Sarah Palin: Good Mother? Bad Mother?



Is Sarah Palin a good mother? When you put it as a direct question, her supporters are quick to cry, Sexiste! We don’t put Joe Biden’s performance as a father under the microscope, they say, so why should Palin be subject to scrutiny just because she’s a woman? But the reason the motherhood questions keep resurfacing is not that Palin’s a woman. It’s that she’s a strident family-values politician, and observers can’t help but wonder whether she’s exploiting her own family’s deeply private matters to lend her campaign even more family-values credibility. Why else did Levi Johnston, the 18-year-old hockey-loving father of her pregnant 17-year-old daughter’s baby, suddenly find himself front-and-center at the Republican National Convention?

Weighing in on the Levi Johnston matter this week, even Bonnie Fuller, the inventor of the modern celebrity tabloid, was shocked by Palin’s poor taste. In an online face-off against political commentator Dick Morris for Page Six magazine (yes, that Page Six), Fuller scolds the Alaska governor for thrusting her daughter, Bristol, and baby daddy Johnston into the spotlight. Fuller writes:

“Becoming a teen parent is traumatic enough without having millions debate your effect on the McCain-Palin ‘family values’ platform. Normally, Levi and Bristol would be able to privately decide how best to deal with their circumstances. By thrusting them onto the national stage, Sarah Palin robbed them of that option.” 

Morris, looking at it through a decidedly more strategic lens, thinks it was shrewd as hell of the McCain-Palin camp to feature Johnston:

“Levi is about to become a member of Sarah Palin’s family. It also sends a signal to all teens who get pregnant out of wedlock that they should marry and that the man should assume responsibility.”

As Barack Obama told the press when asked about the matter, “people’s families are off limits.” And yet there is no doubt that Palin’s decision to include Levi in the GOP festivities was a carefully considered one. She wanted the public to know that her daughter and Johnston were “doing the right thing.” And in this way, her daughter has become an iconic part of her platform. As have all of her children, featured prominently in magazines in the weeks since.

There are key parallels between Palin the Mother and Palin the Politician—in both roles, she’s seen either as a tough broad with strong American values, or a narcissistic bully. In this way, her performance as a mother has become inextricably intertwined with her feasibility as a candidate. 

And so the mother questions continue: 

Is she a good mother for publicly supporting her daughter and encouraging her to take responsibility, or a bad mother for prioritizing campaign optics over Bristol and Levi’s privacy? Is she a good mother for encouraging her daughter to marry the father of her child, or a bad mother for depriving her of options? Would a good mother take a job, even a really great job, even if it mean, as the Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente put it in a recent column, “sacrificing the privacy of her 17-year-old daughter to the global media machine”?

What do people make of the whole thing?










Sarah Palin: Good Mother? Bad Mother?

  1. “Levi is about to become a member of Sarah Palin’s family. It also sends a signal to all teens who get pregnant out of wedlock that they should marry and that the man should assume responsibility.”

    Is this a question as to whether the father should have responsibility and have their life altered? I’m grateful for the message that a young boy is to stand by a young lady and become a man in the process. This will give the young couple an opportunity to grow together and take care of the child. This effects everyone! Do not be ignorant to the cause and effect of this. There should not be intimacy if there is no intention of facing the consequences. Respect needs to come into play.

  2. “But the reason the motherhood questions keep resurfacing is not that Palin’s a woman. It’s that she’s a strident family-values politician”

    Obama and the Dems get a significant percentage of their cash from teacher unions and Obama is making public education a major part of his campaign. But I have yet to see an article that discusses the fact that his daughters go to a private school or looked into their grades to see if they have gone down since they haven’t seen their dad in 18 months.

    According to you, they should be fair game because Obama and his family have appeared in print and tv interviews at least 4 times this year and he paraded them around the stage after his Denver speech.

    “Margaret Wente put it in a recent column, “sacrificing the privacy of her 17-year-old daughter to the global media machine”?

    Maybe Palin expected to be treated like the other candidates, all of whose children are off limits, and wasn’t expecting the msm to behave like the raving misogynists they have revealed themselves to be.

    Peggy is a great example. Does Wente ever write articles about what bad mothers women are who go to work? No she doesn’t. Women and work/home balance only became an issue for the ‘feminists’ when a woman not exactly like them has a chance at the White House.

