“She’s a witch, she’s a mother . . .”

main willowWell, I think it’s safe to say that the mainstream media are struggling with Sen. John McCain’s pick for vice president. He clearly threw a curveball and they are working overtime to report more on Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. Writing about someone who hasn’t attended Washington cocktail parties or has never even appeared a single time on “Meet the Press” can be difficult. Sometimes we see some mistakes.

Far and away my favorite one was found on The New Republic‘s site in an essay written by the very respectable Alan Wolfe. The essay is really interesting and discusses what the Palin pick means for the supposedly in-play “evangelical” vote:

Sarah Palin named two of her children after witches, once took drugs, and refused to sign a bill forbidding domestic benefits for gay couples. Any one of these–especially the first–would raise suspicion in the eyes of a traditional Southern Baptist. But for the governor of a Western state, these are not only the kinds of things a conservative can do, they are also the kinds of things an evangelical can do. Palin, the gun-toting mom, has a libertarian streak in politics and a libertarian streak in religion. In neither case are they fully consistent; she seems to have a soft spot for creationism, for example, and no doubt she will profess support for the highly punitive Republican Party platform. But it is already clear that her style of evangelicalism is one shaped by the region of the country in which she lives.

Will any of this prevent Southern Baptists from voting for her? My guess is probably not, so long as she panders to them. But while Palin may be quickly endorsed by men speaking in Southern accents, she is neither a Billy Graham nor a Jimmy Carter. American evangelicalism, like John McCain, has many mansions. Sarah Palin inhabits only one of them.

The essay makes several good points (with inexplicably hostile language, but whatever) and I’m glad, as a libertarian, that someone is noticing Palin’s libertarian streak. But read that first part again. Did she really name two of her children after witches? Hunh?

Apparently that “fact” came from someone you should be careful taking seriously: the once-interesting Andrew Sullivan. He alleged that the children were named after television show witches based on, um, reader email. Never mind that the dates don’t match up.

Leave it to a gossip magazine — People — to resort to old-style reporting tactics and simply ask the Palins why they named their children the way they did:

Where do your children’s names come from?
TODD: Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for “strength.”

So, not witches. Before this meme gets too carried away, it would be good for reporters to remember to get their facts straight. Alan Wolfe makes some interesting points in the type of piece that adds context to the race, but he undercuts them by playing fast and loose with the facts.

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  • http://www.millennialstar.org Ivan Wolfe

    Alan Wolfe also seems to overlook that, yes Palin once took drugs that were totally legal in Alaska. Marijuana was (and still, sorta kinda is, depending on what day you ask the Alaska Supreme Court and whatever initiative was passed on the last ballot) legal for personal use.

    She’s also one the record saying she didn’t enjoy it and hasn’t done it since. At least she admits she inhaled. And it was legal. What next? McCain took some asprin, so he’s a drug user also?

  • Francis X. Maier

    YEAH! YAY MOLLIE. This might catch on: ask before speculating.

    Naaah

  • Martha

    Named her kids after witches in TV shows.

    Oh, noes! Does that mean that every American woman named Samantha was so named by a devil-worshipping mother? (Annnnd – really showing my age with that pop-culture reference there.)

    Scraped right through that barrel yet, Andy?

  • http://dallasnews.com/religionblog Jeffrey Weiss

    A good rule for journalists: Don’t simply repeat stuff that is absurd on its face. A witch? Puh-leeze. Not that there’s anything *wrong* about being a witch. Or that it’s totally impossible that it’s true. But would it match any of the details we actually know about her? So what journalists do is check out unlikely possibilities before simply spewing them. I’ll grant that coming up with specifics on Palin’s religious POV is a challenge at this point. All the more reason to show *some* care…

  • Francis X. Maier

    Did anyone catch the latest allegations from Colmes today? (Of Hannity and –) Something about covering up a baby, or her daughter’s baby, or something like that? I didn’t hear it and am trying to track it down.

    Palin has managed to bring out the real grandeur of the Fourth Estate.

  • Jerry

    Named her kids after witches in TV shows.

    Oh, noes! Does that mean that every American woman named Samantha was so named by a devil-worshipping mother?

    None of the witches I know worship the devil. Wikipedia has some interesting comments about Biblical references:

    The word “witch” is a translation of the Hebrew kashaph, “sorcerer”. As such a closer translation would be “one who uses magic to harm others”.

    That is, of course, a digression from them main point of the story which is trying to define her as a libertarian (western) evangelical. If the Wikipedia article is accurate, her social beliefs are not libertarian but statist when it comes to using the power of the state to enforce anti-abortion and other measures. So I really don’t see how she’s different than Southern Baptists on the major social issues.

