Levi Johnston threatens to sue Palins for custody of son

“What’s your problem? Why are you so mean?”, social and Christian conservatives said to me in September when I argued that Gov. Sarah Palin should not have run for vice president given her unmarried teenage daughter’s pregnancy, because doing so made her family’s situation a national issue (instead of just a private or Alaska issue), thus forcing conservatives to approve of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. “Bristol is marrying her fiance. This event should be celebrated, not criticized,” these Christian conservatives continued, inadvertently proving my point. Meanwhile, the paleocon genetic reductionists of the Steve Sailer school looked at the attractive young unmarried couple with a child on the way and felt a stirring in their philosophical loins at the thought of a resurgence of Red State white fertility. A commenter at Sailer’s blog said I was against Red State whites having children—because I was against people having children outside marriage.

What all the conservatives—social, Christian, neo, and paleo—had forgotten is that marriage is the foundation of human and social order. Childbirth outside marriage produces disorder, and the more illegitimacy there is, the more disorder there is. To nominate and elect as vice president a woman whose daughter was pregnant out of wedlock would destroy the ability of society, of parents, to uphold the moral values on which private and public order, and thus the happiness of everyone, depends. Teenaged girls who receive proper supervision from their parents, especially their mothers, do not become pregnant. Sarah Palin, preoccupied by her political career, did not supervise her teenaged daughter, and the latter became pregnant. If Palin could not govern her teenaged daughter, could she govern America?

Which, I repeat for the upteenth time, is not to condemn people whose families get into these situations, but to say that a family in this situation should not have been raised to national office and the status of a national icon and thus become a setter of national norms.

If you think that marriage doesn’t matter, but only avoiding abortion, consider the latest twist in the continuing soap opera produced by Palin’s failure to keep the 16-and 17-year-old Bristol from sleeping with her boyfriend. The boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend (his status as honored and celebrated “fiance” now consigned to the conservative memory hole), goes on the Larry King program to say he’s thinking of suing the Palins to get custody rights to his son, of whose mother he has never been the husband. When I described the Palin situation as “trailer park” back in September, people jumped on me. But if Levi’s behavior (not to mention his mother’s criminal situation) does not fit the designation “trailer park,” then what does?

And I will repeat another thing I said in September. For McCain to offer and Palin to accept the vice presidential nomination, with both of them aware of Bristol’s pregnancy, was WRONG. They imposed this mess on the Republican party. And if Palin had been elected, we would now have a vice president of the United States involved in this tawdry custody dispute over her daughter’s love child.

Here is the article from the Australian :

Levi Johnston threatens to sue Palins for custody of son with Bristol
Tim Reid | April 24, 2009
Article from: The Australian

SARAH Palin’s hopes of running for the White House in 2012 are being overshadowed by a family feud with the father of her teenage daughter’s baby.

After weeks of public vitriol between the families, Levi Johnston, the father of the child, has gone on television to declare that he would be willing to take the Palins to court to obtain custody of his son. [But he’s not married to the mother of the child. He has ZERO claim to custody. A society that says that a father not married to the mother of his child has a right of custody to that child is a society that says that marriage is irrelevant, period.]

Bristol Palin, 18, gave birth on December 27 to a son, Tripp. The teenage pregnancy was made public when her mother was picked as the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

Mr Johnston was flown from Alaska to the Republican convention in Minnesota in September to join the Palin family. To limit the political fallout from the revelation that the unmarried daughter of the Governor of Alaska was pregnant the message was put out that the couple would marry. [And all the sentimental conservatives instantly believed it, and said I was being mean for not believing it.]

Soon after Tripp was born the couple broke up and what should have been a private issue has become an unpleasant family soap opera.

When he appeared on the television show Larry King Live Mr Johnston said that Miss Palin was limiting his access to their son. “I think we’re going to have to sue,” he said.

