What’s So Bad About Trig Trutherism?

Austin Bramwell

I am a freelance opinion-monger living in New York City.

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65 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    It’s tempting to isolate Trig Trutherism as you have. But we tend to argue, and proceed, by analogy and example. Once an attack is made, and indulged, similar attacks become possible, and accepted.

    Trig Trutherism is objectionable because it is irrationally and obsessively conspiratorial. Indulging it promotes irrational and obsessive dialogue, and thus encourages the very types theories you agree are “noxious.” Trig Trutherism demeans the dialogue. The echoes between “she could solve all this by releasing the medical records” and “he could solve all of this by releasing the original birth certificate” are not accidental.

    Plus, just as you believe that people are overreacting to Trig Trutherism, I think you are overreacting to criticism and ridicule thereof. Nobody is seriously suggesting that Sullivan merits censorship. They are engaging in criticism and ridicule, which are the appropriate tools to address trutherism of every stripe. I can’t follow how you can be more put off by the criticism than by the underlying conduct.Report

    • Austin Bramwell in reply to Ken says:

      @Ken, I still don’t get it. There’s nothing wrong with conspiratorial thinking per se — after all, conspiracies exist in the real world. Nor is there anything wrong with obsessive thinking — without obsessions, nothing would ever be discovered.
      I am not saying that anti-trig-truthers are trying to censor Sullivan. My point is that trig trutherism isn’t comparable as an intellectual fault to 9/11 trutherism or birtherism.Report

      • silentbeep in reply to Austin Bramwell says:

        @Austin Bramwell,

        “there is nothing wrong with obsessive thinking — without obsessions, nothing would ever be discovered.”

        Yeah there is something wrong with certain kinds of obsessive thinking – for instance, stalking and symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, both things that cause a tremendous amount of suffering and pain.

        I am not trying to equate Andrew’s “trig trutherism” with legal definitions for stalking or equate it with a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder. What I am saying, is that there are different degress of obsessiveness and not all obsessions are benign, bit in fact, some forms of obsession, are indeed harmful.

        “My point is that trig trutherism isn’t comparable as an intellectual fault to 9/11 trutherism or birtherism.”

        Of course it isn’t, and I don’t know who is saying that it is. I can sit here and say I think Andrew deserves criticisms for Trig Trutherism (which I really believe he does) without saying it’s just as bad as 9/11 truthers or birtherism. All of these things are objectionable in their own way, in differing degrees and just because one wants to critique Andrew, doesn’t mean that person is elevating his claims to be something that they are not.

        I think Andrew is simply wrong, no more no less, not evil, not despicable, not deserving of censorship, not deserving of being banished form the media, just wrong. I’m not sure why this concept is hard to grasp.Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’d argue that it’s a distraction from the other, much weightier reasons to mistrust Sarah Palin. I’d far sooner focus on her shallow understanding of the issues facing the country. At least that way, you’re not going out on a limb.Report

  3. Imaginary Lawyer says:

    Indeed, that is nonsense. One should avoid The Atlantic because it retains Megan McArdle as a serious columnist.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    If we agree that there are some views that are a bridge too far then, at this point, we’re just haggling.

    Imagine Commentator X.

    Now imagine that he’s someone who believes that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction and smuggled them into Syria in the early days of the Iraq War. He argues that, of course, the Iraq War was justified because of these weapons. (The documents being leaked to Wikileaks all make us look bad and none of them are the documents that would have helped the supporters! Doesn’t that make you curious? I’m just asking questions!)

    Or, I suppose, imagine that he’s someone who believes that Global Climate Change is due primarily to increased Solar Output and doesn’t believe that Humans can do much, if anything, to stop GCC. (The Mars icecaps are melting! I’m just asking questions!)

    Are there viewpoints that make you say “you know what, as insightful as this guy is, he’s a nutball”? Do these viewpoints tend to lean on one side of the fence?

    Because that might explain stuff.Report

  5. Bob Cheeks says:

    Obama was born in Kenya…who gives a shit who bore Trig? Besides Palin’s community college degree is rather more impressive than Obama’s degree..!Report

    • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks, For a man who believes so strongly in transcendent truth Bob ol boy you have an odd affection for material untruths. Obama was born in Hawaii and there’s extensive documentation to back that assertion up. Obama being born in Kenya, on the other hand, is an entirely unsupported assertion.Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to North says:

        @North, Thanks Northie, I appreciate that you’re trying to help me avoid a faux-fox paw. However, I have in my formerly nicotine stained fingers a copy of the “Globe” or some such and right there on the front page is a photo copy of BO’s REAL birth certificate…so there! How’s it goin’ by the way?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          @Bob Cheeks, Austin, do we have a judgment on Obama Birtherism?

