NYT Questions Palin's "Parenting"; Bumiller Flubs Palin's AIP "Membership"

Reporter Kate Zernike (pictured) in a podcast wonders why Sarah Palin accepted McCain's invitation given that she had a pregnant teen-age daughter, and Elisabeth Bumiller's front-page story falsely claims Palin was once a member of the Alaska Independence Party.

Bristol Palin's pregnancy made the top of the fold of Tuesday's Times in a story by Elisabeth Bumiller, who helpfully summarized all the scandalettes burbling around the Palin pick in "Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process." (The headline in the print edition was more neutral.)

A series of disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain's choice as running mate, called into question on Monday how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket.

On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father.

Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state's public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge.

Bumiller's claim that Palin "was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence party" is dead wrong. The McCain camp went after Bumiller by name, accusing her of having "made up her own story," and for good measure produced Palin's voter registration showing she's been a registered Republican since 1982.

Greg Pollowitz at National Review Online thinks Bumiller's front-page piece, implying Palin was insufficiently vetted by the McCain campaign is "garbage journalism" and noted that some of the Alaska sources Bumiller quoted are some of Palin's political enemies, including Lyda Green, the State Senate president, and Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chairman, who Palin filed a complaint against for misusing public resources.

Reporter Kate Zernike (pictured above) appeared on a related "Back Story" podcast at nytimes.com and was asked by an unidentified male co-host:

Host: "But Kate, is this an act of support? I mean, is everyone going to interpret it that way? If you knew your daughter was pregnant, 17 years old, and someone came to you and said, Hey, you want to be Vice President -"

Zernike: "Yeah, that's exactly the question."

Host: "- would you maybe think, hey, I don't want to do this, I got some issues in my family?"

Zernike: "Yeah. No, I think that's exactly the question. Then it becomes more of a question of parenting and of judgment on her part."

Tuesday's piece by Monica Davey, "Palin's Daughter's Pregnancy Interrupts G.O.P. Convention Script," is instructive as a bias case study. Compare the paper's mild reaction to the venomous rumors that Trig Palin wasn't Sarah Palin's son but her grandson with the Times' harsh judgment on conservatives who suggested Barack Obama was a Muslim, accusing them of spreading "entirely false rumors being widely circulated in small-town America."

The Palins' statement arrived after a flurry of rumors had made their way through the Internet over the weekend, growing and blooming, it seemed, by the minute.

Some claimed that Ms. Palin had not actually given birth to Trig, but that Bristol had, and that the family had covered it up. Various Web sites posted photographs of Ms. Palin in the months leading up to his birth this year, and debated whether her physique might have been too trim for her stage of pregnancy. The McCain campaign said Ms. Palin announced Bristol's pregnancy to stop the swirl of rumors.

Ms. Palin's own pregnancy took Alaska by surprise this year. Even those who worked for her in the governor's office said they were surprised. Her announcement, in March, was reported in The Anchorage Daily News, which noted at the time that Ms. Palin "simply doesn't look pregnant."

Tuesday's front page featured a second story on the Palin daughter pregnancy, "A New Twist In the Debate Over Mothers" by Jodi Kantor and Rachel Swarns. So much for the feminist idea that women can handle motherhood and career, at least when it comes to Republican women:

When Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was introduced as a vice-presidential pick, she was presented as a magnet for female voters, the epitome of everymom appeal.

But since then, as mothers across the country supervise the season's final water fights and pack book bags, some have voiced the kind of doubts that few male pundits have dared raise on television. With five children, including an infant with Down syndrome and, as the country learned Monday, a pregnant 17-year-old, Ms. Palin has set off a fierce argument among women about whether there are enough hours in the day for her to take on the vice presidency, and whether she is right to try.

It's the Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition. But this time the battle lines are drawn inside out, with social conservatives, usually staunch advocates for stay-at-home motherhood, mostly defending her, while some others, including plenty of working mothers, worry that she is taking on too much.


Many women expressed incredulity - some of it polite, some angry - that Ms. Palin would pursue the vice presidency given her younger son's age and condition. Infants with Down syndrome often need special care in the first years of life: extra tests, physical therapy, even surgery.

Sarah Robertson, a mother of four from Kennebunk, Me., who was one of the few evangelical Christians interviewed to criticize Ms. Palin, said: "A mother of a 4-month-old infant with Down syndrome taking up full-time campaigning? Not my value set."

One detail of Ms. Palin's biography jumped out to many mothers, becoming a subject of instant fixation. "She went back to work as governor of Alaska three days after giving birth," a poster named cafemama marveled on another blog, urbanmamas.com.

And upon hearing Monday that Ms. Palin had known of the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, before accepting the vice-presidential slot, some wondered why she had not bypassed the offer in order to spare her daughter the scrutiny.

The Times did talk to an impressive defender of Palin, conservative legend Phyllis Schlafly.

"It changes your life and gives you a different perspective on the world," said Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative organizer who helped defeat the equal rights amendment nearly three decades ago.

"People who don't have children or who have only one or two are kind of overwhelmed at the notion of five children," Ms. Schlafly continued, mentioning that she had raised six children and run for Congress as well. "I think a hard-working, well-organized C.E.O. type can handle it very well."

Katharine Seelye's Tuesday inside story also was absent of outrage about the left's despicable allegations about Sarah Palin hiding her daughter's pregnancy:

The 17-year-old daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate, is five months pregnant, the Alaskan governor announced Monday, adding a new element of tumult to a Republican convention that had already been disrupted by Hurricane Gustav.....The announcement came after a swirl of rumors by liberal bloggers that the governor's fifth child, who was born in April, was in fact her daughter's.

Seelye found room for a tart rebuttal from the McCain camp:

Asked if Ms. Palin would be able to juggle the demands of the vice presidency with her complicated family life, Mr. Schmidt said, "She's been a very effective governor and again I can't imagine that question being asked of a man."