Mr Johnston denied initially that he had hired a lawyer but admitted later that he had. Asked if saying that he had a lawyer might anger the Palins, Mr Johnston said: “I don’t want to stir anything up.” [Right, that’s why he went on Larry King Live, because he didn’t want to stir anything up.]

Mr Johnston’s mother, Sherry, who is due in court next month on felony drug charges, appeared on the show. She said that they were prepared to press legal action for his rights as Tripp’s father. “That is what we’re going to do next,” Mrs Johnston said. “We were just hoping that we wouldn’t have to.”

A statement from the Palin family said: “Bristol is focused on going to college, raising Tripp and advocating abstinence.” [Abstinence? Abstinence? What does that matter? According to the Palinite social conservatives circa September 2008, so long as you don’t have an abortion, everything is fine. Have all the babies out of wedlock you want.]

Those comments conflicted with remarks that Miss Palin made on Fox News earlier this year when she said that abstinence was “not realistic at all”. Mr Johnston agreed, saying: “I think all teens, or most of them, are sexually active.”

On an earlier television chat show Mr Johnston outraged the Palins when he said that Mrs Palin knew he was having sex with her daughter in her home in Wasilla. In a statement the Palins called him a liar. Mr Johnston claimed they were treating him as “trailer trash”.

Such a feud has made critics of Mrs Palin—and some of her supporters—wonder if she could ever make the case that she should be president when she cannot control her family. [That’s what I and VFR commenters were saying in September, when Palin’s “conservative” supporters were saying that she was a great mother.]

The Palin drama intensified this month when the half-sister of Todd, Mrs Palin’s husband, was charged with burglary, theft and trespass for three alleged break-ins. It is alleged that she took her four-year-old daughter with her.

The family saga is another morality tale on how the political ambition of a parent can threaten the private lives of their children.

- end of initial entry -

Howard Sutherland writes:

Pertinent, if depressing, post about the tawdry situation arising from the illegitimacy of Governor Sarah Palin’s grandson. Am I too “judgmental” in referring to young Tripp as illegitimate? I remember when “illegitimate” was itself a euphemism.

I agree with your reservations about Gov. Palin based on her demonstrated inability to control her daughter, and accordingly her inability to be a role model for conservatives. I had similar reservations about her when she was nominated, although I admit I found her a refreshing change on our grim political scene, even if she’s a bit too perky for me. (It’s strange to think of her as a grandmother.) Also, I liked that Alaska was entering American political life—through someone other than Ted Stevens. For what it’s worth, I like having Alaska as a state, even though separate from the Lower 48. I do not feel the same about Hawaii, which is fundamentally alien to America. Hawaii should be a Territory or a non-state Commonwealth, like Puerto Rico or—more pertinently, perhaps—American Samoa. Forgive the digression. I’m on your side about Palin.

Still, I could not help noticing something in The Australian’s story that shows that persistent media bias against conservatives is as entrenched as ever—even when, as with Gov. Palin, the conservative under examination really isn’t very conservative. Consider this quote, which reports your view:

Such a feud has made critics of Mrs Palin—and some of her supporters—wonder if she could ever make the case that she should be president when she cannot control her family.

In the first place, Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska. Would a news story about Hillary Clinton, either during her Senate tenure or today, refer to her as Mrs. Clinton, instead of using her title? [LA replies: Hillary Clinton has frequently been referred to as Mrs. Clinton during her U.S. Senate term.] More importantly, though, imagine if Sarah Palin, instead of being a Republican, were a Democrat with conventionally Democratic liberal positions on social and economic issues. If my hypothetical Democratic Gov. Palin had been a Democratic VP nominee with similar family complications, would the mainstream media even have mentioned them? I strongly suspect the answer is no.

James N. writes:

You write:

“But he’s not married to the mother of the child. He has ZERO claim to custody. A society that says that a father not married to the mother of his child has a right of custody to that child is a society that says that marriage is irrelevant, period.”

You are correct, of course that giving unmarried fathers custodial rights is saying that marriage is irrelevant.

