Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Idiot Media Reaction to Bristol Palin Pregnancy Coverage

I'll often watch "Morning Joe" on MSNBC in the morning as I am ingesting my two extra-large cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee, trying to wake up for the day.

This morning, both host Joe Scarborough (who was a former Republican congressperson from Florida) and the show's news reader Mika Brzezinski (whose father was Secretary of State for Jimmy Carter, but whose siblings span the range of the political spectrum) were virtually apoplectic over the media coverage of the announcement that Bristol Palin, 17-year-old daughter of Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin, is five months pregnant. Though she plans to marry the father -- since revealed to be 18-year-old Levi Johnston, a self-proclaimed "redneck" -- the announcement shook up the Republican National Convention.

In particular, Brzezinski railed against the New York Times for having three stories related to the Bristol Palin pregnancy, saying that media coverage of political children was out of bounds. She also proclaimed that twice when the pro-life Palin family was faced with "challenges" (Sarah Palin's going through with her pregnancy after her baby was diagnosed with Down's syndrome and Bristol Palin deciding to keep her baby) they "always took the route that wasn't so easy."

(Note: I'm anti-abortion, not pro-life. That means that I am personally against abortion -- I believe that scientifically, life begins at conception -- but I am against the death penalty. Many pro-life advocates are for the death penalty, which makes me wonder what part of the term "pro-life" they do not understand. I am also pro-choice. Just because I have my personal position on abortion, I have no right to impose that position on anyone else. If a person based on their beliefs, their circumstances, their counsel with family, friends, medical personnel and clergy decide to have a safe and legal abortion, that is their right. And there's nothing easy about making that decision. I've known several women who have had abortions. The decisions that they made to terminate their pregnancies were part of a process so wrenching that they would never want to repeat it.)

This is not really a story about Bristol Palin's pregnancy, although her pregnancy may be symbolic given the real story -- Sarah Palin's judgment.

Here are two examples. Consider the following excerpt from Jim Carlton's story in today's Wall Street Journal surrounding the events of Trig Palin's birth:

"Gov. Palin's [sic] opted to board a jet from Dallas in April while about to deliver a child. Gov. Palin, who was eight months pregnant, says she felt a few contractions shortly before she was to give a keynote speech to an energy summit of governors in Dallas. But she says she went ahead with it after her doctor in Alaska advised her to put her feet up to rest. 'I was not going to miss that speech,' she says.

She rushed so quickly from the podium afterwards that Texas Gov. Rick Perry nervously asked if she was about to deliver the baby then. She made it to the airport, and gave birth hours after landing in Anchorage to Trig, who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. 'Maybe they shouldn't have let me fly, but I wasn't showing much so they didn't know,' she says."

Here are some other details. Had Alaska Airlines, the airline she flew, known about her contractions (she was leaking amniotic fluid), they would not have allowed her to fly. Once aboard, Palin flies over 10 hours to get to Anchorage, she drives past Anchorage Regional Hospital and Providence Hospital (which has the highest-rated maternity care in the state of Alaska, including having a neonatal intensive care unit, a possible necessity for a woman who had been leaking amniotic fluid for over 15 hours -- and risking infection -- and who is not only giving birth early, but also to a Down's child). She instead heads for her hometown of Wasilla (population 9,000) for a to give birth at Mat-Su Hospital, which while not the medical facility portrayed in the TV show Northern Exposure, is certainly not a state-of-the-art medical facility. (Interestingly, Mat-Su Hospital has no record of the governor having given birth there that day.)

So, Sarah Palin is in Dallas, Texas, leaking amniotic fluid, is not due to give birth for at least another month, and rather than checking into one of the outstanding hospitals in Dallas, proceeds to give her speech, fly to Alaska (without informing the airline that they may have to have an emergency landing because she has a strong likelihood of giving birth during the flight), drives past high quality medical facilities to give birth at a medical facility of much lesser quality (and one without a NICU). Does this sound like a mother who is looking out for the best interests of her about-to-be-born baby? I think the media have legitimate questions to raise about her judgment.

Second, as Monica Davey reported in the New York Times today, the Palins were married August 29, 1988 and their son Track was born "eight months later." Unfortunately, Ms. Davey subtracted wrongly. Track Palin was born April 20, 1989. Assuming that the Palins conceived Track on the night that they eloped, Track would have been about 34 weeks old, 6 weeks shy of the normal human gestation period. So, either Track was a "preemie" (a fact that was likely to have been noted in the media when Sarah Palin gave premature birth to Trig in April), or the Palins had a "shotgun" wedding (an appropriate term, given the Palins' love for guns).

Sarah Palin is a vehement supporter of abstinence-only sex education -- another failed policy of the Bush years. One argument made in support of abstinence-only sex education is that sex education belongs at home and not in the public schools. One would think that a mother who had to get married might want to be sure that her daughter, who had been dating her boyfriend for over six months before they conceived, knew the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy.

So, Bristol Palin appears not to have gotten the information that she would have needed to be fully informed about unplanned pregnancies. Her mother's public policy position prohibited her from getting comprehensive sex education in the public schools, and her mother's personal policy position seems to have limited what she said to Bristol (or it certainly did not make an impression).

I agree with the media commentators -- Bristol and Trig Palin are off-limits in terms of media scrutiny. Sarah Palin's actions and policy positions that affected Bristol and Trig Palin are fair game. The judgment of someone who wants to be a heartbeat away from the presidency is something the public is entitled to know.


Blogger Nomad said...

Great article and wonderful summary of a very complicated and suspicious case. I'd like to invite you to PoliticalGates. These points are always under discussion,

10:44 PM  

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