    And how do you know that it wasn’t Bristol’s idea to have Levi at the convention. Are you privy to their private conservations?

    The only way to know if she’s a good mother is to see how her children behave in their adult years.

  3. Children are off limits folks. Just ask John McCain… and why he thinks Chelsea Clinton is so ugly.

  4. I can’t say if Sara Palin in a good mother or a bad mother but I do know it is impossible to be a good Vice President and a good mother at the same time. They are both demanding and time consuming jobs, and it is impossible to do both well. If she becomes VP, one will suffer. Call me old fashioned, but I would never have put my daughter out there like that, nor would I think I can be VP with a special needs baby.

    What really bothers me though, and I haven’t heard anybody else complain about it is her education. She has a four year degree in Journalism??? No business, no accounting, no economics, no law. She will be unable to interpret the current financial situation, let alone make decisions regarding the crisis we are in, and John McCain is old, and possible senile after the choice of Sara.

    The main difference between the right and the left as evidenced by Sara Palin is the right pretends to be more moral and righteous, and the left is just more honest and tolerant.

  5. What an attractive family!

    Barack Obama’s comment that Palin’s family should be off-limits is the correct one. Unfortunately his supporters and his media cheerleaders won’t leave them alone though.

    Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic has outdone himself for outrageousness in this regard. It’s like the beggeting of children is a strange, foreign and mysterious event to him.

    But “she’s a strident family-values politician”, after all what business does she having allowing a downs syndrome child see the light of day. She obviously deserves this full-blown media scrutiny for bucking the modern trend of eugenic abortion. Our enlightened and civil society cannot remain silent in the face of such “strident” behaviour. What an affront!

  6. “And in this way, her daughter has become an iconic part of her platform.”

    Isn’t it iconic? Don’t you think? A little too iconic. Yeah I really do think.

    Gimme a break.

    There’s no excuse for cruel commentary.

  7. @Lianne – an odd start to your column. Joe Biden’s (laudable) performance as a father *is* an integral part of his life history (taking the oath in the hospital, Amtrak home every day etc.) and is very much publicly discussed.

    “It’s like the beggeting (sic) of children is a strange, foreign and mysterious event to him.”

    Gay people can and do have kids Jarrid. Oh I’m sorry, did you want that to stay as subtext?

    @kim – you’re old fashioned. No charge.

  8. The women of America need to be reminded ,what the overwhelming attitude and opinion of woman , by the majority of men in the Republican Party is, which Sarah Palins nomination has hid from veiw.

    It was clearly expressed in public at the GOP Convention in 1992 by Pat Robertson. He declared out loud at the Republican GOP convention

    “Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”

    Straight out of the mouth of Pat Robertson.

    and then the Republican Party expects Sarah Palin to con the women of America into voting for the Republicans.

    Keep dreaming Sarah and GOP.

  9. Sarah Palin is pleased that her daughter made the decision—on her own—to keep the baby. But Sarah Palin doesn’t believe that other girls should be able to make their own decisions. Sarah Palin believes abortion should be illegal in every instance—including rape and incest. So Bristol Palin is being celebrated for making a choice that Sarah Palin would like to take away from all other American women. Apparently, today’s GOP believes that choice is a special right reserved for the wayward daughters of Republican elected officials.

    Another special right: When it comes to respecting *your* family’s privacy, Palin and the GOP see no need. They want to micromanage the most intimate aspects of your private life. And if their own kids fail to live up to the standards that Palin and the GOP seek to impose on your family, well, that’s a private matter between the Palins, their daughter, their God, and the thousands of screaming imbeciles in elephant hats waving McCain/Palin signs on the floor of the Republican National Convention.

  10. Lianne: better questions,

    What is it about Sarah Palin that makes the left totally unhinged?

    Why is it that the media has made Sarah Palin’s qualifications for VP such a major public issue while Barack “I’ve written two books about myself but accomplished little else” Obama’s qualifications for the presidency are taken for granted?

  11. What is it about Sarah Palin that makes the left totally unhinged?

    Typical defamation by trolls like Jarrid.

  12. “She will be unable to interpret the current financial situation, let alone make decisions regarding the crisis we are in, and John McCain is old, and possible senile after the choice of Sara.”

