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Oh, Baby...

The dustup between Keith Olbermann and Bristol Palin has got me thinking -- and it involves some issues bigger than the two of them. Hell, it's even bigger than Olbermann's ego, and that's saying a lot.

It started with Olberdouche deciding that the 20-year-old single mother and dancing show star was his "worst person in the world" for agreeing to be a spokeswoman for a teen abstinence group. After all, she hadn't been abstinent, so she was obviously a hypocrite.

Palin's defenders (and Olbermann detractors -- there's some overlap) pointed out that in many cases, the best people to talk about the consequences of decisions are those who made the "wrong" choice. Would Olbermann have been as critical of Yul Brynner, who -- while dying of lung cancer -- recorded a an anti-smoking message to be aired after his death? Who is better to speak about how bad a choice can be than someone who made the wrong choice and paid the price?

That's a hell of a powerful argument. It's used in a lot of ways -- we use inmates in "scared straight" programs, the most zealous anti-smoking and anti-drinking advocates are former smokers and drunks, and we often sentence drunk drivers to tell their stories in schools.

But there's a subtle difference here with Palin and teen pregnancy, a critical one that differentiates her from examples like Yul Brynner.

Brynner never had to worry about hurting his tumor's feelings, about his tumor growing up and finding out he resented it. And if it did, Brynner would like that.

The most common consequence of teen sex is pregnancy. And when the teenager decides to have and keep the baby, then that child instantly becomes a factor in everything the parent says and does.

So when the parent discusses how it was wrong to have sex so young, and how the pregnancy profoundly changed her life and instantly curtailed her life choices and dictated the course of her life, then it's hard for the child (once it grows up enough) to interpret that as a rejection of the child.

It's an difficult balancing act. "I deeply regret having sex while so young, and it forever changed my life, and suddenly I found I had a lot fewer choices and a hell of a lot more responsibilities than I was ready for... but I don't regret it in the least! It was a young and foolish and impulsive decision that I will live with for the rest of my life...because it gave me the most valuable thing I could ever imagine, and I wouldn't give up my baby for anything! So please, learn from my mistakes and don't have sex before you're sure you're ready for it, and all the consequences...like my baby, which is the best thing that ever happened to me!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have President Obama, who championed abortion and sex education because he didn't want his daughters to be "punished with a child" out of ignorance.

It's common sense -- children shouldn't have children. But guess what? They often do. And at that point, they have pretty much given up the privileges and protection of being children, and passed them on to their child. One of the children has to stop being a child and being a grownup, and it ain't gonna be the newborn.

Earlier, I said it was a difficult balancing act. I was wrong. It's an impossible one. Every time Bristol Palin talks about the value of abstinence and not having children too early, she's in a way saying that she wishes she didn't have her son. Some day, he'll be old enough and aware enough to grasp that -- and not the full nuances behind it. And that is something that every single young parent of an unplanned child has to face.

What should Palin do? What should every other teen in her situation do?

I dunno. It's a no-win situation. And one that transcends the petty politics that we (well, me and a lot of you) often obsess over and reduce everything to the political spectrum.

In this particular case, I think Palin is doing the best thing she can, and Olbermann is proving just what an asshole he is. But that last point hardly needs restating -- it's self-evident on a regular basis.

But on the macro scale, removing the individuals involved... I don't think there's a simple answer. I don't even think there's a complicated one.

But we should at least think a hell of a lot about it. Because kids aren't going to stop having kids any time soon.


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Comments (32)

The main point missing here... (Below threshold)
Don L:

The main point missing here is that liberals love to point out that only conservatives can be hypocrites (do as I say, not as I do) or is it that in so doing conservatives might admit to being...gasp..sinners, but not so corrupt as their critics as to approve of and excuse their own sin?

On the other side of the equation. it is impossible for a relativist denier of Nature's God to sin, since they, having become gods unto themselves, are the only ones who can decide what sin is, they are free to "contradict" themselves instantly with out fear or trembling at even the thought they can ever be accused of doing wrong.

There are things far worse than hypocricy - being a false arrogant god is but one.

I had my first child at 19.... (Below threshold)

I had my first child at 19. I was married, but it curtails your options married or not. My pregnancy was unintended (as a matter of fact, both were unintended). I'd venture that a sizable number of children were "mistakes". The children who feel responsible are those whose parents who openly blame them for "ruining their life's plans".

The message is, if you have big plans; years of college and a time consuming career, you might want to refrain from activities that will get you pregnant. You can't go back, so regret is a waste of time. But you can plan ahead and you can heed advice.

JT, I disagree with you. (I... (Below threshold)

JT, I disagree with you. (I'm shocked) The Palin family is off the scales supportive of one another. From Todd and Sarah on down. That child is loved and accepted.

