Barack Obama's response to the news that GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter is five months pregnant is crystal clear: The families of candidates, especially the children, are off-limits. Period.
It's the right position to take. The fact that Alaska Governor Palin's teenaged daughter made the tragic mistake of having pre-marital sex at such a young age--and got pregnant in the process--has nothing whatever to do with her mother's qualifications (or the lack of them) for public office. Nor do the mistakes our kids make always define the caliber of our parenting skills. At a certain age, our kids do what they will no matter how carefully, how lovingly they were raised. They may break the rules and break our hearts, but their lapses are no reflection upon our judgment as parents or as people.
None of us has the right to judge and condemn Sarah Palin because Bristol Palin failed the "abstinence only" test.
There are, however, issues of judgment involved.
First: Governor Palin slashed Alaska's legislative funding for social programs, including Passage House, a transitional home for teenage moms. The mission statement for Passage House: "To provide young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to 18 months while they gain necessary skills and resources to...create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families." In other words, a pro-family safe haven for kids whose parents aren't as accepting as the Palins of an unwed mother and her baby. When, like Palin, your pro-life stance extends to banning abortions even in the cases of rape and incest, there is an undeniable judgment gap here. Pro-life agenda should not stop the moment a baby draws its first breath. Pro-life means adequate services for that child and the mother who chose to keep it.
Second: Palin says her daughter will marry the father of the baby. She's fine with that.
Meet Daddy: 18 year old Levi Johnston. Like millions of other high school kids, Levi had a MySpace page. Here are his own words about who he is:
"I'm a fuckin' redneck who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes...But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some shit and just fuckin' chillin' I guess...Ya fuck with me I'll kick [your] ass."
Levi goes on to say he's "in a relationship" but "I don't want kids."
Pro-life. Absolutely, no exceptions, take-no-prisoners pro-life. If that's your core belief, then you protect that baby's life. You protect your own child, the one who is already paying a very high price for passion in the back seat of a car. You fail to protect either one when you compound one costly mistake with another. Marriage is a sacrament, no? Marriage is a bond, for life, of love and faith and commitment.
None of us knows whether or not Bristol Palin is equipped for such a sacred responsibility. But clearly, Levi Johnston has some growing up to do -- and that painful process is not one that should be inflicted on a child bride and an innocent baby.
Marriage is not a convenient solution to a parental pride problem. It is not punishment for doing the "nasty". It is not a morality bandage we slap on the wounds of "sin" or "shame" to make them publicly acceptable.
And any parent, Ms. Palin, who thinks marriage is any of the above lacks judgment. Good judgment: The criteria for a credible candidacy and for sound governance.