          Hey, Bob. How are you and the wife doing? Maribou is in Canada all this week (left this morning). I’m still in the first glorious flush of bachelorhood and enjoying some Taco Bell and Claret whilst watching “Dexter”. I imagine that sometime around Monday at 10PM, I’ll move from “woo!” to “I feel like 50%+1 of my life has been amputated.”Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, Yoo, JB, the missus went to Texas to see the kids when the eldest was having my gson Atticus and this for a month..dude, don’t tell anyone but I was pining away..it ain’t right ya know, man and woman, marriage, family …it’s the Lord’s way. Best to you and hang in there.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              @Bob Cheeks, This is all covered in Genesis 2:18.Report

            • Bob Cheeks in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              @Bob Cheeks, It is that, my friend, and I shall go tomorrow and submit myself before the Lord God, before the Logos. I shall ask for the gift of patience and wisdom and seek, not so much justice, which shall come in its fullness, but rather mercy, which I can not live without. My wife, as I’m sure Maribou is, has been my rock..a women of wisdom and discernment, and that, my friend, can not be improved upon.Report

  6. Trumwill says:

    The main problem with the Trig Truthers is that their primary theory, that Trig was Bristol’s was disproven when Bristol gave birth to her own kid too soon afterwards. Confronted with this evidence that their first theory was wrong, they did not even construct a new theory as to what was going on. Instead, despite having been discredited, they unctiously demand proof that cause Palin still could be lying even if they don’t know about what. Then claim, despite having done little or nothing to determine whose mother Trig might be, claim themselves journalists for asking the tough questions. Journalists don’t just ask questions. They investigate.Report

    • Plinko in reply to Trumwill says:

      While might still be some “Trig Truthers” out there that claim Trig is Bristol’s baby, I don’t think Sullivan has given that idea any credence to it for quite a while.
      The horse he’s over-whipping (and definitely over-whipping in my mind and I say that as an admirer) is that Sarah Palin’s tale of going into labor in Texas and hopping on a plane to deliver in Alaska is an obvious lie that Palin refuses to come clean about that plays into his overall theme that Palin is an opportunistic liar of the highest order.

      The whole medical records and proving thing is something he’s stuck on because of the hypocrisy that Palin refused to release medical records that would have cleared the Trig Trutherism up at the start while at the same time claiming she had released them and attacking anyone that questioned her story at any level (whether that Bristol was the real mother or someone else or just that Palin’s story was a lie) as a crazed conspiracy theorist that ignored facts which she was actually witholding.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Plinko says:

        I am relatively sure that the account of Texas-Alaska is a lie or an exaggeration of some sort. But surely, surely, surely there are better things to go after than that. And surely it’s more prudent to explore those things she has done that are material to her ability to govern. But instead there is this fixation on the birth of her child and the story she tells about it.

        I guess the short version is that if that’s the theory they’re going to town with, I don’t think it relevant and don’t blame Palin for stonewalling (though she should not say she isn’t stonewalling if she is). If the theory is that she’s covering up something bigger, I want an idea of what it is before I think it’s important enough for her medical records to be made public. Especially since their first theory turned out to be so wrong.

        (For the record, I do not like Sarah Palin and believe she would be a disaster as president. But not at all because she might be lying about the circumstances in which she gave birth to her youngest.)Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

          @Trumwill, If you’re relatively sure it’s at least a misrepresentation, then this is not much more than standard media criticism – i.e. pointing out the obvious that politicl media fixate on the trivial. And that is fair enough, but if what you say is the case, and a material fact on the record is open to serious question, then it is very fair for Sullivan or others to point out that is this were John Edwards, we would surely be getting reporting (or would have during the campaign) not just from cranky bloggers but from the mainline campaign press on the question. Sullivan’s point was that they were cowed by Palin’s highhanded utilization of her family to grotesque political effect, and her incesant press-bashing into letting this and, Sullivan would say, many other factually questionable if not false claims made about her political biography and other matters, go in a way they simply wouldn’t for any other pol. I’m not saying all that’s correct, but that’s his argument. And saying that it’s quite likely he to some extent or other ultimately has the goods (or they’re there to be had) on the question doesn’t do much to bolster your critique, except as a statement of taste.Report

          • Trumwill in reply to Michael Drew says:

            @Michael Drew,

            The mainstream media was pretty reluctant to cover the Edwards story until it was confirmed fact. If the Triggers can prove what I suspect to be true is true, the media criticism would be more valid. In the Edwards case, the National Enquirer, not the Washington Post, did all of the legwork. It’s far from clear that there is a double standard here. One was provable, the other was not.