    I don’t think Obama, Biden and McCain are exactly financial gurus who understand the intricacies of the ABCP market or what policies will help prevent a repeat of the credit crisis in the future without placing an undue burden on economic growth. There’s plenty of valid criticisms of Palin to bring up. Her education isn’t really one of them.

  13. “No business, no accounting, no economics, no law.”

    Obama has a law degree, so even he’s only 1 for 4. And Palin has actually run a business, not to mention two levels of government.

  14. Not trying to be troll-y here, I swear, but does anyone know where I can find figures (or even estimates) on the percentage of abortions in the U.S. or Canada that are attributed to rape and/or incest. I can’t help but feel that this is a red herring.

  15. “And Palin has actually run a business, not to mention two levels of government.”

    LMAO, she’s run a business. Don’t forget her extensive European experience – a refueling trip at Shannon airport en route to Kuwait!

  16. Regarding Margaret Wente’s comment about Bristol Palin’s privacy…

    How do we know that Bristol Palin is not okay with this? Maybe she knows all the pitfalls of being in the limelight and is accepting of it?

    Has anyone asked?

    And Sarah Palin wants to “take away the right” to discriminate against unborn children. She believes in real equality.

    Not that fake kind peddled by feminists.

  17. Gentry,

    Hey, She and her husband ran a commercial fishing business. I didn’t say she was Steve Jobs.

  18. Nope but you implied that her experience running a small business somehow qualifies her for the job she’s gunning for.

    The GOP seems intent on erasing all sense of proportion. Yes, being a mayor is great, but for f–k’s sake, its’ not the same being the mayor of Wasilla and the mayor of New York. It’s not the same being governor of Alaska and governor of California. It’s not the same attending North Idaho College and attending Harvard.

    It’s a completely different story whether you think such things matter. Arnold Schwarzenegger has no degrees that I know of, yet he displays a grasp and command of policy that’s simply astonishing. But those are not the arguments the GOP is making, because..well, they can’t be made. If Sarah Palin could display insight that belies her experience, I doubt you’d be hearing very much about it.

  19. Re Joe Bidden: Yes, his sacrifices as a father following the tragic death of his wife are a big part of his personal mythology, and were amply milked at the Democratic convention where he was introduced by his son. The difference is the there was–and is–no discussion about his being a “neglectful” or “bad” father for choosing a demanding political career that took him away from his young children. Curious, that.

  20. I think the Obama camp started the proportion erasing ball rolling long ago with all the “community organizer” talk, which is a noble pursuit but a very vague job description. That could mean MLK Jr. or it could mean the head of the PTA.

    Is Palin underqualified? Probably.
    Is Obama underqualified? Probably.
    Who’s more unqualified? Depends who you ask.

    But the kicker is Palin’s not running for President.

    Voting Democrat means 100% chance of an inexperienced person in the Oval Office.
    Voting Republican means only a 25% (or whatever the actuary tables say) chance of an inexperienced person as president.

  21. The 25% is just an estimate of the odds McCain will die within the next 4 years, but the percentage drops further if Palin is a quick study and puts her time as VP to good use. Maybe McCain only has to make it 2-3 years?

  22. Actually, voting Republican means a 100% chance of a senile person as president, which, on balance, seems much worse than an inexperienced president.

  23. Senile? Because he bet on a dark horse for VP? Or are you going to produce a list of McCain’s on-the-stump flubs, that all politician make (57 States, Mr. Orbama?), as evidence.

    “A brilliant idea looks exactly like a stupid idea right up until it works” – Scott Adams

  24. You mean am I concerned that he bet on someone to be VP who failed out of a bunch of colleges before completing a journalism degree at Idaho? Yeah, kinda.

    Do I think McCain is in the early stages of dementia? Yeah , kinda. He’s never been the brightest bulb to begin with, but his age is making it kind of worse.

  25. There’s a big difference between failing out and transferring between schools. Wiki says she started college in 1982 and got her degree in 1987. Doesn’t leave much room for repeating years.

    Whether she transferred around out of financial concerns, homesickness, indecisiveness, or because she didn’t like the programs, I don’t know.

  26. I’ve heard lots of people put down McCain as hot-headed, dishonest, or even sexist, but never as unintelligent.

    And I’d still like to see some evidence of his senility.