    So can anyone provide evidence to illustrate her perported libertarian evangelical beliefs? From what I’ve seen so far, she’s a classical social and economic conservative.

  • Francis X. Maier

    Jerry, you’re sobering the whole discussion up with those questions. I like the witches theme. :)

  • Francis X. Maier
  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jerry,

    I don’t know much about this libertarian evangelical idea but I think the main point of being libertarian is that your conception of government is smaller in size and scope.

    Having said that, many libertarians believe that the first purpose of government is to protect the right to life. If a libertarian conceives (pun!) that human rights begin when human life begins, they will have a different view on the role of the state in protecting that life than if they believe the right to life should only be protected after birth.

  • Stuart Buck

    Nice pun on Meredith Brooks.

  • Stephen A.

    Color me disappointed that her children weren’t named for the Charmed Ones – except perhaps Piper. That answer was kind of vague.

    Yeah, I found the article unnecessarily hostile, too. As if it was written by the New York Times or something.

    “The highly punitive Republican Party platform”? I guess this is from that rather peculiar “liberal/libertarian” stream of thought that pervades (infests?) the GOP.

    Some libertarians see ANY “interference” of government in the abortion issue to be not sufficiently ideologically pure. As noted by Jerry, who resorted to what’s meant to be a perjorative, the imprecise “Statist” label (which could mean to a libertarian: “anyone who believes in a Government that ‘steals’ taxes from its citizens through taxation.” and not just “smaller government.”

    It pays to ask detailed questions when it comes to them, just as it would when questioning a cult member who uses words in odd ways.)

    As you may see from the quotes, I find the libertarians to be a hoot. I wonder if Palin considers heself one of them. It looks likely that she does not, given her answers in interviews.

    I find Andrew Sullivan’s attacks on Palin to be particularly vacuous and often nearly libelously wrong. And yes, he has ceased to be interesting a long time ago.

  • http://web.mac.com/nblm/ Matthew Thompson

    Mollie:

    Have you notified Wolf about his error on the names? You should post a comment on his page.

  • Dale

    I know Alan Wolfe has the credentials and all, but after reading his column, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s been inside a Southern Baptist church in the last thirty years. The Southern Baptist congregation in my town has English and Spanish services, a praise band, coffee house, etc., and I’ll bet that half of the congregation has tried drugs or drank to excess at least once in their lives. It ain’t a prison or hygenic bubble, y’know.

    Maybe it’s a regional thing, as Wolfe suggests, and I’m in a college town in the Rust Belt, neither the West of the individualist Palin nor the South of “traditional Southern Baptists”. Perhaps what Wolfe means by “traditional Southern Baptist” is something like Jerry Falwell without television cameras. I’m familiar with several graduates of Falwell’s Liberty University, and they’re a pretty diverse lot, some even goth. So they don’t fit Wolfe’s picture, either.

    My church’s youth pastor was raised and educated in Pensacola, Florida, a long-time bastion of southern evangelicalism and Southern Baptists, a place so strict they scared Billy Graham away in the ’50s. Heck, my youth pastor even ordered the special cable package for NASCAR, so he must be a real Southern Baptist, if you know what I mean–except that he bleaches his hair and plays the electric guitar during worship. Hmm. Perhaps our libertine Swedish ways have corrupted him.

    I continued my search for the traditional Southern Bapist via the internet, and found a website for Pensacola’s Southern Baptist college ministry. Much to my despair, I discovered photos of young ladies wearing slacks, nay dungarees; young ladies and gentlemen engaging in unchaperoned contact; and most appalling, wearing mocking t-shirts with the slogan “party with your pants on.” What has happened to the Southern Baptist Convention! These young’uns just might be right at home with that Westerner, Palin. At least they may relate to her more than this:

    Historically, evangelicalism, while Calvinistic in its censoriousness, has at the same time been Lockean in its individualism.

    Umm, Professor Wolfe, will that be on the test?

    I was pleased to note Wolfe’s thorough research–he even offers H.L. Mencken’s portrait of Southern Baptists as an example. However, next time he might want to exert himself a little more than watching Inherit the Wind for the umpteenth time.

    To be completely fair, there is an institution in Pensacola, Pensacola Christian College, which fits Wolfe’s description of the traditional Southern Baptist–except that the school was founded in 1974, which makes it modern, and it’s not Southern Baptist. In fact, after reading a bit about PCC, I’m afraid they might regard the Southern Baptist Convention as downright prodigal. So Wolfe is describing the modern traditional southern Baptist who is not a Southern Baptist.

    I’m confused.

    One thing’s for sure, Wolfe could sure give Palin lessons on how to pander to an audience. Judging from the comments on The New Republic‘s website, his readers were gobbling it up.