            But frankly, I really don’t think this is about the media treating like things like. This is about Sarah Palin. I believe this because I know nobody that cares about this that doesn’t already detest the woman. And most believed debunked rumor about the kid being Bristol’s. They don’t seem to fully respect a rather basic right to medical privacy (would it be acceptable to demand from Reille Hunter a DNA test of their baby and John Edwards if they had continued to insist that they baby wasn’t theirs? I don’t think it would, though perhaps Sullivan disagrees.). These are things I have a real problem with.

            I don’t disagree, though, that to some extent this is a matter of taste (provided that they’re limited to concrete theories). I disagree with calls that Sullivan should be fired for saying what he is saying. But it’s nonetheless worthy of criticism. It’s distracting from more substantive faults on Palin’s part. It (not wrongly) can come across as personal hatred that undermines their voice.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

              @Trumwill, If you think she materially misrepresented a fact, I have a hard time seeing where you have a very compelling critical case against those in the press who choose to focus on it beyond a personal preference that it be left alone.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Trumwill says:

              It’s mostly the huffy calls for her to turn over her medical records and the suggestion she has an obligation to where I object (and don’t merely skip). I’m defending Palin here, but I would defend John Edwards himself on this matter if Edwards and Hunter were denying his paternity, the kid looked an awful lot like him, and Trigger-types were demanding a paternity test.

              Especially when those calling for it have a demonstrated hatred of the target. It only encourages more hatred, more theories, and a greater burden of proof on public figures to disprove these theories.

              And just because I think they’re right doesn’t mean that they are. Had Bristol not turned up pregnant, they would probably still be on the theory that she is the mother. They’d still be demanding medical records. I’d probably believe them (though my position on the medical records would be the same).

              Oh, and I think that her kid may not have been Bristol’s first pregnancy (that’s my theory as to some of the “evidence” that she was pregnant with Trig) and I’m relatively sure that if that’s true then Palin has lied about that along the way.

              Not all stones should necessarily be unturned. Sometimes, privacy (particularly when it comes to family matters) trumps our “right to know”. As a matter of personal preference, I actually do want to know a lot of this stuff. I’m nosey. But somewhere there is a line where a material lie about a fact requires too much intrusion to prove something not relevant enough to justify said intrusion. This falls into that category.

              Maybe you can chalk that up to simple “taste” or “preference” and maybe that’s part of it. But I think it also counts as a “belief.”Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

              @Trumwill, If she were to renounce all political ambition, I’d be with you maybe, though no one has any right not to have people look into their lives. That’s what the press does: they look into matters that are parts of peoples’ lives because there is public interest in them. Not “a” public interest, i.e. public corruption, but just interest. Reporters look into things because people are interested to know what they can find out. People have every right to push back and seek to prevent anyone from finding much out about them, but no one hs any right, or ability, to prevent people from trying to do so. And once you have accepted the nomination for president or vice president of the United States from a major U.S. political party, and are engaged generally and constantly in the pursuit of raising your public profile on you own terms with quite a bit of success, the position you are in to declare that particular questions are off-limits to reporting, when in any case everything about everyone is potentially subject to being reported on, is pretty severely degraded. Reporters don’t have to ask permission to write about and look into people, including facts that they’d rather not be written about. That is what reporters do. They can do it to you or me, but they don’t because not many people are interested.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Trumwill says:

              Like I said, I’m mostly huffy over their demanding that Palin turn over her medical records to prove the rumor false. Poking around on their own, trying to find witnesses, and so on… I don’t like it, but whatever. It may be the press’s job to poke around, but the law prevents them from looking in certain places, such as medical records. This notion that they’re entitled to see cause they have a theory and Palin has political ambitions… that I am simply not cool with. We shouldn’t be applying pressure to politicians to sacrifice their HIPAA rights simply because they want to serve in office. But the perspective of the Triggers is that anything goes when it comes to Palin. I’m not arguing that they don’t have the (legal/constitutional) right to demand these things and to investigate whatever they can inside the bounds of the law, but I don’t find it worthy of respect.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

              @Trumwill, I mean, demand on a blog ultimately amounts to absolutely nothing. You can just ignore it. On the other hand, presidential candidates hand over medical records all the time.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Trumwill says:

              I mean, demand on a blog ultimately amounts to absolutely nothing.

              But if this is media criticism as you suggest, isn’t Sullivan seeking for the demands to start coming from the mainstream media, which is more difficult to ignore?

              On the other hand, presidential candidates hand over medical records all the time.