  27. Nope, she failed, then made up at community colleges. I mean come on – are you really going to defend the educational background of someone who went to 1) Hawaii Pacific College, 2) North Idaho COllege, 3)Matanuska-Susitna College and 4) the University of Idaho, twice.

    Better to say, I don’t think her college education matters, then to pretend like it’s relevant, or like it’s on par with a Harvard Law degree.

  28. Wiki says tranferred, but that’s all I have for Palin’s bio and I know it’s rarely the last word in these things.

    Regardless, I’ve debated governor vs. US senator, mayor vs state senator, and city council vs community organizer, but I’ll easily concede that Obama wins the battle of the diplomas.

  29. I feel safer with the Ivy League law degree, and I still stand by my previous comments even if I am old fashioned. Not only does that baby need alot of care, that daughter is gonna need alot of help, and I don’t think is coming from Levi!!!

    If 50% of Americans are comfortable with someone who says he doesn’t understand economics and chooses someone like Sara as VP and quite frankly cannot relate to average families, then the real problem in this country is the intelligence of at least half of the population.

    Does anybody realize the significance of what is going on with the investment banks, insurance companies, etc.???

    No time to worry about abortions and guns!!! Wake up, this is serious!!!

  30. Gentry

    I would take someone who put herself through college over someone who went to elite schools due solely to affirmative action.


    Do you think Obama and Biden have a special insights into the banking crisis due to their taking hundreds of thousands of $$$ from Fannie/ Freddie lobbyists? Or is it something else.

  31. You are missing my point, I am not saying Obama or Biden would have been my first choice. My point is Obama and Biden are more knowledgable about the current financial situation because Sara Palin really does lack the educational background and foreign policy background to be President, should John McCain die.

    John McCain is the one who said he did not understand economics, and he can’t relate to ordinary people. I’m not faulting him for his financial luck, I’m just saying basically hes clueless in that area.

    I used to really repect John McCain, but he has taken his values and misplaced them for this campaign. I think he picked Sara because he was behind, and he knew women were angry over Hillary and he played the trump card. He took advantage of stupid people.

    P.S. The reason I can’t compare the Joe Biden situation with the Sara Palin situation is because he had no choice based on circumstances. Children can understand that, Sara’ children will only understand that she had a choice. I’m not saying women shouldn’t have careers and families, but some jobs are just to demanding with so many children.

  32. Kim

    Have you seen Obama/Biden statements today about AIG? They don’t say if they are for/against the bailout and they don’t even know what the letters AIG stand for, so how that inspires confidence I don’t know.

    And Biden is blaming tax cuts for the rich for the AIG mess though this financial crisis started because mortgage companies were giving loans to people who couldn’t afford them. It is an incoherent argument that Biden is making.

    McCain/Palin are the only ones talking sense today. And I think McCain admitting he doesn’t know economics very well is honest, at least. Obama is a marxist so I am guessing he has some quite unique ideas about how the economy works.

  33. Would Palin really be busier as VP than as Governor? And if she won, I assume the family would be moving to DC, which means husband Todd becomes a stay-at-home dad (not many oil rigs or commercial fishing boats around). And I would guess that in DC she would have access to better programs for special needs kids than in Wasilla.

    I’d call a McCain/Palin win a net plus for the Palin kids.

  34. Steve

    Do you have any children?

  35. Did McCain actually say he didn’t understand economics? I know he said something like it wasn’t his strong suit (that would be foreign policy), but that’s not the same thing as saying he doesn’t understand it.

    I mean, I’m better at football than baseball. That doesn’t mean I suck at baseball.

  36. Kim,

    Not yet. But when I do, I hope our financial circumstances are such that either their mother or I can stay home for at least the first few years.

  37. Steve,

    I heard it. He said I don’t understand economic principles, but I’m gonna study it.

    By the way, I tried to be a Consultant when my kids were little. Too tired at the end of the day to give them what they needed. It didn’t matter what they got from dad, they needed it from both. Switch to part-time HR Manager. Perfect and now that the youngest is 16, I went back to consulting. I never missed a baseball game, a school play, a party at school etc. and my kids are doing great.

  38. “I would take someone who put herself through college over someone who went to elite schools due solely to affirmative action.”

    LMAO – come on, even by your gutter level standards of discourse this is low. Even if Obama did somehow benefit from affirmative action in being admitted to Harvard Law, highly dubious considering he was an A student at Columbia, he certainly had no such help once in the program, and we know that he was selected, after his first year, to the be an editor at the Harvard Law Review, based on grades.

