Presidential nominee Barack Obama might have declared Sarah Palin's daughter a non-issue for his campaign staff, but he doesn't work for the media (nor the Daily Kos). With all the hoopla surrounding the VP hopeful's daughter's out-of-wedlock pregnancy, one delicate piece of hypocrisy seems to have blown by with Gustav's winds. What if the 17-year-old Bristol Palin was a black girl? And what if she was, instead, the teenage daughter of Michelle and Barack Obama?
PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley put this question to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich while taping his nightly show in St. Paul, Minnesota for the RNC. Gingrich, choosing his words very carefully, took a long pause before he answered. Smiley was clearly trying to illustrate that the spin the right wing was putting on this, as a pro-life family issue, was laced with a hidden hypocrisy. Had this been a black family -- even one as Cosby-like as the Obamas -- we'd be hearing an entirely different tune coming from the convention hall this week.
Gingrich first tried to avoid answering, instead choosing to commend Senator Obama's very wise refusal to make political hay out of the matter. Gingrich then went on to share some of his family life experience (though conveniently leaving out some messy personal drama in his own marriages, including an affair during the Clinton days).
But Smiley wouldn't let his pal go that easily. He gently pounced on Gingrich's hedging, saying "Oh, come on." He then told the Speaker he could "roll tape for the rest of this convention of Republican, after Republican, after Republican, lecturing black people about out of wedlock births, about making babies before they're married."
Gingrich tried to turn it back towards the Democratic platform, which mentions fathers have to recognize that fatherhood doesn't end at conception. Smiley agreed, and let Gingrich off the mat. Gingrich then added, "This is not a black problem," citing social shifts that show the breakdown of the nuclear family over the past 50 years from Europe to America.
I hope they remember this at the next Republican ho-down.
You can watch Tavis Smiley's show online after it's broadcast nightly on PBS.