Many of us of voting age vaguely recall the Nickelodeon show "Clarissa Explains It All." That's what we're looking for tonight - for Sarah to explain it all. She won't, though, without alienating thousands of women voters across the country. She can't, even as Clarissa couldn't.
Let's take a look at "Palin Policy" to see exactly why women, most of all, need to pay very close attention to tonight's debate. We have questions that need answers, and no finger in the air to test the wind will provide us with what we need to hear.
Palin on Family
While she justifiably asked for her daughter's privacy to be respected, she does not offer the same to young women across the country. Her stance on abortion is the stuff of much news and debate, and her position is clear. In 2002, when she was running for lieutenant governor, Palin sent an e-mail to the anti-abortion Alaska Right to Life Board saying she was as "pro-life as any candidate can be" and has "adamantly supported our cause since I first understood, as a child, the atrocity of abortion." There is no surprise about her position, and yet many believe she has little invested in overturning Roe v. Wade. The privacy part is that she acknowledged to Katie Couric that she feels the Constitution protects an inherent right to privacy. That privacy is, as Couric pointed out, "a cornerstone of Roe v. Wade." Yet, Palin would work to undo that right to given privacies since abortion is such an "atrocity" in her view.
Palin on Domestic Partnerships
Forget about gay marriage - Palin points out that she isn't even sure if people are born gay. She supported the Alaska Supreme Court's decision to ban gay marriage even though they insisted that state employees' same-sex partners couldn't be denied health insurance. It stands to reason that, given her religious viewpoints, that she doesn't acknowledge publicly her feelings about same-sex partnerships, but you can bet that she upholds strongly her position that: "I am pro life and I believe that marriage should only be between and man and a woman."
Palin on Child Care
As mother of a large family, this is a specific area of interest for the VP candidate, and one about which she has much to say. Be careful, working mothers of America, she has a pretty unusual position for a woman with five children and a full-time job. She can't, of course, say that mommies should stay home with their kids, no matter how many play-dates she hosted in the Governor's mansion in Alaska. Instead, she signed off on an Alaskan proclamation titled "Child Care" in March of this year, declaring home-based care to be the top option for all. This isn't surprising since her husband works one week on, one week off, and in his "on" week, her own family is available to provide day care for her brood. In the proclamation she notes that family child care provides convenient care close to home, and that family home care providers "understand the importance of family and home." Nowhere does she indicate that these family home-based operations should have oversight, inspection, or even state-backed clearances to uncover instances of child abuse.
Palin on Sex Ed
We've been there done that, but it needs to be repeated until every woman and mother hears it fully and clearly. Palin advocates "abstinence-only-until-marriage" education in schools. She believes that teaching sex ed is the precinct of parents, and that a school should not offer what she refers to as "explicit" sex education. Had she read the majority of legislation on this issue, she would know that "explicit" means scientifically accurate, and that it also means teaching children to verbalize when they feel uncomfortable with an adult, whom to tell in instances of molestation or abuse, and the essential science of how an STD can be transmitted. She would also know that abstinence-based programs constructed under the Bush administration have failed miserably. (If we're not concerned with the privacy of Roe v. Wade, it isn't off-limits to mention that abstinence education didn't work for her own progeny, right?)
Palin on Domestic Security
Palin said recently, when talking about Obama's policies on Domestic Security, that "he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?" And she asked this as though all Americans believe that terrorists should be jailed without question, never afforded a trial or consideration of trial, and never presented with the evidence against them. Ostensibly, she was advocating the use of whatever means necessary to interrogate them and keep them from a "plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America." She apparently forgot about the detainees at Guantanamo, and the establishment of habeas corpus all the way back in 1215. A lot of people forgot about that in the wake of 9/11, but as jenny Martinez reported in the Washington Post, "The conclusion of Jose Padilla's criminal trial in a federal court yesterday shows that waging the 'war on terror' does not require giving up our constitutional values or substituting military rule for the rule of law." The rule of law also indicates that an arrestee should be read his rights as they apply whether he or she is a citizen of the U.S. and assuring non-citizens that they have some protection under the present Geneva Convention (Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.)
It may seem that these are not wholly women's issues, so let me clarify briefly.
Palin respects the family - if it's her family. If it is your family, no such protection is necessary. You will be urged to find home-based child care rather than using the highly-rated care facility at your workplace, near your school, or with well-trained early childhood development professionals.
Palin respects domestic partnerships - as long as those partnerships are male-female, they are wonderful. If those partnerships are two members of the same biological gender who declare their love and lifelong commitment, well...all you can get are some health benefits and those only if you work for the state. Otherwise, you should check to see if you were born that way.
Palin respects Education - so long as you want your children to remain blissfully unaware that someone may try to hurt them sexually, and equally unaware that the HPV virus (resulting in genital warts and with the potential to lead to cervical cancers) can be transmitted by heavy petting, you should support the Palin non-sex-ed plan. If you are ready to provide in-home family day care to your grandkids while your daughter finishes high school, this is the education plan for you.
Palin wants to keep us safe - nevermind pesky things like rights. If we knock down the constitutional provisions for fair and ethical treatment of the bad guys, then we'll all be better off even if one of those bad guys is really a good guy but we were mistaken about his bad boy-hood. So if your son or daughter spends too much time researching "Al-Qaeda," "terrorism," or "global destruction" online, you can be assured that he or she will be treated just like every other prisoner at Guantanamo. But we'll be safer than we were before. Your child won't need to be treated humanely, because it's for the greater good.
Women have more than ever at stake tonight, so listen closely to what she says, and to what she doesn't say. And listen as closely to Senator Biden, who voted YES on protecting Habeas Corpus, who understood that family values could be taught openly and scientifically to even his own Catholic children, who supports privacy rights and Roe v. Wade, and who understands the real needs and desires of women.