To the point week of 09-4-08

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WHEN IS HAVING A BABY a national media event?

When you’re the 17-year old, unmarried daughter of the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States.

Late last week, Sarah Palin, Republican Governor of Alaska and choice of Presidential hopeful John McCain as his running mate for the White House, acknowledged that her 17-year old daughter, Bristol, is about five months pregnant.

And unmarried.

It was announced that Bristol plans to marry the father of the baby, but as soon as the information hit – people on both sides of the issue went bonkers.

Opinions ranged everywhere from “what’s the big deal?” to “Sarah Palin should step down”.

News agencies say that the Governor was “forced” into making the announcement after several crews of news reporters began investigating whether Governor Palin’s four-month old son was actually Bristol’s.

Those who trumpet “right to know” initiatives celebrated. Conservatives and liberals analyzed.

And a 17-year old girl had her life turned literally upside down.

So here’s the question: When is any information too much information?

Do we as voters have the right to know that Bristol Palin is pregnant? Does that fact shed light on Sarah Palin and her abilities as a mother?

Do her abilities as a mother have any correlation to her abilities as a Governor – or Vice President?

Can a public official have a private life? Or – more specifically – can the family of a public official have a private life?

According to the Census Bureau, 37-percent of children born in the U.S. are born to unmarried mothers.

That isn’t exclusive to teenage mothers, because the largest jump has been in babies born to unmarried women in their 20s.

Life today is one where many people live as a family without officially being married; and what once was hidden is now no big deal.

As a child, I remember high school girls being “sent away” to live with family members out of town if they were pregnant. Pregnant girls couldn’t come to school, let alone participate in school activities.

I also remember when high school boys would get into trouble, and the judge would give them the option of jail or military service – but those days are long gone, too.

But this is not a column about pregnancy statistics. It’s a column about whether or not the American people have the right to know that Bristol Palin is pregnant – and if that pregnancy has anything to do with whether or not her mother should be the Vice President of the United States.

Personally, I believe that the merits of Sarah Palin begin and end with her political experience. I believe that the personal life of her daughter – or other family members – should be open for public inspection.

Remember:

John Kennedy was a Roman Catholic.

Jimmy Carter had a beer guzzling brother.

Ronald Reagan was divorced.

Bill Clinton tried marijuana.

George Bush’s daughters were reported to be “party girls” who liked to drink.

Do any of those things make them any less qualified to hold the office that they did? Do family members have the right to live “normal lives” while their relative serves in a top governmental position?

And when does the office get high enough that it matters?

Should Sarah Palin be removed from the office of Governor of Alaska because her daughter is pregnant? Is it okay to have her run a state, but not serve the country?

The debate over the next two months should center on her qualifications to hold the second most powerful office in the world – and in her abilities to hold the most powerful office in the world should something happen to John McCain.

But this weekend news reports led with information on Hurricane Gustav, and then went straight into the private life of teenager Bristol Palin.

Somewhere down the list was that the 500th American was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Maybe we all need better perspective on what really is and isn’t an issue.

Sarah Palin holding an automatic weapon scares me much worse than her holding her grandchild.