  • Jerry

    I don’t know much about this libertarian evangelical idea

    Mollie, you underlined my point. I’m not sure how the word libertarian used as an adjective applies to evangelicals. I’m not really sure why Wolfe used that phrase since I’m not sure that Palin’s religious beliefs differs from mainstream evangelical beliefs.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jerry,

    I agree. I didn’t think he made the case – particularly since his first example was all bunk.

  • Jerry

    Jerry, who resorted to what’s meant to be a perjorative, the imprecise “Statist” label

    If I were more precise, I would have used the word conservative rather than statist based on how the world’s smallest political quiz defines those terms. That quiz is published on a libertarian site, so if statist is pejorative, it’s that way from a libertarian perspective.

  • Steven in Falls Church

    Apparently that “fact” came from someone you should be careful taking seriously: the once-interesting Andrew Sullivan. He alleged that the children were named after television show witches based on, um, reader email. Never mind that the dates don’t match up.

    Sullivan apparently has a staff to conduct research for him, and this is what we get? He has declined considerably and resembles more and more a Daily Kos diarist. He trashes Palin’s qualifications, but then in 2004 he also endorsed Kerry for President, notwithstanding Kerry having chosen as his running mate John Edwards, someone with a truly thin resume and non-existent record of accomplishment.

  • Dave2

    I’m guessing the libertarian streak is something like this. We can (with great caricature) divide Republicans into power-worshiping imperialists and gun-hoarding survivalists. Both sides tend to be Christian pro-lifers, but they have very different attitudes towards government authority and the latter is much more libertarian than the former. The stronghold of Republican libertarianism has traditionally been the American West (Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, etc.), and so perhaps Palin the recreational hunter fits in better with the libertarian wing than with the ‘America über alles’ wing (could you tell I strongly prefer the libertarian wing?).

  • Dale

    Dave2:

    Wolfe’s article was about Southern Baptists. I know this may be hard for you to fathom, but the Southern Baptists and Republicans are not one and the same, just as all Democrats are not Jews. Further, Wolfe’s caricature of “traditional Southern Baptists”, which is about as sophisticated and accurate as your caricature of Republicans (but at least you’re kidding), is completely bogus; while there’s a great variation among Southern Baptists, it does not breakdown into the hick South versus the individualist West. Next.

  • Martha

    *ahem* Jerry, I do appreciate that Wicca does not equate to Satanist (which is a whole other kettle of fish).

    My point, feeble as it was, was that in the desperate scrabbling around to find anything that could possibly redeem this dreadful spectacle of a woman who’s not pro-choice (oh, the horror!) they were grabbing at some pretty feeble straws.

    Hey, she named her kids after witches in TV shows! And we all know that redneck Bible-thumpers think that is a mark of the Devil! So she’s really not one of the redneck Bible-thumpers!

    With exegesis like that, I’m sure the rest of the coverage of the electioneering by the opinion-formers will be something to behold :-)

  • Dave2

    Dale wrote:

    Wolfe’s article was about Southern Baptists. I know this may be hard for you to fathom, but the Southern Baptists and Republicans are not one and the same, just as all Democrats are not Jews. Further, Wolfe’s caricature of “traditional Southern Baptists”, which is about as sophisticated and accurate as your caricature of Republicans (but at least you’re kidding), is completely bogus; while there’s a great variation among Southern Baptists, it does not breakdown into the hick South versus the individualist West. Next.

    First, I don’t think even Wolfe’s article knows what it is about. It begins and ends with “Southern evangelicals”, but keeps conflating this with Southern Baptists, completely ignoring Methodists—even when (and this is truly remarkable) touching on prohibition.

    As for “I know this may he bard for you to fathom”, you need to just settle down.

    And I don’t think it was the “hick South” stereotype he was pushing so much as the “censorious South” stereotype.

    Finally, I admit I stressed the political basis of the libertarian/nonlibertarian conservative distinction more than the religious basis (which is what Wolfe stressed).

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    This post could have been about the religious issues in the blog posting but decided to focus on something else. I would have been more interested in hearing Mollie’s thoughts about Wolfe’s descriptions of regional variations in the evangelical world. After all, one of the things that GetReligion criticizes the media for doing is assuming evangelicals are a monolithic group. Fortunately the commenters took it in a direction more in keeping with the supposed focus of GetReligion.

    And no matter what you think about Andrew Sullivan’s political beliefs, he definitely is interesting and is deservedly cited here quite often. He takes a lot of flack because he is more committed to his conservative political beliefs than he is to the Republican party, but that is one of the reasons that he is interesting.

