Byron York asks a helluva good question

Will Levi Johnston be on the stage with the Palins tonight? If he is, York continues, that means that Republicans are not just being understanding about the Palins’ difficult situation, but celebrating it. Sounds as if York has been reading VFR.

He writes:

On a question that is flying around here in St. Paul: What about the presence of one Levi Johnston, the 18 year-old father of Bristol Palin’s unborn child? At the end of this kind of speech, there is usually a lot of applause, music, and the candidate’s family up on stage. Johnston is in St. Paul, I am told, but there has been no final decision about what he will do tonight.

“This is not an issue that we’re going to act ashamed or scared about,” my source told me. “Despite the media coverage of this, voters still have such a great response to [Sarah Palin]. This just makes her more real.” So, I asked, does that mean Johnston will be on stage with the Palin family? “At this point we don’t know whether he will be up on stage,” I was told. “It remains to be seen. There hasn’t been a decision made yet.”

Perhaps I’m focusing on an irrelevant issue, but the presence, or non-presence, of Johnston on the stage tonight strikes me as important. It’s one thing for delegates to be understanding and compassionate about the fix these two teenagers have gotten themselves into. It’s another to actually celebrate it. [my italics] And, given what we’ve learned in the last few days, if Johnston is up on stage with his girlfriend and the Palin family, and Republicans are wildly cheering, it will certainly look like they are celebrating this situation.

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Laura W. writes:

If Johnston is on that stage tonight, I literally will weep for my country.

LA replies:

Well, here’s the ultimate meeting of the rubber with the road, so to speak. If Levi is on the stage, what will be the response of the pro-Palin conservatives? Will they celebrate this celebration of out-of-wedlock teen sex and pregnancy?

Terry Morris writes:

So, what is your guess, will he be there?

I think there’s as good a chance he will as there is he won’t. The Palin’s did release a public statement on the matter of their daughter’s pregnancy saying they were proud of her, that they were excited about becoming grandparents, and that they loved her unconditionally, after all. Don’t they have to confirm this with a public appearance as a family unit on a national stage? What better place than the RNC?

And yes, the crowd will cheer.

Mark J. writes:

Levi Johnston is the fiance of Palin’s daughter. That doesn’t seem like something they need to be ashamed of.

Yes they had sex before marriage and she got pregnant. Yes she is 17. But they are getting married, and he is her fiance. I say that if the girl is going to be on stage—and she should be, she is part of the family—then she ought to be able to have her fiance there too. Cut them a little tiny bit of slack, OK?

LA replies:

This “fiance” business again!

Last spring, when Bristol and Levi were high school juniors, Bristol got knocked up, now she’s five months pregnant, they’re starting their senior year of high school, and three days after Mrs. Palin’s nomination for vice president is announced, she and her husband announce that Bristol’s pregnant and add that there’s going to be a shot-gun wedding—and you’re calling the boy her fiance! Do you see how you’re slipping into this new conservative mold of putting a gauzy, sentimental, positive light over things that conservatives once were critical of?

And then this business that I should “cut them some slack.” First, cut them some slack for what? For turning the Republican party into a party that celebrates out of wedlock teen pregnancy? Second, this is not about the Palin family. This is about the Republican party and the conservatism movement which are turning the Palin family into a national icon. And they get no slack for doing that.

You’re trying to make this situation seem ok, by telling me to cut them some slack. But I’m saying that this situation shouldn’t have been allowed to exist in the first place, because, with Palin’s family in these circumstances, McCain should not have offered, and Palin should not have accepted, the nomination and thus imposed her family’s situation on the whole nation.

Underneath this discussion is a fundamental principle of politics: whatever is considered normative at the highest level of a society becomes normative for the whole society. Choosing a national leader whose familly is in this situation inevitably means to make out of wedlock sex and illegitimacy normative and good for the whole country.

And you don’t have to believe me. Look at how the conservative movement has transformed itself in the last five days, in normalizing and celebrating that which it used to regard as the greatest social problem.

Derek C. writes:

Liberal blogger Steve Benen points out, correctly, that McCain is trying to keep this story going:

Now how’s that for stomach-turning? McCain’s using a pregnant 17-year-old for a political prop, and her mother is going along with it, AND social conservatives are defending them.

Here is the Steven Benen blog entry::

THE STORY THE CAMPAIGN WANTS FRONT AND CENTER…. There was a carefully choreographed photo-op on an airport tarmac this afternoon, where John McCain greeted the Palin family. Watching the video, you’ll notice that McCain lingers with Palin’s pregnant daughter and her fiancee. All of this could have been done in private, of course, but the McCain campaign obviously wanted the media attention, and sure enough, news outlets were fascinated by the family drama.

It led Josh Marshall to raise a very compelling point: Palin’s family is front and center, because the McCain campaign wants Palin’s family to be front and center.

Since there is widespread agreement that the children of candidates should not become topics of campaign debate, it behooves us to note that the McCain campaign has almost singlehandedly made Sarah Palin’s daughter a central figure in the Republican convention.

It was the McCain campaign that announced Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy. That alone might be understandable since it appears a supermarket tabloid was about to print the story. But it was the McCain campaign, entirely on its own, that dished up unsubstantiated claims about maternity tests and all sorts of other lurid nonsense that had never been seen in print anywhere. And now the McCain campaign has staged a ceremonial laying-on-of-hands on the tarmac in St. Paul in which Sen. McCain has given his official blessing to the young couple and embrace of Bristol’s boyfriend Levi.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening here. Overwhelmingly, reporters are pressing eminently reasonable questions—her role in troopergate, her lack of experience, her connections to the AIP, her history of earmarking and lobbyists, etc. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is going absolutely non-stop about Palin’s daughter. It is unmistakable.