When I was ten and my brother was twelve, my mother and father were not getting along at all. But in the midst of this, my kid sister was born. Two months later, my mother left my father with the three of us. There is no way that pregnancy was planned but my kid sister, very aware of the dynamics of our family disaster, never felt rejected or thought of as a "mistake". Just poor timing. Bristol's son will be just fine. ww

I completely disagree with ... (Below threshold)

I completely disagree with you about what Bristol should or shouldn't be doing. There is a reality about having children that every child needs to grow up, learn, and accept. Your birth altered the course of your parent's lives. No matter how old or how wealthy or how ready your mother was, she made huge sacrifices to bring you into the world. She not only gave up her body for nine months, she went through horrendous pain to deliver you. And then she sacrificed sleep, money, her dreams, to make sure you were taken care of.

Does that mean mothers wish they had never had children? Only sometimes, LOL. For the most part we don't regret altering our lives one bit, but that doesn't mean we have to gloss over the reality and the impact kids have on somebody's life.

JT, I disagree to some exte... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

JT, I disagree to some extent that she is saying that she regrets having a child. Rather, she is saying words to the effect that she loves her child immensely and would not give her up for anything, but simultaneously telling teens that "this is the path you'll embark on now if you have sex."

It seems like it should be a paradox, but it's not. I'll give you a personal example. I never joined the miliary, but seriously flirted with doing so. (Even had Staff Sgt. Williams of the USMC to my house to discuss the Marines post-high school.) But I never joined, and now, I have two special needs children that need my full attention and support. I believe that God knew I would have special needs children and therefore gently steered me to college instead of the military.

Now, occasionally, I will regret not joining when I had the chance (Desert Storm would have been my optimal time). But at the same time, I don't regret going the opposite direction to college, which led me to my wife and our two wonderful boys. Yes, I sometimes regret not wearing the uniform, but I never regret the path that I took.

Make sense?

This is ridiculous. Just a... (Below threshold)

This is ridiculous. Just another snide little hit on a Palin.

I am a depression era baby. Ninety per cent of us know that we were inconveniently timed. I can't speak for the rest, but I never doubted that I was welcomed, once the die was cast; and I never felt unloved. My older child was a "big" surprise arriving exactly one year after our marriage, and on the eve of my departure on a 7 month deployment. I hope she never felt unwanted.

How about the opposite case? The "surprise" that comes along 15 years or so after the last "intended" child?

Bristol is speaking truth. She should be admired for doing so. Bristol, and her entire family should be applauded for loving and nurturing this child without reservation. They obviously can separate the child from the "mistake" that produced it. Guess that concept is a little too subtle for Olberman and others.

Olbermann is an outright mi... (Below threshold)

Olbermann is an outright misogynist. He has deep-seated mother issues.

Oldflyer, JT is not slammin... (Below threshold)

Oldflyer, JT is not slamming Bristol. He wouldn't do that. I also disagree with his opinion, but I don't think he intends to take a cheap shot at Bristol. I been around here a long time, and except for liberals, JT is above board. ww

I'm a result of teen pregna... (Below threshold)

I'm a result of teen pregnancy. It is tough to understand what a mother means when she talks about abstinence and the repercussions of a baby so young. Fortunately I understood that while my mom should not have had sex so young (which results in me not being here) I was able to separate that from the fact that she loves me unconditionally.

I think Her kiddo will be OK and I fully support he for speaking out. While SHE is OK from her mistake, many many other kids will NOT BE.

I think that when Bristol's... (Below threshold)

I think that when Bristol's son is old enough to grasp the concept that his mommy made some mistakes when she was younger that she regretted making, he will also be old enough to grasp the concept that she deliberately chose life, his life, instead. No way will that child feel like his mother wished she hadn't had her son, because he'll know how easy it would have been for her to "remedy" the situation had she chose.

Oh come ON, Jay!! You're us... (Below threshold)

Oh come ON, Jay!! You're using a reasonable, rational, considered argument to discuss the ravings of a radical, whack-job leftist!!! As you are undoubtedly aware, there are two absolute prerequisites for BEING a leftist: utter hypocrisy and thorough shamelessness. Pointing these out in someone like Olbermann is akin to penning a "stop the presses" article about the Sun being WARM!!

Does anyone actually watch ... (Below threshold)

Does anyone actually watch Keefums?

As for your rational about Palin's child and what he will think years later - it's a big stretch.

The is all about personal r... (Below threshold)

The is all about personal responsibility and the consequence of actions.
When you have heterosexual sex a child is the natural result. Yu can take any number of steps but procreation is procreation.

It simple biological fact that not having sex is the only 100% effective way of not getting pregnant.

Stating the facts does not mean you do not love your child. .

Are you willing to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of a child at this time? This is the question. Have you setup your life in such away that you can raise a child? If you are not prepared to handle that maybe it best to put off sex. Is the person you are having sex the person that you want to have a life long link to?