    Sullivan does not have comments at his blog, instead he occasionally publishes reader email. And he is quick to criticize himself and admit mistakes directly on his blog (he corrected the email about the girls’ names about 7 hours later) Again, one of the things that makes his blog interesting is that he is letting his readers in on his thinking process. When he publishes his work in newspapers or magazines or books, they are fact checked and carefully considered. If you only want to see the polished end result, look to those products. He is very upfront about how his blog is different.
    This actually brings up an interesting point in media criticism. Bloggers do a lot of different things. Some do reporting, many do opinion writing, some act like mini-magazine articles (I think the Wolfe post falls into this category) and others are documenting a person’s thought process. Authors’ whose blogs fall into that last category, like Sullivan, posts ideas that the author will end up rejecting after further consideration. Media critics, like GetReligion, ought to take into account these differences when they address blogs.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Chip,

    I mentioned above that I didn’t feel Wolfe made the case. However, I love that he attempted to look at the story in the way he did. It didn’t help that one of his first examples was all wet.

    I wrote about the witches issues because the meme started to spread throughout the media. It’s a basic error that needs correction.

    I guarantee you that I will cover the better/worse pieces looking at the religious voters who respond to the Palin pick.

    As for your comments on Sullivan, um, I’m not with you.

    Either way, I didn’t catch that he corrected the post. I just looked again and didn’t see any update . . . maybe he removed the udpate?

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    This is rather off-topic and makes no difference to me in assessing Palin’s fitness for national office, but…

    Alan Wolfe also seems to overlook that, yes Palin once took drugs that were totally legal in Alaska. Marijuana was (and still, sorta kinda is, depending on what day you ask the Alaska Supreme Court and whatever initiative was passed on the last ballot) legal for personal use.

    Her marijuana use was still a violation of federal law, right? Within the past few years the DEA busted marijuana growers and medical marijuana dispensaries in California despite their activity being legal under state law.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Chip,

    You defended Andrew Sullivan. I see he thinks that it’s very important to investigate whether Gov. Palin actually had a baby or whether she was lying about it.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/08/things-that-mak.html

    So, um, I think my comments on Sullivan stand.

    Or, you know, maybe you agree with Sully there!

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  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    I mentioned above that I didn’t feel Wolfe made the case. However, I love that he attempted to look at the story in the way he did. It didn’t help that one of his first examples was all wet.

    I wrote about the witches issues because the meme started to spread throughout the media. It’s a basic error that needs correction.

    I suppose it is a matter of emphasis, but you spent a lot of time talking about the names and very little talking about how he didn’t make the case. (I agree with you that he fell short.) When you combine that with the off-hand dismissal of Sullivan (there are legitimate reasons to criticize Sullivan, but a lack of interestingness is not among them – and I’d argue that he ought to be taken very seriously but admit to that point being debatable) it feeds the perception of a growing partisanship at GetReligion.

    Often when the contributors at GetReligion branch out into areas beyond critiquing media coverage of religion, it tends to be political in nature and matches up with Republican critiques of Democrats. I don’t see this when you stick to discussing media coverage of religion, but rather when you leave the area of your expertise.

    Either way, I didn’t catch that he corrected the post. I just looked again and didn’t see any update . . . maybe he removed the udpate?

    It was not an update, the correction was in a follow-up post. There are pluses and minus to doing an update to a post (in Sullivan’s case, his readers would likely never read an update because he posts so frequently that the update would quickly move off the screen) or to doing a new post containing the correction. The best thing would be to do both.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Chip,

    Thanks for the link to the Sullivan correction.

    Also, we’ll be covering a ton of Palin stuff here because that’s the news right now.

    You should check out our early and loud defenses of Jeremiah Wright.

    Having just spent last week at the DNC, everybody I spoke to there — including official Obama and DNC folks — said they loved GetReligion and our work on clarifying the legitimate issues with that and other topics.

    I’m headed to St. Paul this week so we’ll see if any of the Republicans even know us, much less like us!

    Anyway, people always accuse us of advocating something if we’re criticizing unfair coverage of it. That’s not necessarily true, obviously.

    Having said that, I always like to disclose that I’m a libertarian.

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    You defended Andrew Sullivan. I see he thinks that it’s very important to investigate whether Gov. Palin actually had a baby or whether she was lying about it.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/08/things-that-mak.html

    So, um, I think my comments on Sullivan stand.

    Or, you know, maybe you agree with Sully there!

