No writer that I've read in the past 11 months has been more - dare I say - hysterically critical of Sarah Palin than The Atlantic's uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan. Eight months after the election, he is still harping on the failure of traditional media to investigate the parentage and birth of her son Trig.
With Palin's resignation as Governor of Alaska coming days after a scathing profile appeared in Vanity Fair, Sullivan is in fighting form. Yesterday, in one blog post alone, he called her a delusional liar, "the biggest farce in American politics in living memory" and a "hood ornament of a candidate." Palin may have been the wrong person for the job of Vice President, but she's nobody's hood ornament.
Nothing Sullivan has written about Palin has been more hypocritical than his condemnation of what he alleges is her exploitation of Trig and Bristol as props for the pro-life cause. Forget the fact that it was first-wave feminists and not religious conservatives whose motto was "the personal is political," Sullivan himself drags out his family to argue for gay marriage all the time and applauds others for doing the same. Not only that, but in the wake of George Tiller's murder, he posted anonymous reader e-mail after anonymous reader e-mail detailing unsubstantiated late-term abortion stories - thereby suggesting that perhaps even these gruesome acts should be legal.
Five years ago, when I decided to write about my own unplanned pregnancy for Christianity Today magazine, my son was a young adult. I framed the story within the context of dropping him off at college and concluded it with an exhortation for him not to make the same mistakes I had made or cause the harm I had caused. I asked his permission to write what I did and gave him veto power over the article before I submitted it. Even so, in light of his death by suicide last spring, I've questioned the wisdom of having exposed him to this minimal level of public scrutiny.
And yet, in that same article (which has since been included in a Gale Cenage anthology called Opposing Viewpoints: Religion and Sexuality) I related the story of Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Michelman became an activist after her husband abandoned their family when she was pregnant with their fourth child and she had to get his permission to end the pregnancy. Nobody accuses Michelman of exploiting her baby. How could they? The child was never given a chance to live.
Therein lies the difficulty. Critics mock the Palin family for its uncomfortable public fecundity, but we have no idea how many politicians or wives and/or daughters of politicians are aborting babies for nefarious reasons including political expediency. We never will.
Perhaps we would all be better off if issues like abortion and gay marriage were argued on their merits alone, but then we would be left with the limits and dangers of abstraction.
To my knowledge, Sarah Palin has never mentioned Sullivan by name, but she has openly condemned the highly personal attacks directed at her and her daughters. In truth, I'm relieved she is not the Vice President. I don't think she possesses the knowledge, skills, or temperament for high office. Nothing she has done or said publicly in regard to her family, however, comes close to the exploitative, hypocritical barrage she has endured from the likes of Andrew Sullivan.