Original Link: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/if-kids-really-off-limits-politics/story.aspx?guid=%7B91FD8B7C%2DF21B%2D4265%2DB296%2D0EA2AB8AC104%7D
By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
Like many working women, Palin wants the career and the family. To have it "all," she's willing to accept the hardships and tradeoffs that go along with leading a complicated life.
Likewise, the Republicans want everyone to hear the heart-warming story of the beautiful, smart, principled, born-again, feisty hockey mom who was been suddenly transformed into a national leader. What the Republicans don't want is for anyone to question the fairy tale.
The avalanche of coverage of Palin's private life -- from how she balances the needs of work and family to the bizarre tale of those Palin babies -- has been excessive, tawdry and unfair, especially some of the rumors spread by the bloggers and newspaper tabloids.
The media frenzy is entirely understandable, however, when you figure that Palin went from complete unknown to potential president in the course of six days.
Would you expect the media to examine Palin any less thoroughly than the typical American Idol contestant? Why should we know more about Jennifer Aniston than about the person who has her finger on the button?
For the most part, the Democrats haven't wanted to touch Palin's personal life with a 10-foot pole, preferring to focus on more public matters, such as her inexperience, extreme conservative views and a few flip-flops that undercut her claim to be a reforming maverick.
The Democrats know, as the Republicans certainly do, that the more Palin's privacy is violated, the more she's subjected to lies, smears and uncomfortable questions, the more sympathy she earns from the public. And, unfortunately, that's doubly true because she's a woman.
Charges of sexism
The Republicans have been quick to play the sexism card in response to the coverage of Palin, charging that all the criticism of her is thinly disguised contempt for a woman who's achieved something with her life and wants to do more.
That's an ironic response from the party that killed the Equal Rights Amendment, the party that wants to force victims of rape to have babies, the party that opposes equal pay for equal work, the party that favors tokenism over equal opportunity.
The Republicans are right about the sexism, to a point. Women are held to a double standard in our society. They are expected to be the center of family life, and to have a fabulous career, and to look marvelous while doing it. When they work hard, they are called pushy. When they are aggressive, they are called bitches. And when they are unfairly attacked, they are protected by big strong men like Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.
Men don't get the same questions about how they plan to juggle family and career, although that is changing. John Edwards was questioned about the wisdom of running for president while his wife was terminally ill. And Sen. Barack Obama has regretted the irreplaceable time he's lost with his kids.
The fact that men aren't asked tough questions about family life doesn't mean those questions are off limits, however. It is a legitimate question for any candidate for high office to be asked how they plan to balance their private lives and their political career. Public service is demanding; so is raising a small child or caring for an elderly parent.
It is all very fine to say, as Obama has, that family life should be off limits in political campaigns. But if family life is off limits, then it should really be off limits.
That means no more trotting out your adopted daughter in front of a roomful of applauding delegates, as Cindy McCain did Tuesday night. No more appearances with the happy loving family surrounding the candidates. No political speeches by the admiring spouse. No more sham marriages that are held together only to maintain a politically correct lie. No hagiographic home movies from childhood. No talk from Palin about how she's learned to deal with Putin by being a tough "hockey mom." No more convention speeches about the rigors of commuting back from the Senate to Wilmington to be the only parent of some young boys, as Joe Biden has discussed.
The truth is, voters respond to candidates who show their human side, who love their spouses and kids, who take care of mom. And least we respond to those who appear to be loving; we've been fooled too often to count.
As long as voters respond to the human touch, candidates and the media alike will continue to delve into areas that might better be left private. Just don't act shocked when the veil of privacy is completely torn away.