    Of course, the competition at Harvard or Columbia is nothing like the profile of the brainiacs at Matanuska-Susitna College, but hey….who’s countin’?

  39. Sarah Palin is a bad mother! My brother was Down’s. He was so very precious. I know first hand how much those children love their mother. It breaks my heart to see Sarah Palin so entrenched in this campaign and her daughter toting Trig. I also can’t help but wonder what type of mother would not “blink an eye” knowing that her pregnant, 17 year old daughter would be exposed to world wide scrutiny. Does anyone else see the selfishness in this? I DO support and believe in women pursuing their careers, but for a pro-life, hockey mom, her family certainly seems to take a back seat to her career.

  40. Sarah Palin in my eyes is not a good mother. She farms her children out and I believe her kids are
    lacking her attention. She has exploited her family and really her family is very dysfunctional. She exploited her son, she made him out to be a 9-11 hero by enlisting but really
    people in Alaska know that he was looking at jail time because he vandalized school buses. Its obvious that whoever she has looking out for her family, they aren’t even watching them?? Sarah Palin has no family values, family values are doing the right thing. Shes a mess, she is unedu-cated and unqualified to be VP. Maybe a small town in Alaska is where she should be. She needs to go back to Alaska and answer to her abuse of power with Troopergate!! Enough of her phoneyness!!

  41. Sarah Palin has a degree in Journalism? Where
    is her knowledge of foreign affairs, business sense? She is unqualified. She resorts to sarcasm and she can’s talk off the cuff. If she
    doesn’t have note cards, talking points or a teleprompter, she can’t even put together a coherent thought. She makes no sense in her answers. She blames the elite media when she has
    no one to blame but herself. The elite media knows she is not qualified and she looks ridiculous. The only thing Sarah Palin has is ambition, she doesn’t want to be informed and learn things. Shes nothing but a GOP gimmick because they are deperate. Nothing but a side show. Shes being used and doesn’t even see that? Strange woman indeed!

  42. Sarah Palin is a joke!! A wannabe that hasn’t
    bothered to learn about the issues. She needs to go back to Alaska and answer about Troopergate!

  43. How can this woman go out and exploit her family
    like she has? And they are a mess! She should be ashamed and so should the GOP. This woman is shameless and thats dangerous. Airhead!

  44. I am voting for Obama, this woman is scary and full of herself. She is a national joke! Shame
    on the GOP for pushing her nonsense.

  45. It seems a lot of posters got off topic here. I thought the main thrust of the article was to debate the issue of Sarah Palin shamelessly shilling her pregnant daughter to further political gains. It’s old hat in the political game to trot out “the wife and kids” to gain political points but this was beyond the pale(no pun intended, well, kinda). In fact all it did was point out further the hypocritical and anti intellectual underpinnings of the current Republican party. They constantly blather about good old family values and condenm anyone who disagrees with them as godless, homo commies to be banished to the pit of fire. They then constantly get caught in airport washrooms, chase underage pages around capital hill for clandestine affairs, when they are not too busy lining their pockets with bribes from big business. Then we have to look at the antics of Limbaugh(convicted drug felon) bulling Michal J. Fox. Family values man Bill Bennet flushing 8 million away gambling. Nwet Gingrich leaving his first wife(with cancer on her death bed) to run off with a member of the church choir(I kid you not). Then we have Bill O’Rielly settling out of court on a sexual harrasment case when it turned out the intern had it all on tape….Opps. Then we have Ann Coutier…what to say there. The malfeasance of that whole bunch is totally shameless and they trot themselves out as great American role models. It want’s to make me puke! Oh, just on the wire, Palin’s knocked up daughter and the hillbilly she was going to married have called off the wedding. Now that the election is over….why am I not suprised.

  46. Speaking of Chelsea Clinton:

    There is bad news about her father.

    It is opined that Bill Clinton committed racist hate crimes, and I am not free to say anything further about it.

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Y. Wang, J.D. Candidate
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (I can type 90 words per minute, and there are probably thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post. Moreover, there are innumerable copies in very many countries around the world.)
    “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memories so they never got stale and faded.” Off the top of my head—it came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

Sign in to comment.