A call for VFR to drop the Palin issue

(Note: see my comment in which I show James Dobson’s implied call to conservatives not to criticize Sarah Palin.)

Clark Coleman writes:

Carol Iannone wrote:

“And yet now they snarl, how dare you question if she has enough time for her family, you wouldn’t say that to a man.”

For the record, “they” (meaning conservatives) did not say any such thing. Rudy Giuliani, who is certainly not a conservative on family and moral issues, said that. Jim Dobson and Don Wildmon and Pat Robertson and whoever else would be considered moral and family conservative leaders did not say that. This is not a small distinction. I appreciate the fact that Sarah Palin is being discussed from a traditionalist perspective, but a lot of the criticism suffers from this kind of over-generalization, as well as dissecting her every word into some sort of cosmic cultural/moral/psychological harbinger of the fate of Western civilization. Some of it is just over the top. For example, her joke about the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom being (just) lipstick. That is probably just an old joke among the hockey moms in her area, to poke fun at how tenaciously they defend their children, try to provide for them, how much time they put into being a hockey mom, etc. She probably recalled that joke for the convention because she is in the frame of mind to defend her family right now. You can imagine why! There is a whole genre of pit bull jokes going back to when pit bulls entered the public consciousness. “What’s the difference between a pit bull and a social worker? You might get your kid back from a pit bull.” etc.

To have a whole blog entry dissecting the pit bull remark as you did just really disgusts me. Republicans are predicting some backlash against the Democrats because the far left is savaging Sarah Palin. I think I am experiencing the same feeling of backlash concerning VFR. I started out in sympathy with what you were writing, because the partisan support of the GOP faithful for Palin was ignoring basic moral/family issues that are important. I still feel that way, but having umpteen web entries devoted to criticizing Sarah Palin in one week is a mirror of what the MoveOn.org crowd is doing from a different perspective. It is almost obsessive on your part. Surely it has all been said by now?

LA replies:

First, it’s not just Giuliani who said “how dare” people suggest that a woman with a five month old baby should not be running for vice president, it has been a variety of conservatives across the board who have been saying much the same thing.

Second, apparently you haven’t noticed that this isn’t just about Sarah Palin but about a profound transformation taking place in the Republican party and the conservative movement. If you don’t think that the spectacle of Republicans not only giving up, but seeking to silence, the idea that there are differences between men and women, not only giving up, but seeking to silence, the idea that a woman with an infant should not be a vice presidential candidate, not only giving up, but seeking to silence, disapproval of illegitimacy, if you don’t think that the spectacle of the top social conservatives including Gary Bauer reversing themselves 180 degrees and now saying that it’s ok for women to put career ahead of childcare, if you don’t think that the spectacle of the conservative movement giving up all principle and turning into its opposite before our eyes, is worth a week’s attention at a conservative blog, then I’m sorry, but we have different ideas of what’s interesting and important. In my view this is as big a thing that has ever happened in the downward spiraling history of conservatism and the Republican party over the last 20 years. Yes, the focus has been total, and it’s understandable that you’re sick of reading about it. Maybe you should take a break for a couple of days and pretty soon we’ll be getting back to other subjects.

P.S. If I had followed a policy of not writing about subjects that people told me I was being obsessive about, nothing that I’ve written would ever have been written. That doesn’t mean that I’m flawless and never overdo things. But when there are lots of things to say about a subject, I say them. Also, there are many other people who are very interested in this subject and keep writing about it. Surely you’ve noticed that I’m not the only person who’s been focusing on the Palin issue for the last week.

Laura W. writes:

The thought that conservatives on the sidelines would be blase about all this is frightening. A week in the life of a blog is spent on dissecting the little-known character and actions of a woman who may someday be president of the United States—and that is petty and excessive.

We know very little about Sarah Palin—and we have very little time to get to know her. The election is less than two months away. The situation is unprecedented. As Mr. Auster previously stated, never before in American history has a vice presidential candidate with so little experience and national exposure been so suddenly thrust on the national scene shortly before an election. Thus, the absolute urgency and single-mindedness of analysis at VFR in the past week.

