks of the 1950s rather than the Sexual Revolution and its tidy solutions.
Before the news of her daughter’s pregnancy broke, the media had Palin marked down as an easy target. Her first scandal, and most important one to the liberal media, are the views she holds. Because, for example, she thinks students should be exposed to more than one theory about nature, she is a “creationist.” But could the reporters casually charging her with this even define the term?
An unwillingness to treat Darwinism as the only theory permissible to mention in class is not synonymous with creationism. But who cares? reporters figure. We’ll slap the label on her anyways.
The media can’t resist the narrative of her as a reactionary from a backwoods state even when facts in her life complicate it, starting with a fact that typically excites reporters: she is a working mother. Female reporters who cheer the sight of women in combat appear to wince at the images of Palin firing guns or the stories of her ordering up moose burgers.
Hillary Clinton’s stories about hunting with her family, or her throwing back whiskeys in Indiana (when it was useful against Obama to portray herself as a populist), met with their approval. But Palin is a member of the dreaded NRA and this sort of female politician just can’t be abided. After all, her success could inspire other non-liberal women to enter politics and erode the feminist left’s control of it. And that’s a story the media never wants to cover.