"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
-John McCain, in 1998.
-John McCain, in 1998.
I remember back when the children of politicians were not "off limits." In case you've forgotten or are too young to remember, it was when a Democrat, his wife, and their teen-aged daughter occupied the Whitehouse. And though there were no teen pregnancies, nor pictures of a drunken first daughter falling all over one of her friends at a frat house, the Party of Family Values, nonetheless felt she needed to be belittled, mocked for her looks, and destroyed for the odious twin crimes of her Clinton parentage and poisoning America with the false suggestion that Democrats have children, and by extension familes, too. It was back when Rush Limbaugh declared Chelsea to be as ugly as a dog, when John McCain made his despicable joke about Chelsea being Janet Reno's daughter, and when John Derbyshire of the National Review wrote a piece which could best be summarized and encapsulated by quoting one line from it: "I hate Chelsea because she is a Clinton."
And so now as we learn that John McCain's practical joke of a vice presidential running mate has a house full of skeleton filled closets, it's worth remembering that it was not always the case that certain closets were off limits to the chattering classes and opposition researchers. This is especially worth remembering, since Palin's "Bristol" closet, the one that hides a pregant 17 year-old poster child for abstinence-only sex education, is only half closed. It is closed to critics of Palin's culture warrior mentality who might like to point out that for all her self-righteous, bigoted parroting of the Religious Right's divisive invective against gay families and ignorant paeans to the self-defeating "abstinence only" sex education movement, the Governor was unable to prevent her own child from rolling around behind the bleachers with her handsome, rugged hocky player boyfriend. But the closet is fully open to explitation by members of the Religious Right who would seek to turn young Bristol into a poster child for their cause by virtue of her "courageous" pro-life decision to keep and raise the child and marry the father.
So, once again, I remember back when it was OK to use your television show to mock and belittle the 13 year-old child of a president you despised. Today it's not OK to point out that the pregnant teenaged daughter of a leader of the abstinence-only educational movement casts doubt on the efficacy of that movement's methods.
I guess you could call that progress.