LA Times writer Paul Thornton has been following the many scandals surrounding Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis: her lies about her personal life, her lack of identifiable political ideology, the attacks on her opponent Greg Abbott. Yet to Thornton, it isn’t Davis who comes out looking worst in this ordeal: it’s “sexist” Bristol Palin.
In a column in the LA Times Thursday, Thornton declared Davis a “hero (and I really mean hero)” because her daughters, in open letters to the voters of Texas, say Davis was “a fine mother.” Had he stopped at praising Davis for going from community college to law school with two children in tow, his piece would have been insipid and benign. Instead, Thornton takes aim at critics of Davis, personalizing the piece by telling the story of his childhood memories when he felt the stigma of single motherhood. Those that attack Davis’s life story, he contends, bring us back to a time “not long after Dan Quayle blamed society’s ills on Murphy Brown,” a time that can be very damaging for the children of single mothers.
To make his point, he attacks Bristol Palin.
Palin wrote a post on her personal blog attacking Davis’s life choices in raising her children from the perspective of a teenage single mother (something Davis claimed to be, but was later found to be lying about and refuses to apologize for). Calling Davis “pathetic,” Palin took issue with Davis’s choice to leave her children in Texas while she was in Massachusetts studying. Although the personal opinion of a public figure who explicitly distances herself from politics despite her family history, the post by Bristol Palin went viral and reached Wendy Davis. Davis replied in an appearance on Fusion, as she has to all such accusations, that she was “proud” of her work as a mother.
That would have been the end of that if Thornton didn’t feel he had to so ardently defend the honor of single mothers by attacking a single mother.
Thornton, an opinion writer for a newspaper, objects to Palin’s “mak[ing] money hurling invective on issues [she has] no business commenting on.” He does not, unfortunately, immediately retire from his position at the LA Times upon realizing the irony of his state, instead continuing to lambaste Palin. Next he raises the question “Who asked you?”, outraged apparently at the existence of Palin’s blog. He then takes “personal” umbrage at Palin, “and not only for [her] sexism,” but for harking back, he argues, to a time when single mothers were stigmatized publicly.
“As someone who came of age not long after Dan Quayle blamed society’s ills on Murphy Brown, I can tell you that we don’t want to go back to the days when these mothers were fair game in the culture war,” he argues, explaining that as a youth he suffered first-hand from having to explain his family situation and feeling ridiculed by both his classmates and the culture for it.
Nowhere in his personal story does he mention Palin’s son, Tripp Johnston. He mentions Palin’s single motherhood once. He does not mention the things Tripp may one day read about his mother – things said by such tolerant minds as Bill Maher, the Washington Post‘s Susan Jacoby, and Kathy Griffin, to name a few.
In one last ironic flourish, Thornton quotes the Davis daughters on their mother’s maternal abilities, concluding, “theirs are the only opinions that matter.” If only his editors agreed.
Once again, those who support Davis say nothing of her political career: of the bills she passed or wanted to pass; of the many Republicans she voted for in Republican primaries; of her financial support for George W. Bush. Instead they hone in on a young girl’s blog and imply that, because this one person with a conservative family has an opinion of Wendy Davis on the internet, no one (especially conservatives) should ever question Wendy Davis as a politician.
Agreeing or disagreeing with Palin, who is entitled to that opinion and to blog about it as millions of people do, is entirely beside the point, just as Davis’s skills as a mother are entirely beside the point. None of this has anything to do with Davis’s capacity to be a good governor of Texas, which is exactly why the LA Times is playing it up.
Riling people up about the question of whether or not Davis was a good mother detracts from the simple fact that she lied repeatedly to the people of Texas and has a reputation for not being trustworthy among Texas Democrats. It detracts from the fact that she has yet to apologize for lying about her biography, instead taunting Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, who seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the Dallas Morning News story that unmasked her, that he messed with “the wrong Texas gal.” It detracts from the comical transparency of her latest vote-grabbing gimmick, an attempt to portray herself as a pro-gun legislature, hoping everyone ignores her “F” rating from the NRA.
Single mothers who work hard to provide a better life for their children – no matter how they manage to do it – are among the most outstanding citizens our nation has to offer, and few in our society disagree. The left has managed to tangle such a universally recognized truth up with the many lies of Wendy Davis’s public career in the hopes that those passionate about providing all American children with a bright future will see the shiny object and run.
So far, it has done little to benefit Davis’s campaign, instead encouraging conservatives to dig deeper, to find exactly what it is about her that her supporters are trying to distract from so desperately.