              Usually pertaining to some function of their job, no? In any event, though, that they choose to do so is fine and perhaps laudable. However, I don’t believe they should be pressured to do so if somebody has a theory about their health (without a good deal of substantiation – and maybe even then).Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

              @Trumwill, Usually it’s complete (recent) medical records, I believe. If your position is universal to all candidates, then I applaud you consistency but simply don’t share the view.

              You are right that if we just stipulate we’re just doing media criticism and saying what we’d prefer people to focus on, then you have every right to say you’d rather Sullivan not focus on what he focuses on. I just don’t see what principle it is he is violating. For example with John Edwards, I absolutely wish the story had been exposed sooner, because it would have been entirely possible for him to win the nomination and then have it come out, and that would have been, um, worse. Maybe even if you were a Republican (everyone has an interest in campaigns that at least nominally relate a little bit to issues). You can absolutely feel otherwise, but I really don’t see an objective principle of communication (and here we run into the question of whether or not it makes any sense to hold blogs that consist of more or less 100% personal opinion to principles usually applied to “objective journalism,” other than simple ones like just not asserting known falsehoods) by which you can argue that I too should feel that way. But you’re welcome to keep trying.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to Trumwill says:

              @Trumwill, when it comes to a candidate’s own health, all health records are arguably relevant to their ability to do their jobs. They release their records as an assurance “I am healthy and will not be incapacitated during office” and not to prove that some accusation that somebody is making is false. If she runs for president in 2012 and refuses to release her recent medical records in accordance with what other candidates are doing, that’ll be something of a different matter.

              That being said, I question the norm, in this case. Absent some specific reason to believe that the candidate is unhealthy (say a Dick Cheney heart) I don’t think that there should be that expectation. We have HIPAA laws for two reasons. First, because it’s private. Second, because we want people to seek help when they need it without fear of being discovered. I don’t want a president with a potential problem keeping it from his doctor because he doesn’t want the press to find out about it. This is kind of tangential, but it’s not unimportant. One of my theories regarding Palin’s records is that she might be on anti-depressants of some sort.

              Regarding Edwards, there are some crucial differences. First, you wish that they had exposed Edwards sooner and so actually do I. But the reasons for this are not pertaining to journalistic ethics so much as they are tactical. It’s about timing and not whether it’s any of our business if he’s cheating on his wife. Whether I like it or not (I have mixed feelings), infidelity is considered fair ball. So when the Enquirer produced the proof, you have to run to go forward with it lest you be accused of selective discretion. And since you have to go forward with it at some point, there’s a good argument that they should have jumped on it sooner than they did. I’m not sure I agree with that in total because had Edwards gotten further along than he did they would have considered the rumors more relevant and I don’t have an inherent problem withholding such stories until they’re proven.

              Part of the reason for my push-back on all of this is that, whether I like it or not, infidelity is fair ball. I don’t want the circumstances of childbirth to become fair ball. If a candidate doesn’t go public that his or her son is adopted or the product of an egg or sperm donor, I think that is their right even if it requires some dishonestly along the way. If there are rumors of a love-child, I don’t want demands being placed that the candidate prove it’s not his. These are, in my view, internal matters.

              I don’t think either of us have any delusions that we’re going to be able to convince one another on this score. I don’t disagree that it’s not objective. It’s a value judgment. It’s the comparison of two important principles (the right to know what our leaders are up to versus the right of our leaders to be people).

              But it’s important enough a value judgment that I lose interest in people on the other side of the divide (and I hope it’s evident in my comment history here that losing interest in people that disagree is not something I do as a matter of course). It doesn’t mean that I won’t listen to anything they say, but it does mean that I will stop taking what they have to say about Sarah Palin seriously.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

              @Trumwill, Everythingis fair ball, even about you and me, should it come to be of interest. Politicians attempt to put things off limits, but they never actually are. That is simply an attempt by them to manage coverage and public interest in particular questions.

              That said, your level of interest in particular questions, or in those who pursue them, is obviously your prerogative. But it is subjective and objectively not more valid than my level of interest in them, or that of those in the press who pursue them because a large number of people are more like me than you (or just because it becomes their stalking horse). But what you don’t want to become fair ball, might already be fair ball as far as I am concerned.Report

  7. Xenos says:

    This is an unreasonably narrow definition of Trig Trutherism, and it is unfair to the Trig-skeptics among us. The issue of Trig possibly being SP’s grandchild was discounted and largely dismissed pretty early on.

    What Sullivan and others have focussed on for the last year or so has been SP’s written accounts of Trig’s delivery, accounts which are either largely dishonest or which reveal an astonishing recklessness and even abusive series of actions on SP’s part. But this bizarre narrative was central in SP’s initial appeal among movement conservatives. So focusing on this story and its implications is a legitimate inquiry into SP and the followers of hers who find it such a lovely, heroic story.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Xenos says:

      @Xenos, I had the same impression, though I don’t consider myself an expert. The Bristol theory was raised and dismissed, but there are still questions about the extraordinary nature of account given, and still maintained, by the Palin family. That’s not casting about for conspiracies. It’s just being reasonably skeptical. Things .

