Is it possible to be both a skeptic and a tin-foil-hatter? Because it seems I combine both in one handy package.
The day after Palin was nominated, I got wind of her wild airplane ride, and then drew my own conclusions that something was stinky – well before I even checked out the Daily Kos post that launched a thousand conspiracies (and is now weirdly deleted!), and days before a friend pointed me toward Andrew Sullivan’s blog, the Daily Dish.
I’m just one Z-list (I prefer “boutique”) blogger, but I think it’s useful to recognize that instead of a bandwagon effect, various individuals independently began to ask apparently unanswerable questions about Palin’s pregnancy, which included more mysteries than the Virgin Mary’s. Now lit brit has added her voice to the skeptics, and she’s got a medium-sized bully pulpit at Cogitamus. Her first post and its followup sparked a rebuttal from Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. (Much of the following is shamlessly borrowed from my comments there.)
First, why should we care? Well, if Palin lied about her final pregnancy, then she didn’t just hoodwink her immediate family. She took the whole country for a ride. I personally was not on the bus, but those who drank the Kool-Aid believe that Palin is the very embodiment of sacrificial motherhood – never mind that she seems quite content to delegate Trig’s care to others as much as possible. (Yes, I get the urge to delegate, and I’ve done it – most recently to Shaun the Sheep. I just don’t brag about my mothering practices as qualifying me for the presidency.)
I remaining mystified by Palin’s motives for faking a pregnancy. But whatever transpired back in winter 2008, she could puncture the rumors by releasing Trig’s birth certificate, as Obama has done with his own. This has been one of Andrew Sullivan’s core demands, and I agree with him. No, we voters cannot demand every last scrap of health information of our candidates. Convention, however, favors transparency when it comes to the wanna-be “leader of the free world.” Releasing Trig’s records wouldn’t just jibe with standard practice. It would also deflate me and everyone else who aren’t professional, full-time tin-foil-hatters. Most of us are highly educated, skeptical types. In fact, I came to this story precisely through my own skepticism. Give us some plausible evidence, and we’ll happily go back to writing schlock about Transformer Porn.
Before I proceed any further, one point of order: I think we should leave Bristol alone. It’s possible to juggle dates to create a scenario in which she bore two babies in quick succession. However, it fails the Occam’s Razor test. I can’t countenance picking on people who were minors at the time. Anyway, whenever we turn the camera toward Bristol, we’ve tilted it away from Palin herself. That’s not just ethically problematic, it’s also a tactical mistake.
Now, back to the evidence. Those pix from Sarah’s final weeks of pregnancy? There’s a reason why the women kicking up dust about this have primarily been mothers – me, various Alaskan bloggers, and now (on a bigger stage) litbrit. Of course not all women experience pregnancy the same. Of course a few barely show until the final week. Those “late show-ers” are almost invariably bringing their first pregnancy to term. They go on Oprah or they are expelled from their high schools. In any event, they’re not on baby number five. It’s not impossible, but it’s highly implausible to reach the seven-month mark without clearly looking pregnant. This is especially true for fit women. To hell with Palin’s ultra-fit abdominal muscles – if you’re slender, the bump is gonna show more dramatically. (BTW, I’d love to hear from other parents who can confirm or refute my observations.)
I come to this kerfuffle not just as a feminist and mother, but as a scholar with some relevant credentials. I wrote my dissertation on historical experiences of pregnancy, and though I’m not an M.D., I play one pretty well in the archives. I’m drawing on the absurd amount of time I’ve spent immersed medical journals (historical and present), plus my experiences as the mother of two sons. Sure, my experiences are not representative, nor are those of my friends and research “subjects.” However. I’ve collected enough experiences to know that Palin’s are just off the chart.
What most makes me wonder, more than anything, is Sarah’s wild ride. It smacks of gross negligence, which ought not to be a selling point with the pro-life crowd. It doesn’t even fit into her newish mama grizzly narrative. After all, the grizzly ought to protect her young, not eat ‘em … or endanger them by giving birth an hour outside of Anchorage, be it by car or plane.
I’m not gonna rehash my posts on Sarah’s wild ride here, but re-reading them, I’m struck at how it’s truly a tale of miracle and wonder. My old commentary starts here with Palin’s arrogance, moves on to my condemnation of her cowboy judgment, and concludes with a look at the tension between Palin’s actions and reproductive rights. Go read those posts if you’d like to offer up your own comments, because I’m loathe to trot through quotes from them, and yet I think they perfectly illustrate Sarah Palin’s absence from the reality-based world.
Sarah’s wild ride is a narrative that fits pretty well with shooting wolfs from planes. When it comes to establishing love and concern for disabled kids? Hmmm, that doesn’t work quite so well.
Not saying I’ve got the answers. Only that the questions are compelling enough – once you direct the focus away from Bristol – that they’re not merely JAQing off (a charge Amanda repeatedly raised in her post and comments). Even Sully, bless his male-centric soul, sees that Palin is using her cred as sacrificial mother of a “special needs” infant as a basis for her campaign. I don’t think it’s illegitimate to draw on one’s experience as a parent (or other caretaker) in campaigning or governing. I do think it’s bogus to build a campaign on a legend of fearless maternity that is either pathological or a prima facie lie. That’s the point where Sarah Palin’s right to family privacy evaporates into the same ether as her thoughts about Kyrgyzstan. Notice that the argument over privacy does not depend on her anti-choice politics, though they add an especially rich irony. In the end, I have to concur with a female reader of Sullivan’s Daily Dish:
As a woman and a mother I am deeply offended by your reader’s suggestion that Sarah Palin ought to be given privacy about whether she really gave birth to Trig because “women lie about pregnancy/birth/parentage all the time.” Give me a frickin’ break. If a woman lies to her mate about whether she’s carrying his child, that’s between them. But if Sarah Palin lied about giving birth to Trig and then goes around talking about his birth in her book and in speeches, that’s a public matter.
“E]ven if you prove what is likely true – that she is lying – it is neither unique nor crazy.” Well, it may not be unique to fib about a pregnancy, but it is crazy to build an entire political identity on what even this reader thinks is almost certainly a lie. If Palin can blatantly lie about something this big, and keep lying and embellishing the story, then how could we possibly trust her in public office? This is why it matters to voters.
I am sick and tired of this sexist bullshit. She’s a politician. She made it part of her identity. It’s fair game.
Yep. Just imagine if McCain had turned out to fake his war injuries or imprisonment? If Kerry’s medals came from a gumball machine?
Dontcha think the mainstream media would pounce on either of those (fake) stories?
So why is motherhood sacred, even if it’s essentially the greatest credential a candidate boasts in seeking higher office?
Anyone else getting a brimstone whiff of sexism about now?