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Palin: The Real ‘American Taliban’

by Dave Lindorff
Mon, 09/08/2008
The last thing Bristol, or the rest of us, need is a national “Mom” pushing her Taliban-like moral agenda on the whole nation through laws and like-minded judges.

Back in the early days of the seemingly interminable Afghan conflict, a young American, trapped in Afghanistan by the US invasion of that country, was captured along with Taliban fighters and, after a bit of captivity and “enhanced interrogation” at the tender mercies of US troops, was transported back for trial in the US, where then Attorney General John Ashcroft excitedly labeled him the “American Taliban.”

But John Walker Lindh, railroaded into a 20-year jail sentence and slapped with a gag order that bars him from talking about how he was tortured for the entire length of his incarceration in Afghanistan, is not the real American Taliban. That title should probably belong to our new Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

According to reporting in the latest edition of the National Enquirer, a paper routinely maligned as a grocery-store scandal sheet, but actually boasting a skilled investigative reporting team that makes what passes for investigative reporting these days at most corporate media shops look like bad jokes (it was the Enquirer that exposed John Edwards’ extra-marital affair and blew his political career out of the water), Palin sought to cover up, perhaps even from John McCain, her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy until after she was safely nominated. Her plan, says the Enquirer, which spoke to acquaintances and neighbors in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, had been to get through the convention, then get daughter Bristol married to the infant-to-be’s father, 18-year-old Levi Johnston, and only then announce the pregnancy.

That plan was reportedly scotched by Bristol, who the Enquirer reports was “at war” with her mother over the idea of a politically motivated shotgun wedding.

According to the Enquirer, it was that paper’s contacting of both Palin and the parents of Johnston, with word that it was publishing the pregnancy story, that led Palin to break the bombshell news about the pregnancy ahead of her nomination—a move that left the McCain campaign embarrassed and exposed to ridicule over its obvious haste and undeniable lack of any vetting of its vice presidential nominee.

Why should we care about this domestic melodrama? Because, besides revealing the casualness with which the 72-year-old, health-impaired McCain is willing to treat the job of picking his alternate, it reveals the deceptiveness and the inhumane, ruthless fanaticism of Palin, a candidate who is trying to market herself to voters as “Everymom.”

Few real moms or dads in their right mind would try to force a 17-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old boy to get married, simply because they had accidentally conceived a baby. All the odds predict that such parentally imposed pairing are doomed to failure, with much unnecessary trauma and psychic damage to both kids and to their future child along the way. Is Palin afraid her fellow believers on the religious Right would condemn her if her child were allowed to bear her child as a single parent? Is she afraid the child would be a (gasp) “bastard”?

This kind of fanaticism, in which the welfare of young children is run roughshod over for the sake of biblical correctness, has been evident and roundly condemned by Americans as practiced in Taliban-run Afghanistan, or Wahabi-run Saudi Arabia, where women don’t get any choices about their futures. We don’t need it coming from the White House.

I say, three cheers for Bristol for standing up to her tyrannical mom and saying no instead of “I do” on command.

Given the domestic drama, it was shameful that the Palins dragged their daughter and Johnston down to the Twin Cities to be paraded in front of the nation for the sake of their self-described pit bull mom’s political career. You knew what the real story was by the embarrassed deer-in-the-headlight looks on the two unsmiling teens’ faces as they were on display. You knew it too by the way Palin, who devoted a considerable portion her acceptance speech to talking up her family life, said not a word about her daughter’s impending marriage—the date for which has been left unstated.

My guess is that the supposed wedding will be conveniently pushed back past Election Day, after which, if those two kids are lucky, or plucky enough, it will be quietly forgotten.

With any luck, Palin’s vice presidential hopes will be history by then too, and with them, the era of “Just Say No” sex education in our nation’s schools.

Teens have enough trouble making their way in this world without having loopy, self-involved, religious fanatic parents mucking their lives up further. And the last thing they, or the rest of us, need is a national “Mom” pushing her Taliban-like moral agenda on the whole nation through laws and like-minded judges.

Lindorff speakingAbout the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at

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This story was published on September 8, 2008.