This year Ms. Parker's "Valentine" to Sarah Palin, an article titled "Sarah Palin should beware of exploiting her youngest child" should send a thrill up at least one of Matthew's legs.
Ms. Parker concluded her catty article this way:
Perhaps the erstwhile governor still thinks in first-person plural, viewing Trig as part of herself. But he is also a separate individual deserving of privacy, if unable to say the words she needs to hear: 'No more, Mama, please.'Mrs. Palin needs to continue to be herself...and wary of the advice of strangers pretending to be helpful and concerned about Mrs. Palin's youngest child, Trig.
Another political mother, Hillary Clinton, made good on her commitment to protect her child's privacy. Agree with her politics or not, most Americans would concede her wisdom in shielding Chelsea from media exposure until her daughter could fend for herself.
In the spirit of which, speaking in second-person imperative -- mother to mother -- be careful, Sarah.
Ms. Parker as a well-meaning Palin adviser?
Not while Ms. Parker is the favorite "conservative" of "Meet the Press."
Wikipedia: "Parker made news during the 2008 U.S. presidential election when she called on the Republican vice presidential nominee, Governor Sarah Palin, to step down from the party ticket, saying that a series of media interviews showed that Palin was 'clearly out of her league.'"
When it comes to using Mrs. Palin's youngest child, Ms. Parker is expert.
In "Palin Problem: She's out of her league" (September 26, 2008), Ms. Parker wrote:
If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.Ms. Parker obviously overcame her alleged reluctance and shamelessly played the Trig card (as well as the country and party cards), while professing to have a parental attitude toward Mrs. Palin.
What to do?
McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.
Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.
Do it for your country.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.Ms. Parker protested too much in 2008 and was no more persuasive this month in volunteering parental advice to Mrs. Palin supposedly for Trig's sake.
Palin's defense of people with special needs is commendable. Her obvious love for -- and pride in -- her Down syndrome child, Trig, is touching. But each time she sallies forth as Mama Bear to America's special-needs citizenry, invoking Trig's name amid demands for her children's privacy, a bit of uneasiness slithers between text and subtext.Ms. Parker proceeded to answer that herself: when Mrs. Palin did not criticize Rush Limbaugh as she had Rahm Emanuel.
At what point do Palin's noble intentions become Trig's exploitation?
Is Ms. Parker envious of Mrs. Palin?
The genius of Palin's good-heartedness is she can't easily be criticized. Her public images as Mother and Politician are so entwined that to question one is to impugn the other. Equally unprofitable is any effort to impose perspective on her condemnations lest one appear to be defending the indefensible.I'll take that as an acknowledgement that Ms. Parker is concerned with profit and appearance.
Professing concern that Trig might be upset by Mrs. Palin's public candor someday, Ms. Parker charged that "Palin herself has hardly been discreet regarding her youngest child," because "[s]he has spoken and written about her misgivings upon learning that she carried a Down syndrome baby. She told a pro-life crowd that she considered abortion and wasn't sure she could care for a child with special needs."
Doubt always stalks conviction, but does it demand expression? Might Trig someday read his mother's abortion thoughts and find them hurtful?Much more likely, Trig will think of Ms. Parker as a pathetic person so jealous of his mother as to try to use him to hurt his mother.
Ms. Parker's revealing word choice supports that conclusion:
Palin wasn't wrong about the inappropriateness of the remark, for which the president apologized to the Special Olympics before the segment aired. But were her objections primarily those of a wounded mother -- or those of a heat-seeking politician? Will we be hearing from Palin every time someone uses the R-word or makes a lame joke?Ms. Parker could not bring herself to write that Mrs. Palin was right, but expressed the thought that Trig's mom is "a heat-seeking politician" exploiting the fact that he has Downs syndrome.
It's not easy being Mrs. Palin: the abortion crowd condemns you for not aborting Trig when you learned he had Downs syndrome and Ms. Parker depicts you as a political opportunist using Trig as "a political tool."
Celebrities who embrace causes are valuable players in raising awareness and advancing policy. That said, the degree to which one uses another's circumstances to achieve those ends requires a studious self-awareness that seems lacking in the equation of Trig and his mother.It is Ms. Parker who is lacking.
- Michael J. Gaynor