James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for February 17th, 2009

Bristol Palin’s realism, like, kinda trumps her mother’s

Posted by James McPherson on February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin tells Greta Van Susteren that expecting young people to be sexually abstinate “is not realistic at all.” In the meantime, her mother warns us about trumped-up dangers that don’t exist regarding the Fairness Doctrine–the reinstatement of which I’d rank in likelihood somewhere below the returns of John McCain’s integrity, the Soviet Union, Elvis, the passenger pigeon, or Jesus Christ astride a unicorn. 

First, Palin the younger: “It’s just, like, I’m not living for myself anymore. It’s, like, for another person, so it’s different.” (Note: Those quotes come from the Fox transcript; they are not an attempt to make the young woman look stupid just because she happens to speak like too many of my students.) She calls having a child “very overwhelming,” despite the fact that she has help with the baby from her parents, her sisters, aunts, and “especially my grandma.”

On a less hopeful note, Bristol says, “I hope that people learn from my story and just, like, I don’t know, prevent teen pregnancy, I guess.” Gee, maybe we could make teen sex illegal. After all, the “war on drugs” has prevented teens from smoking pot, and raising the drinking age to 21 stopped teenage drinking, right?

Palin also discussed her future with the baby’s father, Levi Johnston: “Eventually, we’d like to get married. We’re focusing on, like, getting through school and just getting an education and stuff, getting a career going.” My prediction is that the likelihood of a wedding will correspond with the likelihood of her mother becoming a credible presidential candidate for 2012. I could be wrong, but if Sarah Palin’s campaign looks like a nonstarter I’d be willing to cast a small wager that Bristol and Levi never tie the knot.

Palin also criticized the way she was portrayed by the news media and the amount of attention she got, and for that I sympathize. I didn’t agree with folks who said she “deserved” to be hounded because Sarah Palin used Bristol and the rest of her family as props during the Republican Convention and at other appearances–that’s what politicians do, and the choice was Sarah Palin’s, not her daughter’s.

But I would point out, now that Bristol is giving tips on what’s realistic, she might note that it’s also unrealistic to expect to fade away from sight if you’re giving interviews to a national television network–even a network that most Americans don’t trust. (Fox News is of course the official network of the Republican Party, and Van Susteren has apparently become the official reporter for all things Palin–as she notes, without irony, “You will not see this anywhere else.”) And since Bristol seems to be bucking the official Republican stance of abstinance-only sex education, she might also encourage consideration of whether it’s “realistic” to:

  • expect that after corporate tax cuts fail to forestall the biggest economic disaster of our lifetimes, the best way to fix the disaster is more corporate tax cuts;
  • expect those who head unregulated economic insitutions to do what’s best for people who have no power over them;
  • believe that the best way to find and punish a mass murderer hiding in one country is to attack another country;
  • expect people whose country we invade under false pretenses to view us as liberators;
  • expect the police or the media to pay as much attention to a missing black boy as a missing white girl. OK, Democrats seem to be at least as clueless as Republicans about that last one .

Sarah Palin took an opportunity at the end of her daughter’s interview to “submit” to some questioning, urging Barack Obama to veto the economic stimulus bill, and then warning of another fictitious danger that has become popular on right-wing airwaves despite the fact that it is an incredibly bad idea that has virtually no chance of happening:

Hey, another thing, though, that, Greta, I would add, too, is not–it’s not just a stimulus package that we need to keep our eyes and ears open about right now in America, but it’s this fairness doctrine. It’s these attempts in Congress that are being discussed at this point to shut down voices that are asking the tough questions. I know that you’re asking some tough questions, Glenn Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly — you guys are asking tough questions about what’s in this package and about what government is doing. Now, if there’s any attempt to quash any of these voices, that’s a scary thing for our democracy, for our country. So we have to keep our eyes open and ears open also for that kind of discussion.

Yep, those Fox folks ask the “tough questions.” If you doubt it, look below the fawning interview of Palin–who almost entirely refused to answer any media questions–by Sean Hannity during the presidential campaign. And by the way, if the Fairness Doctrine actually comes back, I’ll volunteer to take a turn at babysitting Sarah’s grandkid myself.

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