Well, Sarah Palin's ascension to the status of GOP vice-presidential candidate has accomplished one thing at least: It's given the media yet another "identity politics" debate this election season. And it's given the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette an excuse to plug the "PittsburghMom.com" site the paper recently acquired.
In a front-page story by Mackenzie Carpenter today, the P-G frets over what Palin's nomination -- and the ensuing revelations about problems in her family -- mean for the "mommy wars." Carpenter quotes a "blogger identifying herself as 'Suzeet'" who opines on PittsburghMom.com that she "would DEFINITELY NOT run for VP ... if I had a very young special-needs infant and a pregnant minor."
Carpenter's story makes no mention of the fact that the P-G owns the site, which it purchased last month. Which means that, by using the time-saving miracle of the Interent to gauge public opinion, Carpenter also managed to plug a P-G property on its own front page, without disclosure. That's the kind of thing you'd expect from, well, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which routinely cites "expert sources" from think tanks bankrolled by publisher Dick Scaife.
I don't want to single Carpenter out. Overall, her story offers a well-rounded treatment of the issues raised by the Palin brouhaha: Do gender roles mean that female candidates are held to a higher standard when it comes to caring for their families? Such questions are being asked around the country, and as Carpenter shows, from both ends of the political spectrum.
Still and all, I'm cringing at this whole issue. Barack Obama's take -- a candidate's family life is off-limits, especially when it applies to kids -- is exactly right. And while Palin's situation does raise issues of gender and work/life balance, we can't debate them in this context without infringing on the work/life balance, and privacy, of Palin's family. Which does a huge disservice to her children.
Besides, there are plenty of "mommy wars" that CAN and NEED to be fought in a political campaign. Like what Palin's running mate is going to do to provide health insurance to them and their children. (Answer: not a hell of a lot, and far less than Obama.) Or what Palin believes their kids should be taught in school. (Answer: religiously-inspired, scientifically bankrupt "alternatives" to evolution.) Can we find time to talk about those?
Of course we can't. It's so much easier, and more fun, to hash that out these issues that everyone can have an opinion on.
It's actually the evolution thing that really drives me crazy. We're about to get our lunch eaten by the Chinese, in part because our kids are falling behind in math and science. The LAST thing we need is to elect someone who wants to suck up class-time with a bunch of faith-based idiocy. Everytime I hear someone urge the teaching of creationism or "intelligent design" in our schools, you know what I hear? A backwoods fiddle playing "Turkey in the Straw" while Rome burns.
But I guess when WE'RE the ones sewing soccer balls together for 12 cents an hour in a sweatshop, we can have all the debates about work/life balance we want.