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A Blogger, a Baby, a Cry of Concern

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Bloom says the Republican governor has been less than candid about what "had to be a disturbing family situation," but quickly adds that judging public figures by their children is tricky business. "All of us who are parents kind of cringe, if this makes her a less suitable candidate because the kid screwed up."

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Some conservative bloggers were dismissive of the way the rumors spread. On Townhall.com, Amanda Carpenter wrote that the Daily Kos contributor was "disgustingly inspecting Bristol's midriff with all the fervor of L.A. paparazzi examining J-Lo's or Jennifer Aniston's washboard stomachs for evidence of a 'bump.' "

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who writes the conservative blog Instapundit, refused to link to the Kos posting. "I certainly wouldn't have gone with this," Reynolds says. "It just seemed so ridiculous. I don't see how this story adds up to a vindication of the Kos diarist."

But blogger Andrew Sullivan, a right-leaning former New Republic editor who supports Barack Obama, pushed the story about the baby, who was born with Down syndrome. Citing unresolved questions and the campaign's refusal to release the medical records involved, he writes: "The circumstantial evidence for weirdness around this pregnancy is so great that legitimate questions arise -- questions anyone with common sense would ask. . . . After all, this baby was a centerpiece of the public case for Palin made by the Republicans."

Karl Rove, the former Bush White House adviser, says the McCain camp had planned to publicize Bristol Palin's pregnancy all along. "They have to. . . . By election day she'll be seven months pregnant," Rove says. With Hurricane Gustav dominating the news, he adds, Monday "was a reasonably good day to do it."

The controversy erupted as a debate was taking shape over whether some media criticism of Palin's limited government experience has been sexist. Liberal radio host Ed Schultz was telling listeners Monday that Palin was an "empty pantsuit" who had set off a "bimbo alert." Shortly afterward, the pregnancy statement was released and, without missing a beat, Schultz said her daughter's situation was relevant because the governor is a champion of moral values.

But a liberal reader posting on Salon under the name Redstocking Grandma denounced the pregnancy allegations: "This is just creepy; it feels stalkerish." What some Democratic supporters were doing, she said, is "revolting."

While the Web can serve as an incubator for unsubstantiated charges, it also tends to be self-correcting. Another Daily Kos contributor late Sunday unearthed a photo from earlier this year in which the governor looks quite pregnant.

Moulitsas says he doesn't know who the anonymous ArcXIX is -- his contributors decide whether to identify themselves -- but that his site also disclosed that Palin was once a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, which has pushed for a vote on seceding from the United States. That was confirmed Monday by ABC News.

"Our people are doing the vetting. Even if some of it is hitting dead ends, other ones are striking direct hits," Moulitsas says. His role, he adds, "is to sit back and let the citizen journalists do their job, and I amplify the stuff that shakes out."


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