What Next?

John McCain must be feeling like Job. What else can go wrong? First his convention is scrubbed by a hurricane, now Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter turns out to be pregnant. The campaign is putting the best face on it. Here is the statement from Sarah and Todd Palin:

We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.

Well, the media do have a template for respecting Bristol’s privacy. All they have to do is treat her the same way they treated John Edwards.

How big a deal is this story? Some people are irate; others seem to think it’s just fine. I think it makes both Sarah Palin and John McCain look like idiots, but perhaps only for the moment. No doubt today’s Oprah moment will pass, but I can’t help being nostalgic for the days when you could tell the difference between politics and a soap opera.

UPDATE: A number of people have reacted negatively to my comments on Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, so let me elaborate.

First of all, I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin. Scott and I have an article in tomorrow’s Christian Science Monitor that evaluates John McCain’s selection of Palin very positively; we wrote the column yesterday. Nevertheless, I think that the revelation today of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy made McCain and Palin look silly.

Circumstantially, one would infer that McCain and Palin did not know about Bristol’s pregnancy when the Veep selection was made and Palin and her family were introduced to the public. I’m sure that revelation of the pregnancy was not part of a master plan to divert attention from the Republican convention. But McCain says that he found about the pregnancy during the vetting process, and we have no reason not to take him at this word.

Assuming that Palin and McCain really did know about the pregnancy and didn’t mention it until now, I think it was a serious mistake. The time to bring it up was when Palin and her family were first introduced. Bristol was there, and it wouldn’t have been difficult to refer to her fiance, say that she is getting married in October or whatever, and that she will have a baby next winter. Sarah Palin could have added that this wasn’t how she and her husband planned it, but they like their new son-in-law and are totally supportive of their daughter.

Handled that way, it would have been a non-story. By keeping it secret (assuming they really did know), they made it a time bomb that could only go off at an inopportune time. Like the first day of the convention.

But, as I said earlier, it’s today’s story. Tomorrow is another day and will bring its own news. Hopefully this will turn out to be a minor bump in the road.

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