      Frnakly, that goes for Obama, too. I have absolutely no understanding of what the issue with the birth certificate is, but if the questions are in any way legitimately unresolved, I have no problem with those who continue to focus on them. Believing some outstanding questions are proof that he was born in Kenya, that’s another matter – akin to insisting Trig is Bristol’s child, which is not what “Trig Truthers” assert (unless you define them that way), and *certainly* not what Sullivan asserts at this point. Anyone who’s read him even casually within the last year should be fully aware of that.Report

  8. Gorgias says:

    I guess Trig trutherism just rubs me the wrong way because I can imagine a 9/11 truther at least arguing in good faith. Believing in 9/11 trutherism might show a lack of critical thinking skills, but at least I can believe that someone promulgating the theory is doing so out of a love of country and the people inhabiting it. Conversely, Andrew Sullivan is a kook for being wrong in such a conspiratorial way in the first place, but even if he’s right he’s an asshole for using a vulnerable teenager as a political football.Report

  9. elizajane says:

    Trig trutherism is about questioning the story of Trig’s birth, as told by Sarah Palin. If you read the narrative carefully, you really do end up with a choice between 1) the woman is a pathological liar or 2) something is being covered up. Most people now tend to choice #1. The link Sullivan recently provided to a post by “BritLit” (entitled “Sarah Chose B”) is rather hard to answer any other way. I too find the harping on this story a bit over the top, but I also feel that if a male candidate lied like this about his heroism, say on the battlefield, there would be investigations and hell to pay. But a woman making a huge political deal about her motherhood of a SN child based on some pretty big lies is “off limits”?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to elizajane says:

      @elizajane, man, chicks have it so much easier than guys. It’s totally unfair.Report

      • elizajane in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, Perhaps you didn’t get my point. If anybody, of any race, gender etc., makes political capital out of a virtue they demonstrated or an ethical belief they embodied, and this is based on a lie, then that lie ought to be exposed and the people who do the exposing shouldn’t be told to shut up and be nice.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to elizajane says:

          @elizajane, here is the problem with that:

          There are always 3 sides in any political argument:

          1) “Our” base. These are the people who are on our side no matter what. These are the people who don’t want to give aid/comfort to the other side and who you can count on to be on our side.

          2) “Their” side. These bastards can’t be trusted to do anything except be on the other side. They’ll always be on the other side, too.

          3) The people who are in the middle who can be persuaded to be on our side on some things and on their side on some things.

          So let’s look at this particular issue wrt Sarah Palin.

          Let’s say that she lied. There are dozens and dozens of reasons that she may have… and, and here’s the point, one or two of those dozens contains reasons involving some amount of cultural thing. Like, let’s say that the baby is really someone else’s. Bristol’s! Sure.

          We’re talking about a mom who adopted her child’s child in order to save face for the family. How do you think that that will make you look to the folks in #3? Are they going to say “Golly, we can’t trust Sarah Palin at all!!!” or are they more likely to say “I know someone who did that. I know someone whose Grandmother did that… and the people who dug up this particular dirt are bastards. I trust Sarah’s judgment a lot more than the mudslingers. Thank god everyone in my town had the sense not to throw mud at the person I know and the grandmother I know.”

          So let’s say that that theory isn’t the accurate one… but it’s certainly one that will be stuck in most folk’s mind when it comes to Trig.

          Everyone in #2 is, of course, a bastard. They probably got adopted by their own grandparents! Lolol. Everyone in #1 is already on our side.

          Are the #3s going to swing to your side because of this or are they going to avoid you like the plague?

          Come up with a different theory, then. Maybe Sarah Palin was reckless with her pregnancy! Poor Trig! So let’s run with a handful of “reckless” scenarios…

          How are the #3s doing with those, do you think?

          Are they joining the side of the angels or are they running away from “our” side as fast as they can?

          Are there argument that one could use that don’t involve Sarah Palin’s body parts?

          You know that a man would never be treated like this, right? It’s only the feminist equivalent of “uncle Toms” that do.

          Instead of tackling her support of shit like the Bridge to Nowhere and questioning her Fiscal Conservative bona fides, instead of tackling her support of Big Government Conservativism when it comes to Social Issues, and instead of talking about how she’d be even worse than Obama when it comes to the American Imperial Project… you’re talking about some poor child with Trisomy-21.

