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The Candidate's Daughter Could Use Our Sympathy and a Lot More Privacy

Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, holds her baby brother and wishes, perhaps, that she was somewhere other than in the middle of her mom's run for vice president.
Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, holds her baby brother and wishes, perhaps, that she was somewhere other than in the middle of her mom's run for vice president. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In several photographs taken of Bristol Palin at recent campaign rallies, the 17-year-old girl appears uninterested. Even though her mother, Sarah Palin, is the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee, she does not look overjoyed. Maybe politics isn't her thing.

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Or maybe the expression on her face is really a thousand-yard stare, a sign of shock because she's pregnant and she knows that it's just a matter of time before a cruel world finds out.

Who knows what it means, really, but anybody who's ever been on the verge of becoming a teenage parent can probably identify with Bristol and understand the fear that comes with keeping such a secret, or the hurt of being judged when the secret is revealed.

No doubt she can hardly imagine joy in her near future during these trying times.

A youngster in such a predicament could certainly use a little sympathy. But aside from her family and closest friends, that's not what Bristol has been getting.

Since her family announced Monday that she is pregnant, the girl has become political pawn: Some bloggers suggest that Palin did not properly educate her daughter about sex; others say Palin is right to make Bristol and her boyfriend have a "shotgun" wedding before the baby is born.

Media snooping into the most intimate details of Bristol's life, including the size of her growing stomach, has intensified under the guise of serving the public's right to know. And a public that carps about government spying on private lives has shown little or no distress at having the privacy of a teenage girl invaded, so long as it serves our prurient interest.

Why all of this? Apparently because Sarah Palin has referred to herself as a "hockey mom" on the campaign trail, according to one media person.

"Once she brought her children in as selling points, unfortunately the bad comes in with the good," Lisa Bloom, a Court TV anchor, told The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz. "She's integrating her mom quality as a key part of her résumé. We didn't do that in the press; she did that."

Consideration for Bristol -- common decency for that matter -- gets tossed. Oddly enough, boys never get treated this way. When 17 girls got pregnant in the same month in Gloucester, Mass., this year, an investigation was launched into whether they had been involved in a sinister "pregnancy pact." Virtually nothing was said about whether the boys involved had signed a pact.

Of course, it's not the guy's fault anyway, right? Just yesterday, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm announced the discovery of a gene that makes men less likely to be monogamous. In other words, if your husband or boyfriend cheats on you, blame the gene.

(All we really know about Bristol's boyfriend is that he has a MySpace page that makes him look like a jerk, which is not unusual for a teenage boy. That said, he has agreed to marry Bristol.)

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