Dale F. writes:

I agree with your fundamental point about Palin clearly not being a candidate for Vice President whom traditionalists would support.

And I deeply wish that McCain were not the Republican candidate for President—I was a Romney supporter, for what that was worth.

But this doesn’t mean that every self-serving, disparaging remark made about McCain or Palin by liberal bloggers is worth noting. And the remarks by Benen and Marshall fall squarely in that category.

I have been observing politics since 1964, and I cannot recall anything like this attempt to destroy a candidate by attempting to destroy the candidate’s teenage child. Bristol Palin, whatever her mistakes, and Sarah Palin, whatever her failings might be—and I imagine there are a lot of parents out there saying “There, but for the grace of God….”—do not deserve the vicious calumny they have been subjected to. And regardless of how I feel about Palin’s appropriateness as a vice-presidential candidate, the cowardly attacks on her by chestless men and wombless women make my blood boil.

McCain only did what any honorable man would do to show that he will not cooperate with the bullying this woman and her family have been subjected too, and good for him.

The exculpatory argument Marshall makes, that reporters are “overwhelmingly” pressing “eminently reasonable questions,” is a lie.

LA replies:

My quoting that blog entry was not about endorsing the obvious liberal line contained therein, but about the fact contained therein that McCain had made a special point of greeting Levi.

Also, I have simply not had time to follow the liberal line on Palin over the last few days, so I’m not aware of the precise things they’ve been saying. I’ve been totally preoccupied with the conservatives.

Dale F. writes:


I mistakenly assumed endorsement in the context of Derek C.’s comment that “McCain is trying to keep this story going.”

Regardless of what folly led to this mess in the first place, I think McCain was hoping at this moment to be discussing Palin’s record as a courageous reformer in Alaska, not her family’s problems. The Left is trying to keep this story going, and McCain is refusing to shun Palin and her family. To me that is not calculation, but gallantry—regardless of what went before.

Adela G. writes:

Dale F. writes:

McCain only did what any honorable man would do to show that he will not cooperate with the bullying this woman and her family have been subjected too, and good for him.

Shouldn’t that be “the bullying that this woman subjected her family to when she accepted McCain’s offer to be his running mate”?

I marvel at how her admirers tend to cast any criticism directed toward her and her family’s problems as an invasion of privacy comparable to that of journalists rummaging through Bob Dylan’s trash.

This woman, mother of an infant with special needs and an unwed pregnant teen, chose to step into the national spotlight. Surely in between all that huntin’ and fishin’ and givin’ birth, she paused to reflect that the national attention focused on her family might result in criticism directed toward the choices she and they have made. Or maybe not. Maybe she thought being relentlessly perky would carry the day. She could be right.

I wouldn’t trust her judgment about anything else, though. And I certainly don’t trust the judgment of any of her admirers.

M. Jose writes:

You wrote :

Well, here’s the ultimate meeting of the rubber with the road, so to speak. If Levi is on the stage, what will be the response of the pro-Palin conservatives? Will they celebrate this celebration of out-of-wedlock teen sex and pregnancy?

Well, seeing as Bristol is pregnant, at least we know what, or whom, the rubber didn’t meet.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Greco writes:

Well, Lawrence, I just watched Sarah Palin’s speech tonight for the second time. Right now I’m looking at the standing ovation, with Mrs. Palin’s family lined up on stage … and the kid who knocked up her daughter. The second time watching, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in young Levi’s head at that moment? He got his girlfriend pregnant, and for that he finds himself standing on the stage of American history. His picture might very well end up in history books. Maybe he’s thinking, “Only in America is my story even possible.”

LA replies:

Boy did you say it. And, it’s a liberal dream, isn’t it?

But what you said wouldn’t occur to a single “conservative” in America to say.

Laura W. writes:

I am really impressed by your arguments in the Byron York entry. That takes a lot of guts. You’ve been disliked by conservatives for your positions before. You are going to be vehemently disliked for this. Obviously, the victory of the Republicans in 2008 is more important than the moral health of the country for many years to come. I’m repulsed by the revelation that McCain is putting Bristol and Levi in the spotlight.

Laura writes:

Can you imagine what it was like to be Levi Johnston last night? Here he is an 18-year-old father-to-be; an Alaskan boy with tousled good looks; a kid who likes to play hockey; a plain-spoken American who describes himself on his MySpace profile as a “f——ing redneck.” Suddenly, he’s plucked from the bowels of obscurity to become a national popular icon and the focus of a presidential campaign. And, it’s all because of a casual sexual encounter with a cute girl. People Magazine has just found a new object of idolatry, a beautiful bad boy who may adorn its pages for years to come.

Is it just possible that Levi is loving it all? Please, tell me that can’t be. There are disturbing indications that he may be. His mother claims he’s perfectly fine. She says he and Bristol were planning to get married before they knew she was pregnant. That’s the great thing about real kids in real America. They’re not bothered by their immaturity and directionlessness. They possess such wisdom, such foresight.

Still, can you imagine what was going on in his mind last night? I can’t read into the thoughts of an 18-year-old hockey player. But, let me try to guess, indulging if I may his special gift for words. Might he have been thinking this: “Adults! They’re such f——g fools?”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 03, 2008 04:21 PM | Send

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