    When Sullivan, in the very post you reference, writes

    …the rumors buzzing across the Internets and the press corps are unfounded and unseemly. There must be plenty of medical records and obstetricians and medical eye-witnesses prepared to testify to Sarah Palin’s giving birth to Trig. There must be a record of Bristol’s high school attendance for the past year. And surely, surely, the McCain camp did due diligence on this. But the noise around this story is now deafening, and the weirdness of the chronology sufficient to rise to the level of good faith questions. So please give us these answers – and provide medical records for Sarah Palin’s pregnancy – and put this to rest.

    I do agree with him. The rumors are “unfounded and unseemly.” They should be easy rumors to put to rest. Do you disagree with that? I don’t see any connection between your comments on Sullivan and what he actually writes in this post.

    I assume you also read this post.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Yep, I read both posts.

    And honestly I think Sullivan is deranged.

    Anybody can say anything. I read the Kos post and noticed that one of the pictures they posted as “proof” of that poor teenage girl’s recent pregnancy had two problems.

    1) She didn’t look pregnant
    2) the picture wasn’t from March 9, 2008, as they claimed. It was from 2006.

    Chip — if I say you are a child abuser, that may be an “unfounded and unseemly” rumour. Should Andrew Sullivan put it on the Atlantic web site? I just made it up. It should be easy to put to rest.

    Do you disagree with that?

    Seriously — is there a defense for investigating unfounded, unseemly, and — as I demonstrated — clearly made up rumours? Let me know what that defense is.

    Anyway, it is kind of funny to watch Sully and other reporters in full meltdown mode.

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    You should check out our early and loud defenses of Jeremiah Wright.

    Having just spent last week at the DNC, everybody I spoke to there — including official Obama and DNC folks — said they loved GetReligion and our work on clarifying the legitimate issues with that and other topics.

    I agree that you do great work when you focus on the way the media covers religion, with the coverage of Wright being a good example. That is what keeps me reading. It is when you leave the realm of media coverage of religion that the partisanship creeps up and bothers me.

    Anyway, people always accuse us of advocating something if we’re criticizing unfair coverage of it. That’s not necessarily true, obviously.

    Agreed, but that’s not what I am doing here, or elsewhere.

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    I’d don’t know how far off-topic you want to keep this comment thread, so I’ll follow your lead.

    I read the Kos post and noticed that one of the pictures they posted as “proof” of that poor teenage girl’s recent pregnancy had two problems.

    1) She didn’t look pregnant
    2) the picture wasn’t from March 9, 2008, as they claimed. It was from 2006.

    That picture is not the reason something seems weird about the story. By the way, you need to fix the two links in that part of the comment.

    Chip — if I say you are a child abuser, that may be an “unfounded and unseemly” rumour. Should Andrew Sullivan put it on the Atlantic web site? I just made it up. It should be easy to put to rest.

    Do you disagree with that?

    Your analogy doesn’t quite work because verifying child abuse is much more difficult to do than verifying the birth of a child, and the seriousness of the “crimes” are not even close to being in the same league. But if I was just nominated to run for VP, and one of the reasons I was selected had to with my work on behalf of children, and there was some irregularities related to a trip I took with some kids, then I do think it would be legitimate to ask questions about it.

    Seriously — is there a defense for investigating unfounded, unseemly, and — as I demonstrated — clearly made up rumours? Let me know what that defense is.

    Some of the actions taken just before the birth were not routine. It is not beyond the pale to ask why, particularly given that this child was made an important part of how the campaign introduced Palin to the country.

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    I wrote:

    I’d don’t know how far off-topic you want to keep this comment thread, so I’ll follow your lead.

    Stupid typos! I guess that is telling me I should not be posting this late at night.

  • saint

    Sullivan has been writing hit pieces on Palin as fast as his greasy fingers can type them from the moment of her nomination. And given the shoddy standards of his own blog (I note he accepts no comments and he is very very very selective on track backs) I wonder why any journalist would be using him as a source for anything.

    But then you are not dealing with journalism here. Much as I smiled at your gentle chiding Mollie, this is pure advocacy masking itself as journalism. We have some partisan reporters here, but the American MSM takes some beating in the English-speaking world in my view. Especially during your interminable election campaigns. And even us on the other side of the globe note that most of the lies and smears about Palin have been coming from the infamous liberal to loony left side of the equation (where or where is the principled left I ask?)

    What Sullivan and those who suck off him, or suck off the internet forget (or perhaps, more correctly, ‘count on’), is that they are not the only ones in cyberspace. A lot of us now read our news online, but we do so because we can read from more than one source. People soon learn who is reliable and who just writes a load of crock (I think that is the best thing blogs do for the MSM…the filtering, sorting, fact-checking, exposing) Better still, online, one has the ability to go back and find sources (e.g. videos/transcripts of speeches), past reports of past events etc. etc. in a way you can’t do when reading a newspaper which also helps in filtering the loons from the luminaries.

