Promoting his new book this week, Mike Huckabee took aim at this year's Best Actress Oscar-winner and soon-to-be wife and mother, Natalie Portman, as a bad example for American girls. The actress, who won the Oscar for Black Swan, is carrying a child by her fiancé, dancer Benjamin Millepied. According to the pair, they plan to be married soon. While it was nice of them to share the news of their impending nuptials with their fans, it's certainly none of Mike Huckabee's business.
"People see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts, 'we're not married but we're having these children and they're doing just fine,'" Huckabee told conservative radio host Michael Medved Monday. "I think it gives a distorted image. It's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out-of- wedlock children."
Unlike movie star Portman, he argued, "Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care."
Leaving aside how hard the Republicans have worked to ensure lack of affordable health care for unwed mothers (and most anyone else, for that matter) or the fact that "Hollywood starlets" and "the Hollywood elite" are, to Republicans, the political moral equivalent of the dog that everyone in the family blames when they pass gas -- an easy blame receptacle, in the absence of gays, feminists, or Democrats whenever they need to highlight the moral decline in America -- the notion of Huckabee singling out Portman for his scarlet letter is fascinating.
One has to ask, since Mike Huckabee has tried to slut-shame Portman as a privileged, "boasting" unwed mother with money and childcare at her disposal (unlike "most" unwed mothers, according to him) whether he will now risk the wrath of Palin, Inc. by daring to go a step further and take a swipe at Bristol Palin, the most privileged ex-teen unwed mother in America? Or is the point not "unwed mothers" at all, especially not the daughters of fellow Republicans, but rather "Hollywood starlets" and their immoral ilk?
Miss Palin herself famously escaped Republican "unwed mother" opprobrium during her mother's campaign for vice president. The GOP elite kept admirably straight faces, in 2008, as Sarah Palin bawled out her "traditional family values" and "teen abstinence" message on the stump, with her increasingly fecund daughter (and said daughter's star-crossed fiancé) by her side.
In the ensuing years, Bristol Palin became a spokeswoman for teenage abstinence, warning other young women about the costs of unwed motherhood -- costs she, as an unwed mother from a privileged background and no shortage of familial support, never actually had to pay.
Further along, she became a tabloid staple and a reality-television "star," patrolling the Alaskan tundra with her mother's cable TV entourage and galloping across the stage of Dancing With the Stars. Oh, and pulling in a reported $30,000 per speaking engagement.
Somewhere in the midst of all that glamour, she finished high school, and now, at 20, is apparently preparing to share her wisdom with the world in a memoir, Not Afraid of Life.
The book, according to the breathless Morrow press release, will detail:
"the highs and lows of her appearance on ABC-TV's 'Dancing With the Stars,' including the aching hours of practice, the biting criticisms, and the thrill of getting to the show's finals. She speaks candidly of her aspirations for the future and the deep religious faith that gives her strength and inspiration."
One can only wish the still-unmarried Miss Palin well. God bless America, where no gimmick is ever dismissed out of hand if there's a buck to be made.
That said, in the spirit of political equanimity, Mr. Huckabee might consider backing off Miss Portman, the Academy Award-winning, Harvard-educated, self-made mutli-millionaire "Hollywood starlet" who, even if she wasn't actually engaged and showing every sign of actually winding up married to Mr. Millepied, could take care of any child she chose to bring into the world.
Picking and choosing which "unwed mothers" to throw under the bus as one's presidential campaign gets underway seems churlish and partisan, to say the least.
While it seems unlikely, with the 2012 election cycle on the horizon, that Republican presidential candidates will be leaving their obsession with other people's sexual morality at home any time soon, it would be nice if they would diversify that outrage to include, for example, moral outrage at the wholesale slaughter of men and women in self-generated wars, or American families having to choose between homelessness and medical care, or American children who don't have enough to eat before they go to school in the morning.
That, and square their obsession with the perils of "unwed motherhood" with a ramped-up war on the right of women's reproductive freedom and sovereignty over their own bodies.
If they could do those things, it might be easier to listen to their tut-tutting nonsense about movie stars like Natalie Portman. On the other hand, with that sort of diversification, they probably wouldn't be 21st century Republicans at all.