My mom always said - I woul... (Below threshold)

My mom always said - I wouldn't sell one of my kids for a million bucks, but I wouldn't give you a nickel for another one.

Reminds me of a joke. A snooty teenager asked his mom why she had him? She replied, well we didn't know it was going to be YOU.

Wow. The second i started r... (Below threshold)

Wow. The second i started reading JT's post, i knew what i was going to say. Only problem is just about everybody else thought the same thing. I'd bet the farm that 95% of the commenters are parents - case closed!
Bristol's baby aint gonna have any "head" issues. There's a whole lotta love & support in that big family. And as someone else here has said, just about every birth on the planet dosent always turn out according to our "plans".

I think kids really appreci... (Below threshold)

I think kids really appreciate knowing what their parents sacrificed and gave up to give them life. That helps kids feel loved, they know they were chosen over several other things.

I think that's a part of the puzzle that has been missing with today's kids who grow up feeling entitled, not loved, not chosen, but entitled to all sorts of material things just because. They expect ipods and cell phones because they don't understand the gifts they have already been given. We spend entirely too much time worrying about kids self esteem and what we're actually doing is making them feel worse about themselves.

So Tripp could wind up feeling gratitude and love because he understands what his mother gave up in order to bring him into the world.

DOUBLE DITTO what Wordygirl... (Below threshold)

DOUBLE DITTO what Wordygirl (#10) said!!

Another joke about kids is:... (Below threshold)

Another joke about kids is: If the Apostle Paul had teenagers, they would have nipped Christianity in the bud. ww

Well, crud. My INTENTION wa... (Below threshold)

Well, crud. My INTENTION was to use the Bristol/Olbermann spat as a starting point, to discuss an issue that is far, far bigger than either of them. Or any single individuals.

And it is a very, very tough issue.

What's not tough? That the Palins are a hell of a strong family. And that Olbermann is an asshole.

But not really my point here.


I think Olberman is off bas... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

I think Olberman is off base in calling Bristol "worst person in the world". Bristol did nothing wrong in accepting the position as spokesperson. But I also don't think Bristol is well suited to be an abstinience only spokesperson because she is too protected to feel the same consequencequences that the average person would in her scenario. Bristol can merely hire a nanny and continue on with her education or other dreams such as dancing with the stars. I don't think she can relate to the average unwed mother who is forced to give up their dreams for the sake of their child. Yet, it was still a smart move (in terms of money raising) for the Candie's Foundation to hire her. Bristol has provided much publicity for the foundation and as a result I'm sure this has helped with fundraising as well as getting there message out. It was also a smart move for Bristol to accept the spokesperson position as it has allowed her to earn a very high income without taking up too much of her time, leaving more time to spend with her child. I'm sure there are many people that would make a better abstinience only spokesperson than Bristol, but when a Palin speaks people listen. That is what Candie's Foundation purchased when they hired Bristol.

Tina S., does someone actua... (Below threshold)

Tina S., does someone actually have to explain to you that organizations use celebrities to draw attention to their cause? If it was a matter of absolute representation, no celebrity would qualify. ww

Hmmm random teen parent tha... (Below threshold)

Hmmm random teen parent that nobody has heard of... or celebrity "as seen on TV" by millions of Americans?

Also, Tina, Palin is not being paid for her spokesperson gig. She is reimbursed for travel and expenses when acting on the foundation's behalf. Or so says the foundation.

Funniest thing to me is that Bristol Palin has had this position for over a year, before she was dancing with the Stars, and now Keefums has his outrage moment. Looks to me like he just needed an excuse and his crack team of writers/researchers found him one.

It's only a few short y... (Below threshold)
gaius piconius:

It's only a few short years that Fox News has been authorized to broadcast up here in the frozen northlands and prior to that, trying to boycott the crap of The Canadian Broadcast Corp, I would scan the American networks eventually finding Keith Olbermann. My opinion was not difficult to develop. The mans a fart...a self absorbed fart...with the mental attitude of a grade eleven "know it all student pain-in-the-ass"... a schoolyard claimant of higher understanding.
Professionally I spent 33 years in the Canadian Infantry Corps. Olbermanns were a scarcity, in fact none such as he have I ever met unless local academics were being hosted in the Mess for Christmas, and even then their "out of steppers" were a deal more mature and never anxious to aggravate their hosts. Here I would like to coin a new word to describe the MSNBC resident dog's arse...not provocateur...that's too elevated...no K.O. is an "Aggravatoriologist", which defined means; a grates on your nerves 'fart and a wanker' of rare standard. Sarah Palin need not concern herself there any time soon.
Note to self: Don't forget to add new words to 'Favourites'.

jaytea,I have to g... (Below threshold)


I have to give credit where it is due, the yul Brynner point (which also applies to the Marlboro man) is an excellent one. I have no problem with Bristol speaking for an abstinence group and I don't think it is hypocritical for her to do so. KO was wrong.