So is awarding child support to unmarried mothers.

The common law and the law of all 50 states awarded child support as a consequence of the dissolution of a marriage. That was because the reciprocal promise to “I will bear only your children” was “I will support all the children born of our marriage”.

The same Supreme Court that delivered Roe v. Wade also ruled, in Gomez v. Perez (1973), that this marital promise violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court thus imposed on unmarried fathers the same obligations of support which married fathers had undertaken by an ancient and public act (the marriage ceremony). This voided the laws of Texas and 49 other states, overturned millenia of common law development, and also said that, at least as it pertains to child support, that marriage is also irrelevant.

The more I think about homosexuals pretending to be married, the more I think they have a point. Persons opposing these “marriages” say they are standing up for Traditional Marriage. But of course, they are only standing up for one of T.M.’s three essentials: 1) It is permanent, 2) It is sexually exclusive, and 3) It is restricted to opposite-sex couples.

Permanency implies that divorce is forbidden or made very difficult. Exclusivity criminalizes or severely sanctions adultery and alienation of affection.

What we have now is gay marriage for heterosexuals. No wonder it seems unfair to homosexuals.

LA replies:

Your last point has been made by trad thinkers: that once heterosexuality is liberated, there seems much less reason to put obstacles in the way of homosexual conduct and homosexual “marriage,”

Dimitri K. writes:

This post shows very clearly what you are about. You write: “Childbirth outside marriage produces disorder”. So, order is probably your highest priority. In this point, you are like other social conservatives, who want the government to reinforce social and other order. This is by no means wrong, but order is not all we need. In this respect, social conservatives resemble progressives but with minus sign—those want government to impose progress.

My point is that neither social order nor progress can be imposed on the people who don’t support it. Progress and morality can only come from individual people (does not necessarily come, of course). I believe, the role of the government is to educate people more than to enforce. But that’s what previous Republican government completely failed- during it’s time the left was much more successful in educating, while the Right was busy enforcing. Well, maybe opposition is always better in educating, and that’s why governments change from time to time.

LA replies:

You’re overstating what I mean by order. When you say I want government to impose order, in today’s context that means the national government. The national government should have nothing, and historically had nothing, to do with marriage laws or anything of that nature. It was the national government, more specifically the U.S. Supreme Court, which broke down historical order and imposed its own disorderly order by illegitimately taking away states’ and localities abilities to have their own laws. For example the 1973 decision, mentioned by James N. above, which said that fathers never married to the mothers of their children could be required to provide custody, thus undercutting the meaning of marriage. That was done by the government, interfering in long existing laws and customs.

Besides which I’m not talking about government at all. I’m talking about the basics of human and social order. For example, a man and woman marry and have children and raise them together without causing problems to the society: that’s order. Another example: an unmarried girl becomes pregnant and raises a child without a father and with the help of the state: that’s disorder.

To talk about order sounds like an imposition because people today associate the word order with a dictatorial state or fascism.

What the government, meaning most of all state government, does is set the basic rules of society, concerning marriage, property, inheritance, criminal law, tort law and so on. Without those things we have disorder. Just as, in the social and family sphere, without marriage, we have disorder.

The Republican vs. Democratic conflict on the national level is irrelevant to the kind of basic social order I’m talking about here.

And of course I did not suggest that order is all we need. But you seem to be suggesting that freedom is all we need. You write: “Progress and morality can only come from individual people.” Not true. People do not have the ability to create and maintain morality on their own. They need a functioning society, and the basic order it provides.

Ken Hechtman writes:

In the first place, the threat to sue for custody is almost certainly a divorce lawyer’s bargaining position. “Kramer vs. Kramer” notwithstanding, fathers rarely get awarded full custody. With unmarried fathers, it’s very rare. With unmarried teenage fathers, it’s even rarer than that. For an unmarried teenage father going up against the family of a sitting governor, he has ZERO chance of getting custody. I suspect the real goal here is a generous access/visitation agreement in exchange for not airing the Palin family’s dirty laundry in open court.