    Before I even came across Sullivan mocking the girl’s names (and how stupid and low can that man go, one can only surmise as I am sure he has yet to publical display the pits in which he lives), I had read the People piece about their names (hey, here are photos from behind the People photo shoot a post or two back here), knew that Palin voted against that bill on legal advice that the bill was unconstitutional, and that she had tried marijuana and it was legal…yada yada.

    So the purpose of such tripe is what? To inform? Seek truth? Entertain? No, to undermine, distort, destroy.

    There are a pile of people who believe anything they read on the internet plus the new media environment places more pressure on traditional journos to gets stories out fast. And it’s these sorts of people who are useful if you are wanting to spread memes to damage an opponent.

  • Steven in Falls Church

    About Palin’s daughter, Sullivan’s “caveat” quoted above still says there are “good faith questions” due to the “wierdness of the chronology.” However, nothing can be asked by a respected journalist “in good faith” when the question is answered by a few clicks on Google. Nothing like photographic evidence to debunk rumors. So two things can be definitively proven here, (a) the baby is the mother’s, not the daughter’s, and (b) Sullivan, as Mollie points out, is deranged.

  • Martha

    Chip, come on. If I got an e-mail from Some Bloke telling me “Mary McAleese named her children after Norse pagan gods!”, my first inclination would be to go “Right… and you know this how?”

    Secondly – so the child is her daughters, not hers. Well, of course. Setting aside the fact that Down’s Syndrome is a greater risk for older mothers (and so if we’re comparing a 43 year old woman and a – what? twenty year old? – for pregnancy risk, the older woman would be more likely), then let’s all rely on the obstetrical experience of flight attendants!

    After all, if she “didn’t look pregnant”, well, what more proof do you need?

    Not all pregnant women, even late in pregnancy, ‘look pregnant’ – I know one woman who is small and slight in build, and I was shocked to find out she was six months’ pregnant because, yep, she didn’t look it.

    If Andrew Sullivan is going to discuss rumours, then I’d be a heck of a lot more interested in the accusations of unfair use of her position to get her brother-in-law sacked, rather than frankly extravagant smear campaigns about her daughter was secretly pregnant, had a disabled baby, and she pretended it was hers – why, exactly? To spare her daughter shame and embarrassment? And why would her daughter be supposed to feel that?

    This reminds me of nothing so much as the outrageous vilification Chelsea Clinton endured when her father was elected President, and suddenly every newspaper and tv comedian started mocking a young girl for being too ugly to be the President’s daughter.

  • http://www.millennialstar.org Ivan Wolfe

    This is rather off-topic and makes no difference to me in assessing Palin’s fitness for national office

    Then there’s no reason to discuss it, since it’s clear you let Andrew Sullivan do all your thinking for you.

    However -

    A real answer would require 5 – 10 pages on the history of marijuana use in Alaska. But in simplified form, yes it was a violation of federal law, but the federal government, before 1992, made it an open secret that they weren’t going to enforce that law in Alaska. Marijuana use was widespread, legal for personal use (could not sell or distribute, but could have 4 oz. at any given time), and overlooked by the feds (they only cared if you had a widespread distributing operation).

    I’m hardly a fan of smoking marijuana, but having grown up in Alaska, marijuana use was considered socially acceptable (although not in all circles, and a majority of Alaskans did not smoke it) and as it was legal under state law and the feds basically treated it as a decriminalized substance in Alaska.

    Things changed a bit in 1992, and then it’s legal status in Alaska has gone back and forth, and the feds have alternatively ignored and enforced their laws.

    But this is off topic. Those who are interested can google Marijuana and Alaska and find a more complete and more accurate picture than my simplified version here.

  • http://www.millennialstar.org Ivan Wolfe

    Here is probably the best response to Andrew Sullivan’s attempt the smear Palin’s daughter.

  • Rathje

    Come on! Even downloading MP3s is a “violation of federal law.” Ten miles over the speed limit is a violation of state law. Half of America lives in violation of the law.”

    I honestly don’t care if she used marijuana or not.

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    And given the shoddy standards of his own blog (I note he accepts no comments and he is very very very selective on track backs) I wonder why any journalist would be using him as a source for anything.

    But then you are not dealing with journalism here.

