So by now you know John McCain picked some pretty lady from Alaska as his running mate. Crafty! But you have never heard of her before. No one really has.* Sure, she was profiled in Vogue a few months back, but you don't get Vogue for the articles, and the reason for that is that the Vogue profile totally missed one of the most interesting things about Sarah Palin, which is that she found out her fifth baby had Down syndrome through prenatal testing and she went ahead and had him anyway. Do you know how many people do that? Ten percent of people do that. Do you respect that ten percent? I do.** It obviously doesn't change my vote, but I respect it, in the same way I respect John McCain for gritting his teeth and not admitting to his homo Vietnamese captors that yes the war had been a stupid idea, a notion which surely, at some point during those food and light and medical treatment-deprived five and a half years in Hanoi, had to have crossed his mind.*** Abortion had to have crossed Sarah Palin's mind.Now sure, Alaska is a small place, and it might be hard for an avowedly pro-life governor elected in an upset based on a platform that can essentially be summarized as "I Am The Only Republican Who Is Not A Corrupt Hypocrite Of Mindbending Proportions" to slip into Planned Parenthood without someone hearing about it. But, you know, not so hard, I dunno. The way it works now you can find this shit out in the first trimester****, and in the first trimester you can still induce a miscarriage with a few pills prescribable by pretty much any doctor. I mean, who knows, maybe in Alaska the doctor don't work that way. But ninety percent; that is a big majority to buck. And the ten percent who choose "life" in such a case contains many pro-choicers, people like Sarah Palin with husbands and families and secure jobs and decent schools who just think, in her words, "Well, why not us?" And, "I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?" It's an interesting line, that actually very much echoes some old John McCain's sentiments on abortion itself. In a perfect world, he and many "pro-lifers" have often argued, Roe V. Wade wouldn't be necessary. But America is very very far from perfect. The whole point of Obama's speech last night is that John McCain doesn't get that. Does Sarah Palin? Of any other former beauty queen and "hockey mom" born and raised in the country's whitest, least populous state whose idea of "culture" is Ivana Trump and whose foreign policy essentially amounts to "My ancestors didn't pay Russia $7.2 million not to drill oil here," I would say no fucking way. In fact, I would probably still say no fucking way, but here she is, she signed up for this, and now we have ourselves a candidate who will have to go on TV and say, "Yes, I made a choice, and it is still a choice in this country, to give birth to a son who by definition will never be able to pull himself up by those bootstraps Barack Obama was talking about last night. And I recognize that that it is a deeply unpopular choice to make in this country, and that the very deep unpopularity of that choice in the face of all those poll numbers showing us that 59% of Americans believe life begins at conception, rather neatly encapsulates the gulf between the America that my party would like to pretend exists and the one that actually does."***** Well no, probably no one will make her say that, but they should try, because you get the distinct sense watching Ms. Palin, a self-professed feminist, that at 44 years old her views are still malleable, that her ideology is trumped by a momlike dedication to common sense, the sort of momlike common sense that strikes you as the antithesis of whatever the fuck has been motivating Dick Cheney all these years, and that it may be common sense to oppose abortion when you're moving up the political ladder in a tiny state dominated by dudes who barely get laid anyway. But this is national now. What worries me about Sarah Palin is that Sarah Palins of this country, the non-ideological non-dogmatic no-nonsense swing-voting suburban soccer mom demo — have up until now had every reason to vote for Barack Obama. They still do, of course. The key now will be getting Palin to say so herself somehow.
*Fox News has been calling her "Susan" Palan; and unless this is another one of their subliminal tricks — SUSAN; as in "B. Anthony," angry feminists! — that shows you exactly how known this lady is. ** Do Linda Hirshman and Geraldine Ferraro and the PUMAs respect that ten percent? It will be interesting to find out. It may even restore "interesting" to this campaign. ***It has been pointed out to me that this is unfair. Okay, okay, it is true that what the North Vietnamese basically wanted was for POWs to commit treason and sell out their fellow soldiers. The point, however, was that it if you know anything about what he went through it is inconceivable to think of John McCain, for all his gaffe-ing and flip-flopping and being a Republican and shit, as a guy who 1. is not a guy of unusual conviction and 2. has never been forced to confront the opposing view, or reconsider ideas and policies and principles he had theretofore blindly accepted. So he came away with the conviction that there was something ideologically superior about "Us", and the way we operate — fine, he lived it, ergo, he opposes torture now — but not without entertaining the possibility that maybe there wasn't, or that in any case maybe it wasn't worth trying to prove, because all humans are shitheads and life meaningless etc. Which is to say, it is easy to disagree with him, even to pass off many of his views to the intensity of his personal experiences, but it is harder to accuse him of intellectual laziness, insincerity or hypocrisy, which is sort of annoying, given the redolence of those three traits within the party he represents. ****I do not know what month of pregnancy Palin learned about her child Trig's extra chromosome, I can only say that I have observed that women who get pregnant in their forties tend to get more rigorously tested for things and that according to a story in the New York Times last year, "Now, with a first-trimester sonogram and two blood tests, doctors can gauge whether a fetus has the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome with a high degree of accuracy and without endangering the pregnancy." ***** Indeed, there are many many people, a silent plurality I would even venture, who believe abortion is technically a kind of murder, but that it should stay legal anyway. It is well within the rights of those people to respect and admire someone like Sarah Palin without expecting America to sign up for that, the same way you might respect and admire Michelle Obama's biceps without expecting America to show up at the gym at four in the morning, but more to the point, the VERY same way Michelle talks about how she was so struck by her future husband's decision to sign on to a life of public service when they had all those goddamned student loans. And yet Republicans always manage to make the Obamas sound snooty and contemptuous when they let it slip that, yes, they made some SACRIFICES to get here, as if public service is something to which it is just rational human nature to want to aspire, which is actually the precise OPPOSITE of what Republicans are supposed to believe, which is what makes everything about them so intellectually indefensible.Prenatal Tests Put Down Syndrome In Hard Focus [NYT] Alaska Governor Balances Newborn's Needs, Official Duties [USA Today] 59 percent of Americans believe human life begins at conception [Zogby]