We must take the little we have and put it under a microscope. Presumably, when one is addressing the entire nation, one spends time and effort to make sure all of your words reflect who you are. I believe Sarah Palin thought carefully about everything she said in her acceptance speech. The hockey mom joke was not impromptu. It was the result of deliberation, either on her part or on the part of her advisors.

Men have their in-house jokes too. Those jokes may reflect the lighter or crasser side of themselves. However, if a presidential candidate were to take one of those jokes and place it in a national speech, we must take it to mean he sees it as revealing something important and fundamental about himself or about the country at large. If we do not take his words as significant, it must mean we see him as just a blithering mouthpiece, an empty suit, a talking symbol and nothing more.

Mr. Auster says, “This isn’t just about Sarah Palin but about a profound transformation taking place in the Republican party and conservative movement.” Let me go one step further and say this is about a profound transformation that has occurred in America at large and that upsets some of us deeply. I am shocked and mystified that Mr. Coleman, with his conservative sensibility, would be dismissive of our concerns and accuse us of blindly reaching for trivial criticisms.

Has it occurred to Mr. Coleman that most conservatives would actually prefer to think that the party that has traditionally represented them still stands for their interests? What pleasure can they take in its devolution into a party of costume conservatives, who mouth conservative pieties without actually living them and translating them into policy? What motive would they have in rashly sniping at Republicans when Obama stands on the horizon? To accuse us of pettiness at this moment is to say, in short, that we really don’t care about this country and its future, and that the greatest patriots are those who accept change even when it violates their deepest principles.

Laura continues:

Mr. Coleman says Palin is understandably feeling like a pit bull given the savaging of her views and personal life in the press. I haven’t paid attention to any of the liberal coverage of her, but whatever is going on, surely Mrs. Palin, if she has two cents to rub together, must have foreseen it and decided that the inevitable attacks on her and spotlight on her children would be worth it.

He also says the pit bull comment is just a reflection of the maternal subculture of which she is a part, a subculture that involves sometimes comically aggressive support for one’s children. I don’t think, given the demands of her career, that she is part of this subculture. I believe that with the pit bull she was just pandering to the Hillary vote. But let’s say she were part of this subculture, wouldn’t this intense focus, this fierce protection of one’s children (for the sake of hockey), be a sign that she lacks the necessary focus on national affairs? I have great sympathy for Palin’s children and the way in which their lives will be changed by the spotlight that has been placed upon them. But I have a hard time feeling sorry for Palin herself. She is seeking national office and power. These rewards may recompense her for her pain.

LA writes:

I feel that with the words “disgusts,” “almost obsessive,” and “mirror of what the MoveOn.org crowd is doing,” Mr. Coleman has taken VFR’s week-long focus on this large event in the history of America and turned it into something bent and hate-driven.

LA writes:

Mr. Coleman says that it’s only liberal Republicans like Giuliani, and not conservatives, who have been seeking to silence Palin critics. Well, here’s a blogger, latte island, who’s apparently an immigration restrictionist (though from his last comment evidently not a traditionalist), who is telling VFR to shut up:

Social conservatives are making trouble for themselves and everyone else

Auster writes: “a woman with Bristol’s situation in her family should not be running for vice president. A woman with an illegitimately pregnant 17 year old daughter should have kept it private by not running for vice president.”

What’s the big deal? George Bush is an ex-alcoholic. Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian. Why shouldn’t the next VP’s daughter get pregnant at 17? She’s getting married and keeping the kid. What more do people want? I like Sarah Palin. I would have preferred Tom Tancredo, but Palin is fine. Everybody, sit down and shut up.

VFR commenter Adela G. writes: “She’s not a traditionalist, she’s a gun-totin’ feminist.” That’s why I like her. You go, girl!

Carol Iannone writes:

Clark Coleman writes:

[Conservatives] did not say [“how dare you question if she has enough time for her family”]. Rudy Giuliani, who is certainly not a conservative on family and moral issues, said that.

