I like Sarah. How can one not? She is what we wish all our politicians were - real, earthy, and perhaps above all in this election, someone who comes from somewhere. In her life and beliefs, she shows the values of the small town she grew up in. Revealingly, one of the main line of attacks against her is the smallness of the place from which she comes. The assumption is that, if you are going to govern something large and complicated like America, you should come from somewhere (or nowhere in particular) that is similarly large and complex. The values that might be cultivated in a small town - loyalty, integrity born of actual commitments, the courage to stand up for what you believe in, a willingness to sacrifice for those one knows and cares for, a high valuation of face-to-face trust and compromise - are deemed irrelevant among the chattering class of pundits. The longstanding disdain for smallness and "parochiality" continues to separate our elites from nearly everyone else.
But still - learning yesterday that Sarah's daughter is expecting diminished Sarah in my eyes. This diminishment had nothing to do with disapproval of the pregnancy or disappointment in her mothering skills (it amazes me that some on the Left are even going here. Really. Incredible.). We all know that people make mistakes, and what reveals character most fundamentally are not our inevitable mistakes, but how we respond to those mistakes. What has impressed, and still impresses, about Sarah and now her family is that they live the values they espouse. She appears to be the living embodiment of the values so often touted by Republicans, but so seldom carried through (the sainted Ronald Reagan and John McCain were both divorcees, it could be recalled).
Peter Lawler has rightly noted that Sarah was chosen because of WHO she IS. "Sarah energizes the "faith and family" vote because of WHO she is.... Palin represents real, young people with real marriages, real jobs, real families, a real enjoyment for sports, the outdoors, and all the good things of life, real religion, and a real sense of personal responsibility." I agree completely - and the announcement of her daughter's pregnancy undermines this narrative in a disturbing if indirect way. Knowing of her daughter's pregnancy, and knowing the sort of wringer a modern Presidential campaign resembles, could she have doubted for a moment that this would become "big news?" That every aspect of her daughter's life would now be investigated - even as the MSM would tut-tut about the way children are now dragged into campaigns, and publically wrestle over whether news about candidate's children should be covered, even as they continuously plaster pictures of Bristol on the news and report the name of the father, investigate his background, and doubtlessly will try to figure out exactly where and when the dirty deed was done...
In short, if the narrative of Sarah's ascent is WHO she IS, then we know that she was willing to accept a place on the ticket in spite of the harrowing public attention to which her daughter would be subjected. Perhaps Bristol is, or will turn out to be, a Juno-like character who doesn't give a good G-D about what other people think. Perhaps her mother knows this, and went forward in accepting the VP slot knowing her daughter would be impervious to probing, intrusive, international scrutiny. But if she is in any way a typical American teenager - and a small-town one at that - it's likely she will be embarrassed, demoralized and possibly damaged by the obscenely bright lights of attention on her now. The sad fact is that this is now an inescapable part of the the modern campaign. It was certain to be the one sure attack on Sarah, since "WHO she IS" is her most appealing feature. Sarah won't be the one subjecting her daughter to this gauntlet, but surely she had to know it awaited. If her daughter is damaged by this attention, her mother will have invited it for the sake of being named to the ticket. Perhaps this is the ultimate example of "Country First." Or, I fear, it may be another woeful instance of "Political Viability First." I wish only the best for the Palins, and hope Sarah's was the right decision for their family.