I also have no problem with people telling teens abstinence is an option. It is an option.

I just think it is hopelessly naive when teens are told it is the only option, because hormones are raging at that age and the part of kids brains that are able to foresee consequences to actions often hasn't fully formed. Teens need to be told how to protect to themselves if they chose not to be abstinent as many will.

Many kids are going to do it, and I'd rather they protected themselves if they do because many kids also don't have a wealthy mother and father to support them and their baby. Bristol is lucky. She is not the majority of teen pregnancies, her life is not ruined.

Wildwillie, I think I read ... (Below threshold)

Wildwillie, I think I read Jay Tea's statements correctly. He may not bash Bristol, but he does not think she should be speaking out on the subject for the sake of her son. Well, since she has been speaking out, I can only take his comments as disapproving.

Perhaps when the boy is old enough to grasp the issues, he will realize that his mother demonstrated great love, by not quietly having an abortion. That would have solved her problems, eh?

Instead she puts up with all of the crap, as well as the other issues of single parenthood to demonstrate her commitment and love for her child.

Tina S. is classic. We have heard the same half-baked ideas spoken about others. In fact someone in the civil rights business actually said Obama could not speak for blacks, because he did not have the slave experience in his heritage. Whatever the hell that means in this point.

instead she puts ... (Below threshold)
instead she puts up with all of the crap, as well as the other issues of single parenthood to demonstrate her commitment and love for her child.

Still it should be noted that she is not the average teen pregnancy the same way John Kerry's daughters wouldn't be the average teen pregnancy, if it had happened to them. The money in those families insures that their daughters will still have good lives. Wheras a poor teen mom in say Alabama, will have to quit school, won't get welfare, will have crap jobs long hours and won't raise her kid properly because of it. Their is also a good chance her kid most likely won't end up being the most upstanding citizen because his single mom couldn't raise him properly. At the very least he/she will be a clear disadvantage. to other more economically stable parents.

oldflyer, you're misunderst... (Below threshold)

oldflyer, you're misunderstanding me. And I take responsibility for that -- normally, when I talk about something, I have a strong opinion.

I am NOT saying that Palin should be the spokesperson, and I am NOT saying that she shouldn't. I think it's a hell of an ambiguous issue, with no easy answer.

My intention here was to spark a debate on the issue, not have people try to guess my position. Because that was a born failure -- I don't have one at this point. I was trying to work it out publicly, and inviting others to chime in.

I'm no wimp when it comes to expressing my opinions. But in this case, I just don't know.

Well, except that Olbermann's an asshole. That's exceptionally self-evident.


Yes Jay on the surface it d... (Below threshold)

Yes Jay on the surface it does seem contrary.

However it is a bit like being in a car crash. How can you say you made bad choices leading to the crash and it cost you money, pain, etc but are happy with the results? Perhaps because you survive it, learn valuable lessons, and change your irresponsible behavior. Would it have been preferable to learn the lessons without the cost? Yes but there is nothing wrong with being thankful for positive results.

Most babies are accidents. Often with a little planning and wisdom, they could have happen at a better time. Never the less that doesn't mean you can't appreciate them. It also doesn't mean you shouldn't try to find ways to teach your wisdom to others so they don't have to learn it the hard way. Sometime you succeed and sometimes you don't. Sometime accidents are the only way for things to happen.

Warchild,the average... (Below threshold)

the average teen mom doesn't have comedians taking pot shots at their weight or joke about them and their sisters getting it on with A-Rod. Or have columnists and bloggers speculate whether they or their mother is the baby's real mom. Or deal with jackasses like KO.
don't know how much balance there is between her situation and a random anonymous middle class white girl who have a stable family to back them up.

.... Every time Bristol Pal... (Below threshold)

.... Every time Bristol Palin talks about the value of abstinence and not having children too early, she is, in a way, saying she wishes she didn't have her son. Some day, he'll be old enough and aware enough to grasp that ....

Assuming, that is, Ms Palin's son is gifted with a couple of the important component parts she seems short of: A functioning brain and a modicum, even, of maturity.

But otherwise a valid point and an important observation of life in the world of entitlement.

Warchild,the ave... (Below threshold)
Warchild, the average teen mom doesn't have comedians taking pot shots at their weight or joke about them and their sisters getting it on with A-Rod. Or have columnists and bloggers speculate whether they or their mother is the baby's real mom. Or deal with jackasses like KO. don't know how much balance there is between her situation and a random anonymous middle class white girl who have a stable family to back them up.

And the average teenage mom would still trade places with her in a heartbeat.

The average teenager also w... (Below threshold)

The average teenager also wants to be on The Real World and would love to hang with the cast of the Jersey Shore.






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