          Do you *REALLY* think that any victory on this particular topic would be *ANYTHING* but Pyrrhic?

          Can you *HONESTLY* not think of a better use of resources to help shore up the #1s, depress the #2s, and woo the #3s?Report

          • elizajane in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, Sadly, these are good arguments. So she can lie through her teeth about her grandly heroic pregnancy/childbirth and her undying, martyr-like devotion to her son-the-prop and basically nobody is allowed to raise an eyebrow.
            I don’t know why you say a man wouldn’t be treated like this. Men just have other things that make them martyrs, heroes, admirable human beings, whatever; and if they lie about it, of coures they get called on it. But it’s unseemly to do it with a woman and her child.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to elizajane says:

              @elizajane, “But it’s unseemly to do it with a woman and her child.”

              Take it from me, you can’t make jokes about chicks being on their periods either.

              There are deep-seated cultural things going on here. Dudes tend to see attacks on a mother/child thing by *IMMEDIATELY* thinking about their own mothers and/or wives (if they have kids). It’s a visceral thing.

              Women, many of them, tend to do similar… as a matter of fact, the only ones that aren’t likely to are the ones who are Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent enough to be #1s. The rest of them are those hysterical #3s and you just know that the more hysterical they get, the faster they’re going to run to the #2s.

              This is not fair. It is not just. It is not the way the world ought to be.

              But, you know, we ate from this tree instead of that one and so now we’re stuck dealing with things as they are instead of woulda coulda shoulda.

              If you want Sarah Palin to be neutered (or spayed, whatever the word is), you’re going to have to attack something other than her Motherhood, Baseball, and Apple Pie.

              Attack her freakin’ policies.Report

            • Katherine in reply to elizajane says:

              There are deep-seated cultural things going on here. Dudes tend to see attacks on a mother/child thing by *IMMEDIATELY* thinking about their own mothers and/or wives (if they have kids). It’s a visceral thing.

              Women, many of them, tend to do similar…

              Yep. Trig Trutherism pushes all my Mother Bear buttons, and I’m not even a parent. I want to punch Sullivan in the face and then give Bristol a hug.Report

  10. Mike Farmer says:

    “But Trig Trutherism? All it calls into question is the legitimacy of Sarah Palin. Little harm would come even if it became respectable. Thus, magazines are much less culpable when they tolerate it.”

    The mystery that confounds me is that anyone thinks Sullivan is legitimate. These people need to be investigated. They can’t be objective observers, so they must be part of a conspiracy to legitimize Sullivan for some nefarious reason. I’ve heard all their defenses of Sullivan, and they’re so reckless and fantastic that the only conclusions to be drawn are that — a. they are insane b. they are conspirators, or c. they are insaneReport

  11. zic says:


    Sullivan’s right to push Trig Trutherism. He’s right because it highlights a critical flaw of Palin’s. If she’s not telling the truth about the birth, it brings into question her willingness to simply spin a lie and then stick to it. (And I question the details, having given birth a few times, they just don’t add up to my experience or the experiences of any I’ve know or read about).

    If she’s telling the truth, it’s even worse then if she’s lying. For if her story is truthful, it displays a remarkable disregard for the health and well being of her unborn child; a mentality that she wouldn’t abort it, but she didn’t care if it died in childbirth. It casts a serious cloud on her her right-to-life mantra, her judgment, and her priorities.

    In either case, the story she’s put forth questions her fitness for any type of public office because of a lack of good judgment. And Sullivan’s main concern is that the traditional media has avoided the story and it’s implications, essentially giving her a pass on the ‘motherhood’ role upon which she stakes so much of her public persona.

    And on the Obama birth, first, he wasn’t responsible for where/how he was born. Second, if you seriously believe he was born in Kenya, so what? His mother was an American citizen, which qualifies him for citizenship. If there were lies/deceit there, it was his mother’s, not his. I fail to see how this compares to the questionable tale Palin tells of her fifth pregnancy. Obama’s birth is beyond his memory or judgment; Palin’s last pregnancy/labor reflects on her character every bit as much as John Edward’s newest child.Report

    • Mike Farmer in reply to zic says:

      Palin strikes me as the type of person who cares deeply about her family, regardless of whether she has the political skills and the knowledge necessary to be president. Whatever the truth is about Trig, I seriously doubt Palin has done anything intentionally nefarious, or that she has purposefully endangered anyone in her family. Her reasons, and her family, are her business and have nothing to do presidential aspirations — just as Obama’s associations, although they are interesting, have nothing to do with his skill and knowledge to be president. It only matters if one believes Obama or Palin would be good for the country in such a powerful position — character-wise, I’m sure both are good, decent people, even if there’s disagreement over their ideologies. We should give Palin the same room and privacy to deal with family matters and associations as she sees fit, just as we give Obama the same room. Neither of them have been accused of actions which are illegal or threaten the security of the country, so let’s not have a different standard when it comes to Palin. Sullivan’s campaign against Palin is too much like a witch-hunt, especially when he has nothing to say about Obama’s past choices and associations.Report

  12. Katherine says:

    But Trig Trutherism? All it calls into question is the legitimacy of Sarah Palin. Little harm would come even if it became respectable.