Conservatives are in effect endorsing the Giuliani remark, either openly or by their silence about it. And his was the keynote address. And when he made the remark, I believe there was loud applause. Furthermore, conservatives were at one time pushing Giuliani for president too. [LA replies: Indeed, let us not forget the organization, “Social Conservatives for Giuliani,” which was led by Pat Robertson. Let’s also not forget that Gary Bauer aligned himself with McCain in 2000 and, to his great embarrassment, found himself standing on stage with McCain when McCain attacked Robertson and Jerry Falwell as “agents of intolerance.”] In addition, something similar was said by Rep. Marsha Blackburn at the next day of the convention, and in the same belligerent tone: “As a wife, mother, business woman, and public servant; neither Governor Palin nor I need you to tell us what our limitations are, or when we might have taken on too much or reached too far.” This makes it seem as if it’s illegitimate to question if a woman seeking to be considered as president of the United States might have family obligations that could be a distraction, even as her family is being presented as a big plus and one of the things that will pull in votes for her ticket. You can be sure that if liberals were defending a Democratic female candidate along these lines, conservatives would be fuming in outrage, and rightly so. It should be possible to defend Palin without sacrificing so many principles.

LA writes:

Mr. Coleman said that only liberal Republicans like Giuliani, not conservatives, have told critics to be silent about the Palins’ situation.

Let’s consider, then, what James Dobson has said. Terry Morris sends an article from CitizenLink (which seems to be associated with Dobson’s organization, Focus on the Family), posted at their site on September 2:

Gov. Palin Announces Teen Daughter’s Pregnancy; Dr. Dobson Offers Prayer
by Devon Williams, associate editor

The mainstream news media are attempting to use Gov. Sarah Palin’s announcement that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant as evidence the Republican vice presidential candidate is a hypocrite. But Dr. James Dobson said it only means she and her family are human.

The Focus on the Family founder and chairman offered his prayers and encouragement to the family.

“Being a Christian does not mean you’re perfect. Nor does it mean your children are perfect,” he said in a statement. “But it does mean there is forgiveness and restoration when we confess our imperfections to the Lord.

“(The Palins) should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, also praised Gov. Palin’s pro-life values.

“Sarah Palin’s family is a microcosm for every courageous pro-life story there is,” she said. “Her response of boundless love and inclusiveness is a shining example for every family facing a crisis.”

Palin and her husband Todd say they support their daughter and her boyfriend, who have plans to marry, and have asked the media to respect their privacy.

“We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents,” they said in a statement Monday. “As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.”

[end of article]

Regarding the article, Terry Morris underscores Dobson’s statement:

(The Palins) should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.

Mr. Morris comments:

If the Palins are to be commended for “living out” their core family values, then we have no right to judge or criticize them and should cease and desist immediately, right? This isn’t much different from what Rudy said, it’s just that Dobson is a little bit nicer and covert about it.

Also, notice that Dobson commends the Palins not just for their pro-life values, i.e., their rejection of abortion, but for their “pro-family values.” Which seems to suggest complete approval for their entire situation, including Gov. Palin’s absence from her children’s lives as she pursued her career, including Bristol’s pregnancy, including Palin’s decision to run for vice president with a five month old baby to take care of,

Again, if Sarah Palin is to be commended for the way she lives out her pro-family values, how can anything about her conduct or decisions be questioned, at least by those within the ambit of the social conservative movement?

Terry Morris writes:

When one makes the leap—as Dr. Dobson did with both feet almost immediately after her selection was announced—onto the bandwagon of some relatively unknown political figure such as Sarah Palin, no amount of religion nor conservatism will suffice, it seems, to convince one that one has made an error.

Conservatism is about being level headed about these things, is it not? Why didn’t Dobson recognize his initial joy at hearing of the Palin selection as based in passion, not in clear-headed reason?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 06, 2008 02:30 AM | Send

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