    Yes, as I mentioned above, there are different kinds of blogs that try to accomplish different things. The Atlantic also hosts Marc Ambinder‘s blog, which pretty clearly is about reporting. Ambinder plays by the rules of any newspaper reporter. If he passes along rumors, and he always labels them as rumors or talking points, they are the rumors he is being fed by campaign operatives and are reported to give his readers a sense of what the campaigns are trying to accomplish.
    Sullivan’s blog has always been him thinking out loud, showing his readers to see how he considers an idea, and often rejects it after mulling it over. It is very interesting to see someone share what it usually a hidden process. I don’t see any reason to hold his blog and Ambinder’s blog to the same standard. The only thing they have in common is the platform, but we don’t have any problem holding a reported piece to a different standard than an op-ed. If you think that every single idea a person has must burst forth fully formed, then you probably should not be reading Sullivan’s blog. But don’t criticize it for not doing something it is not trying to do.

    This actually strikes me as a situation not unlike Mickey Kaus flogging the John Edwards affair story for months, long before that story moved out of the realm of unfounded and unseemly. You have a journalist whose blog is hosted by a magazine trying to do something very different from a reporter. His focus was on why the media was not trying to get to the bottom of the story. I don’t know if you where aware of Kaus’ long campaign about the Edwards story, Mollie, but wonder if you had similar reservations about his questions.

    Secondly – so the child is her daughters, not hers. Well, of course. Setting aside the fact that Down’s Syndrome is a greater risk for older mothers (and so if we’re comparing a 43 year old woman and a – what? twenty year old? – for pregnancy risk, the older woman would be more likely), then let’s all rely on the obstetrical experience of flight attendants!

    After all, if she “didn’t look pregnant”, well, what more proof do you need?

    That is not what was weird about the lead up to to giving birth. And the things that were out of the norm in that lead up could be cleared up very easily, without a major investigation.

    If Andrew Sullivan is going to discuss rumours, then I’d be a heck of a lot more interested in the accusations of unfair use of her position to get her brother-in-law sacked, rather than frankly extravagant smear campaigns about her daughter was secretly pregnant, had a disabled baby, and she pretended it was hers – why, exactly? To spare her daughter shame and embarrassment? And why would her daughter be supposed to feel that?

    I completely agree with this. That’s why saying questions about this are an “extravagant smear campaign” seem, well, extreme. Or excitable, to use one of Sullivan’s critics’ favorite words. Rather than similarities to Chelsea Clinton, it is more like the “Obama is a Muslim” meme. Is it wrong to be a Muslim? Is it wrong to raise your grandson?

    I think this whole comment thread is a good example of when GetReligion goes off track and delves in areas other than media coverage of religion, it ends up delivering commentary that is partisan in nature.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Well, in the Edwards campaign, there was a woman who had told people she was having sex with Edwards. And she was pregnant.

    On the other hand, you had a politician and his wife lying, lying, lying through their teeth about whether an affair had gone on.

    I think it makes it difficult to discuss in the mainstream media.

    However, I do think that there were hints that maybe it was a story with legs, a story to pursue. (For instance, when a married father of three claimed that he was the father of the child but didn’t leave his wife and had dinner with his wife and his supposed lover at his house, etc.) And while I can understand reticence at some stages, by the time Edwards was visiting his lover and their child in a hotel in the early AM, I think the media should have gone ahead and covered it.

    And I believe THAT is when Kaus started flogging it.

    But, Chip, I agree that this is like the Obama is Muslim meme. Hopefully the mainstream media will denounce the disgusting work of Sullivan and others as much as they have that meme . . .

    Also, I wondered why my Sully trackback didn’t work. How amazing — to accept trackbacks but delete the ones you don’t agree with. How childish.

  • saint

    I think this just about says all that needs to be said about Sullivan and his brand of journalism shyte.

    Oh and as for Troopergate, Chip. Yeah, if you haven’t worked out that the guy wasn’t sacked fast enough then you obviously don’t read the news.

  • Dale

    Dave2:

    First, I don’t think even Wolfe’s article knows what it is about.

    I’d go further and say Wolfe doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Evangelicals (and Southern Baptists) are indeed diverse–beyond that observation, his article is filled with the sacred tropes of academic discussion of evangelicals, clearly written by someone who doesn’t know that of which he speaks.

    As for “I know this may he bard for you to fathom”, you need to just settle down.

    Considering your division of Republicans as:

    power-worshiping imperialists and gun-hoarding survivalists. Both sides tend to be Christian pro-lifers

    the sarcastic edge to my response was justified. Perhaps I should have suggested that Democrats are either “pretentious, dissolute pseudo-intellectuals” or “corrupt, sponging union types”, and that both tend to be non-Christian and pro-choice; but in addition to the fact that I don’t believe it, such a characterization unnecessarily insults other Democrats. My response was more focused. If you have a thin skin, don’t lob verbal brickbats.

    And I don’t think it was the “hick South” stereotype he was pushing so much as the “censorious South” stereotype.