I agree with your general point here, on one condition. Should an unmarried father have any child-support obligations? I could live with a no rights/no obligations compromise. Our child support laws don’t make sense anymore. They were written in a time when divorce was rare, remarriage was rarer and women made a small fraction of the money men did. They don’t work in the age of serial marriage and pay equity.

My brother’s family is a perfect example. He’s got a wife and legitimate son here in Montreal and another son living with an ex-girlfriend and her current husband in Vancouver. My brother’s household has a combined income of $60,000 or so and he pays child support to a household with an income of half a million. He does this because if he doesn’t do it, he loses his visitation rights. But nobody involved is better off compared to how they’d all be if they were living as two separate self-contained families.

Here’s how it should work: Without a very good reason otherwise, children belong to their mothers, period. When a mother remarries (and I’d include common-law for this purpose) the spouse-in-the-house has parental rights and responsibilities as long as he has that role. When he leaves, he leaves clean.

Laura W. writes:

The script for this saga was written long before Tripp was conceived. The actors only needed to show up for their scenes. The powerful mom, the boyish dad, the hedonistic teens—so many Americans play variants of these parts on less conspicuous stages that it’s not absorbing drama anymore. It’s just scary.

When adolescents find there’s no real authority in their lives, there’s no telling where their contempt for adults will take them.

LA replies:

I don’t think I ever thought of seeing the Palins as Laura describes them here, as simply the typical contemporary American family, with the careerist wife, the recessive husband, and the kids at loose ends. Of course.

Paul Mulshine writes:

Not to mention the baby-daddy’s mommy getting charged as a dealer of Rush Limbaugh’s favorite drug, oxycontin, which is also known as “hillbilly heroin.”

Imagine the clucking from these clowns if an Obama daughter had gotten into this situation. My only dispute with you is that you refer to these characters as “conservative.” This is a populist movement of the William Jennings Bryan stripe and is not conservative in any useful sense of the word, as the Palin case proves. Again you deserve credit for having first written about it.

Also, imagine if Sarah were now the VP and all of this was playing out on the world stage.

James P. writes:

LA wrote:

“But he’s not married to the mother of the child. He has ZERO claim to custody. A society that says that a father not married to the mother of his child has a right of custody to that child is a society that says that marriage is irrelevant, period.”

My response:

It is not, and should not, always be true that the father should have zero claim to custody if he doesn’t marry the mother. If she is “unfit” in some way—insane, or a criminal, or a drug addict—then the father should not have to marry her, and I think in practice, in such cases the court gives custody to the father even if he doesn’t marry or cohabit with her. This leaves aside the issue of why he had relations with such a creature in the first place, of course. The interest of the child is held to be paramount in custody cases (in theory, anyway).

When the mother is not “unfit,” then the father most certainly has a large financial obligation to that child regardless of whether or not he marries the mother. Therefore he has (or should have) a claim to custody of the child regardless of whether or not he marries the mother. If a man has to pay—and he does—then his claim to custody should be equal to the woman’s, assuming they are equally fit to be parents, of course. The idea that the mother should “almost always” have custody is a relatively recent one, and in my view is a product of the liberal / feminist divorce-industrial complex.

A society that makes a man pay for a child without requiring the mother and father to be married, and that allows “no fault” divorce, and that almost automatically gives custody to the mother is a society that says marriage is irrelevant, period. In such a society, the woman has no incentive to get married or to make the marriage work. She gets the house, the money, and the children if she decides to pull the plug, and she doesn’t even need a good reason to do so. The man has no incentive to get married in the first place. We can see these incentives playing out across the Western world: most divorces are initiated by women, and men are increasingly opting out of marriage. A society that was truly interested in promoting marriage would abolish “no fault” divorce, and would eliminate alimony and mandatory child support. If women had to deal with the financial consequences of unwed motherhood and divorce, they would be more discerning about whom they chose to marry, and would be less likely to walk away from a marriage once they were in it.