    It would make the life of an innocent teenage girl a circus and an utter hell. That’s harm to one person, rather than a risk to the stability of a nation, but still something to oppose when it’s needless and senseless.

    What gets me is that Trig Trutherism runs contrary to very simple, basic, established facts. Firstly, because Trig was born less than nine months before Bristol’s current kid. Secondly, because there are pictures of Sarah Palin looking clearly pregnant. Granted, there are also pictures of her looking not-so-pregnant, but unless you think she shoved a pillow up her shirt and nobody noticed… It may not be as harmful as the Truthers and Birthers, but it’s equally ridiculous.

    My principle is that slander and attacks on their family life are not something any politician (and certainly not the family of the politician) deserves, and are disgusting when done by anyone, to anyone. I respect the Atlantic – and am more troubled by Goldberg’s relentless stream of hawkish misinformation than by Sullivan’s Palin obsession – but his focus on Trig still reflects very poorly on him.Report

  13. Elizajane says:

    Many of these comments are missing the point: nobody, including Sullivan, is making any claims about Bristol any more, or impugning her, or intruding on her life in any way. The issue is about Sarah Palin’s story of her own pregnancy. Assuming that Trig is hers, she either lied about his birth, or behaved with alarming irresponsibility regarding his health & even his life. Which do you think it is? Which is OK?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Elizajane says:

      @Elizajane, You don’t understand. These questions are off-limits, even to ask on blogs, put there either by the dictates of good taste, morality, the natural right to not have people say things or ask idle questions or make oblique demands that don’t actually intersect with your life, or some other such rock-solid principle of discussing things and people on the internet.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @Michael Drew,

        It’s only off-limits insofar as you want to be taken seriously by people that object to that line of question. If you don’t care about their opinion or if you’re being frivolous (and I like to be frivolous about some things), have at it. But don’t complain that more serious institutions are not taking part. Or do complain, since we’re not taking you seriously anyway.

        (You in the nonspecific 2nd person).Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:


          It’s only off-limits insofar as you want to be taken seriously by people that object to that line of question.

          By which I presume you mean “by the people who object so strongly that they will not take those who do it seriously,” which is a logical syllogism. By the arguments made here, it ought to be off-limits for some reason of principle, not just as matter of taste that those objecting (here) are prepared to concede is entirely subjective and of equal normative value to those having a different subjective taste on the question (and obviously not in some legal or otherwise enforceable way). Do I not have the assertion being made right?Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Trumwill says:

          @Trumwill, As to the rest – what about if all those objectors and the mainstream press whom I am critiquing for not paying attention to this matter are wrong, and I am right? It comes back to being able to show you are right by some objective principle, otherwise we are left with subjective preferences based on taste of objectively equal merit, and I may be perfectly right to critique the press for not sharing my view, and “you” wrong for not taking me seriously, for all we know.

          As it happens, I think Sullivan’s critique of the press on this is long left in the past now – in 2008 – (pending further pursuit of high office, and even then the matter I believe he has said repeatedly is now settled as a matter of fact). He engages on it now, I believe, nearly exclusively defensively (ie defending the position he took in 2008). But I welcome counterexamples and will gladly revise that if they demonstrate the matter is not closed. Note, though, that continuing to ask why, if the events are as related she, like other candidates for such high office, still does not release the relevant medical records (and regardless of your blanket opposition on the question, non-release is not the established norm at this point) does not constitute a challenge to the truth of the events as recounted, which Sullivan, again, I believe, has now repeatedly said he accepts.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

            @Michael Drew,
            “But I welcome counterexamples and will gladly revise that if they demonstrate the matter is not closed.”

            If they demonstrate he does not hold to his statements that as a matter of actual fact, he accepts the accounts given as the last word as to the fact of the matter (as distinct from the question of, if that is so, why refuse to release the records, as other candidates do).Report

          • Trumwill in reply to Michael Drew says:

            @Michael Drew,

            As to the rest – what about if all those objectors and the mainstream press whom I am critiquing for not paying attention to this matter are wrong, and I am right?