    He offers us H.L. Mencken’s portrait as an example, which blends both stereotypes. Mencken’s criticism of “fundamentalist” moral values was powerful largely because it depended on the snobbishness of his urban readers. Wolfe and his readers follow in Mencken’s footsteps.

  • Jerry

    Having just spent last week at the DNC, everybody I spoke to there — including official Obama and DNC folks — said they loved GetReligion and our work on clarifying the legitimate issues with that and other topics.

    It’s a bit off topic, but this past weekened I found the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly show a great review of religion at the Democratic Convention. There was so much going on there that never came to the light of day and I’m glad that at least that one show covered it. Now back to the Palin discussion.

  • saint

    Ah and Mollie, yes, no comments, and only approved trackbacks on Sullivan’s site. In polite circles, it’s called ‘mall man syndrome’.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Well, Chip, Sully and Kossacks, here is the proof you demanded.

    The Times piece linked above deals with the smears and attacks.

    So how does Sully deal with this in his classy way? He says, and I kid you not, “Bristol *is* pregnant!

    Of course Sully wasn’t saying Bristol is pregnant. He was saying she was last year and that the VP had engaged in a cover up and had lied about her pregnancy.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jerry,

    I’ll be posting about the PBS piece shortly!

  • Dale

    Mollie:

    You’ve overlooked the egregious comment that Sullivan made in the linked page:

    all we need is confirmation from the obstetrician who delivered Sarah’s baby, Trig.

    So he’s still flogging that dead horse. [portion of post removed -- ed.]

  • Dale

    Mollie wrote:

    [portion of post removed — ed.]

    Mea culpa.

  • Dave

    The whole assetion about Palin’s daughter being named after witches is outrageous. It’s like saying that people with children named David and John named their kids after Jews. Any name can be a witch’s name; I know someone with an initiation in Wicca whose craft name begins with “Baruch.”

  • Rick

    Piper is the name of a witch in the TV series Charmed. So that completes the theme for you. Have a nice day.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    What is a “punitive” party platform? Is promising to “raise taxes on the rich”, for instance, “punitive”?

    And, Chip, “flack” is, e.g., James Carville. “Flak” is what you fire at airplanes, and metaphorically, people. Yes, that is a “spelling flame”, but it is one of the barbarisms I am getting tired of.

  • http://www.chipsmith.blogspot.com/ Chip

    …And while I can understand reticence at some stages, by the time Edwards was visiting his lover and their child in a hotel in the early AM, I think the media should have gone ahead and covered it.

    And I believe THAT is when Kaus started flogging it.

    No, he was on it long before that. I don’t know exactly when he started, but I know he was talking about it as early as October of 2007.

    Well, Chip, Sully and Kossacks, here is the proof you demanded.

    Wow, that’s another weird turn in this story. Of course, this was released after Sullivan had already concluded that this picture “put the kibbosh on this.”

    Of course Sully wasn’t saying Bristol is pregnant. He was saying she was last year and that the VP had engaged in a cover up and had lied about her pregnancy.

    Come on, Mollie. That’s not at all what Sullivan said. As I have linked to more than once, Sullivan does not believe that Palin, the VP nominee, engaged in a cover-up. The critics of Sullivan have a tendency to go off the deep end just as much as they claim Sullivan has. That alone makes him an interesting writer.

    I think it is interesting that nobody has any comments about the various types of blogs and what our expectations of them ought to be. After all, this is a media criticism blog. If we are going to go off on tangents, that one would not be as far off-topic as what we’ve been talking about.

    And, Chip, “flack” is, e.g., James Carville. “Flak” is what you fire at airplanes, and metaphorically, people. Yes, that is a “spelling flame”, but it is one of the barbarisms I am getting tired of.

    As others have noted, even the Pentagon uses both spellings of the word. What might have started out as a typo has become a standard variation.

  • Dale

    Chip:

    Sullivan was repeating scurrilous rumors and then demanding proof that they weren’t true. Way back in the conversation you stated that child abuse is “more difficult to prove”. Not so. As someone who has worked in the field, I know that social workers often demand access to the child’s medical records for proof of child abuse. But a social worker would never, ever do that on the basis of a layperson’s opinion of photographs and a whacked-out theory by people with a political axe to grind. Individual medical records are protected under HIPAA, and there’s hell to pay if you violate that privacy without reasonable cause.

    Why should Sullivan and his fellow gossips be able to override Ms. Palin’s privacy rights under federal law? His suggestion that she should provide a statement from her obstetrician is obnoxious, an unprincipled attempt to convince ignorant people that she has any obligation to do so. This is a gross example of demagoguery.

  • Diane W.

    Another video has surfaced about Sarah Palin and her ties to witchcraft.
    a must see!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzoA2QlUSto


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