LA replies:

I’m confused by James’s comment. In his second paragraph, he says that unmarried fathers should both pay child support and have custody rights. In his third paragraph he says the opposite.

James P. replies:

The two paragraphs discuss different situations. The third paragraph says that the father should not have to pay child support (as is not the case in reality right now, obviously). The second paragraph says that if the father does have to pay child support (as is the case right now) then he should have an equal claim on custody.

Bruce M. writes:

I tend to agree all the way around with you on this, but I wanted to stick up for folks who live in houses on wheels. I remember James Carville talking about “draggin’ a hunnert dollar bill” through a trailer park, and although it was a snappy line, it was sort of rough on a broad, bipartisan swath of Americans. I think that trailer parks are a useful part of our social safety net that provide an honest alternative to subsidized housing or perhaps living in the basement at mom and dad’s. My wife and I lived in a trailer for a few months shortly after getting married, then again for a few months while I was attending helicopter repairman school in Virginia. Looking back thirty five years later, both were pleasant experiences.

As a country we may have dodged a bullet on that one, but it looks like it landed us in front of a freight train!

LA replies:

I’m not talking literally about people in trailers. It’s an expression—I guess an unkind expression—that indicates low quality of behavior. But you’re right, it shouldn’t be used. This is the only time (and in September) that I’ve used it.

Yeah, the bullet and the freight train. I’ve been thinking the same.

Bill Carpenter writes:

Good grief! I have always objected on democratic principles to calling people “trailer trash,” but there is a point at which poverty is brought on by amorality, self-indulgence, weakness, and stupidity. Maybe we should still avoid the economic label, and just refer to people that deserve it as rabble, low-lives, etc.

Paul Weston writes:

You were quite right of course [about Palin in September].

In a world of insanity and moral abandonment, you are a voice of reason and decency.

April 25

Richard Poe writes:

You’re right about the moral blinders on the Steve Sailer crowd. Years ago, I had an online exchange with Mr. Sailer in which I sought to tease from him some expression of regret, however mild, concerning the decline of marriage and the corresponding increase in single motherhood in Scandinavia. My efforts failed utterly.

Mr. Sailer argued that the high intelligence of Scandinavian people and the cultural cohesion of Scandinavian society generally ensured that the region’s growing numbers of fatherless children would never exhibit the kind of social pathologies endemic to American ghettos. So why fret?

He did not seem to comprehend that broken families could engender evils every bit as injurious to the human spirit as those afflicting the South Bronx, even if those evils happened to be of a different or subtler nature. Spectacular evil of the South Bronx variety seems to be the only kind Mr. Sailer recognizes.

LA replies:

That’s very interesting. Amazing, actually. Sailer was saying that marriage really doesn’t matter at all for the well being of children, people, society.

Even from the point of view of Sailer’s biological reductionism, how can he not see the importance of marriage for the biological well-being of people?

Richard Poe writes:

Upon re-reading the exchange, I see that Sailer may not have been quite as dismissive of the problem of broken or unformed families in Scandinavia as I had remembered. But he certainly did minimize it. In fact, he said that the welfare state was working “reasonably well” in Scandinavia. Here’s the article:

Scandinavia Fails to Collapse… Yet
by Steve Sailer

Unfortunately, the links he provided in his article to my blog posts are broken. That’s my fault. The new links are:

The Serpent’s Gaze of Blood and Race
February 17, 2003

The Scandinavian Disease
February 18, 2003

Sailer: In Praise of Nordic Genes
March 3, 2003

Attack of the Clones
April 29, 2003

LA replies:

While I haven’t read this yet, I’m glad to hear that Sailer’s statements were not quite as dismissive as you remembered. While I have often objected to Sailer’s bio-reductionism, the notion that he would be completely dismissive of the importance of marriage seemed out of character.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 24, 2009 09:41 AM | Send

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