            Well, then you (and others) keep saying you’re right and I (and others) keep saying you’re wrong. The same as if I am right and you are wrong. Since, as you point out, there is no objective answer when it comes to the conflict between competing ethics, it’s not likely to be proven either way.Report

    • @Elizajane, The trouble with this is that it assumes Sarah Palin’s pregnancy is relevant in any meaningful way. Moreover, if one actually accepts that Trig is Sarah Palin’s child, why continually try to put forward pictures that supposedly demonstrate that she was not pregnant at all?Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson, yeah, if they’re still trying to demonstrate that Palin isn’t pregnant, the notion that this is really about fetal safety or lying about the nature of the delivery rings kind of hollow.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson, Sarah Palin’s pregnancy was made very relevant in a very meaningful, political way that also intersects with the deeply personal and registered with many people on a quite similar level to that which Jaybird aptly describes as “deep-seated cultural things” — by Sarah Palin.

        To the extent that *whoever it is you might be talking about* is still posting such pictures with the intent of suggesting Palin was indeed not pregnant when it is proven she was, that is indeed objectively wrong. But I do seem to remember a certain someone posting pictures that were circulated publicly in the Alaska press along with stories of colleagues at the time expressing bewilderment at her ability to conceal at the stages in question, in a post that did not raise new questions about the prgnancy, but rather pointed to such contemporaneous expressions of shock (among women) as reason that engaging in such questioning a year and more ago before the matter was duly settled was not at that time as crazy and unhinged as some have suggested that it was. I do recall such a post from one particular commentator.Report

        • @Michael Drew, “Sarah Palin’s pregnancy was made very relevant in a very meaningful, political way that also intersects with the deeply personal and registered with many people on a quite similar level to that which Jaybird aptly describes as “deep-seated cultural things” — by Sarah Palin.”

          I can’t really agree with this. Certainly there are a number of people who find Palin appealing in part because she is the mother of a Down’s syndrome child, but as you’ve acknowledged, that fact is also indisputable. Does anyone really care about the specific details of her pregnancy or find that those specific details make her more endearing in some material way? I rather doubt it – I’ve actually never seen, heard or read a single fan of Palin’s swoon over the stated circumstances of Trig’s birth.

          Perhaps Sarah Palin attempted to make the circumstances of Trig’s birth relevant. But if that’s the case, the only people who seem to have bitten for that attempt are people like Sullivan.

          The other thing of course, is that this kind of intensive inquiry into the most personal of details of a politician’s life just ensures that we will get more and more politicians who are ok with allowing intensive inquiry into the most personal of details of their lives. In other words, we will just get more and more Sarah Palins.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            @Mark Thompson, I’ve actually never seen, heard or read a single fan of Palin’s swoon over the stated circumstances of Trig’s birth.

            No fan need have swooned in order for her, or those trying to use or guide her, to have made the pregnancy, the choice to carry it to term, or indeed the circumstances of the birth, into a political issue.

            Perhaps Sarah Palin attempted to make the circumstances of Trig’s birth relevant. But if that’s the case, the only people who seem to have bitten for that attempt are people like Sullivan.

            And if that is so?

            The other thing of course, is that this kind of intensive inquiry into the most personal of details of a politician’s life just ensures that we will get more and more politicians who are ok with allowing intensive inquiry into the most personal of details of their lives.

            Likely the case on average, yes. I’m not sure I have a huge problem with it, however, because…

            In other words, we will just get more and more Sarah Palins.

            …this does not follow, and indeed may very well be the case regardless (indeed I believe that is very likely, at least inasmuch as I personally have cause to have much objection to it, since among the things I object to in Sarah Palin, the willingness to be open about her private life is not actually terribly high – and moreover in point fact she isn’t all that open except in certain self-selected matters) — in which case I’d prefer to have norms in place that help us be aware of more rather than less about such candidates. No one has to seek the presidency or vice presidency, but, yes, those who do should be prepared for a full public vetting.Report

  14. Trumwill says:

    One other thing, one of the best liberty arguments against smoking bans has nothing to do with the smokers themselves. Rather, it has to do with someone that wants to start a business that allows smoking. In that sense, I actually find smoking bans in bars and restaurants far less unobjectionable than smoking bans in public parks, for instance. It’s this that makes it a “property rights” issue rather than a “smoker’s rights” one. I don’t like the idea that I am legally prohibited from starting a business that is intended to appeal primarily to smokers. Or, in light of smoking bans on public property, a business to give smokers a place that they can actually smoke. The second I want to offer food or alcohol, non-smokers then get to say “but if I want that food or alcohol, I have to pollute my lungs!” (for which even having a take-out or delivery option would not be a sufficient concession).

    I am not dead-set against smoking bans. It’s just that (a) the above doesn’t seem right to me and (b) I think that there are better ways.Report