On the Road

Obama: Leave Bristol Alone

Barack Obama was asked in a news conference today about Sarah Palin's teenage daughter's pregnancy. Via NPR's Don Gonyea:

Obama said the media should back off the story, and that it has no bearing on Palin's performance as Governor of Alaska or what kind of Vice President she would be. He denies anyone in his campaign is responsible for spreading rumors about Palin, and adds that anyone caught doing so would be fired.

Obama told reporters, "people's families are off limits, and people's children are especially off limits."

— Evie Stone

UPDATE: Here's the full Obama quote, in which he points out that he was the child of a teenage mom too.

I have heard some of the news on this and so let me be as clear as possible. I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off limits, and people's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics, it has no relevance to governor Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18. And how family deals with issues and teenage children that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that is off limits.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

That's the right answer.

Sent by Danny Miller | 3:18 PM | 9-1-2008

This is why this man should be president. He has a heart, a conscious and compassion.

Sent by Linda in New Hampshire | 3:32 PM | 9-1-2008

The sad thing is that in this race Obama is the only one respectable enough to give such an answer. If the roles were reversed and Obama had a 17-year-old pregnant daughter it would be a free-for-all for GOP windbags. I agree with Obama, but sometimes taking the high road is freaking exhausting, no?

Sent by Terri | 3:44 PM | 9-1-2008

My president-to-be shows the kind of compassion that's much needed, the kind he would not have gotten had it been one of his daughters in trouble. This is the kind of person we need in the White House.

Sent by Iris M. Gross | 3:55 PM | 9-1-2008

'Yes', politically speaking, that's the right answer but a 16/17 year old girl being pregnant out of wedlock may say more about her mother than the daughter. Republicans are always taunting family values and are first to criticize others. Perhaps the Govenor is good at basketball, hunting and fishing but she appears to lack being able to manage her own family. And 'yes' this does say something about McCain's judgement in picking her over many other canidates--both male and female. Come on people, is Gov Palin the best the Republicans have?

Sent by MH | 4:06 PM | 9-1-2008

So for the last three elections the rligious right has chosen a vice president that did not meet their standards when rasing a child - that being an abstaining heterosexual until married.

I look to results as speaking to a person's abilities. It seems politicians feel that what you say as you raise your child reflects who you are more than the child you raise. I see it as the exact opposite.

Sent by Christopher M. Brown | 4:37 PM | 9-1-2008

That's very classy of him.

Sent by Lucretia Pruitt | 4:57 PM | 9-1-2008

"Character" is character, because one acts in ways contrary to one's interests. That's a standup position, especially from a politician. I'm impressed. Any more of that kind of behavior and I might cross over to the Dems on this election.

Sent by Bill McLaughlin | 4:57 PM | 9-1-2008

I have no doubt. None whatsoever, that if Obama had a pregnant teenage daughter, the GOP, Fox, Coulter and the other tools of morality would question his morality, his parental skills, his decision making and hammer him from dusk to dawn. They would make it the defining issue of the election.

Yes, Obama is right and is compassionate. But I also know what the GOP is capable of. The dems need to understand. When your enemy makes a mistake, you never interrupt them or give them a minute to catch their breath.

Obama and his team should show no mercy and somehow take this example and tie it to what it demonstrates: John McCain's very poor and impulsive decision making is unsuitable for the White House. And if he were to be unable to serve, Palin is a disaster waiting to happen.

Sent by Gary | 5:09 PM | 9-1-2008

Sen. Obama's response to these National Enquireresque questions was a prime example of his class and leadership.

While I don't think it fair to judge Palin on her daughter's behavior - by 17, it is hard to stop us if we're determined to be stupid - the governor's position on the issues and unfamiliarity with the office of the Vice President suggests she would not contribute anything positive to this country should she and Sen. McCain find themselves in the White House.

Sen. Obama is right: Examine the issues thoroughly and the candidates' proposed solutions carefully. Picking the right candidate will then be a no-brainer.

Sent by Jamie Roberts | 5:18 PM | 9-1-2008

Obama's response is correct and appropriate in as much as it applies to Bristol.
Sarah, on the other hand, has much to answer because this reveals how she deals with adversity and the unforeseen. The media and its audience should leave the ISSUE to the family to deal with privately, but Sarah's reaction is fair game and necessary to assess if we are to trust her with governing our daily lives and shaping our nation's legacy.
In the face of such trying times for her family, Palin has chosen to leave. Her ambition trumps anyone else's needs. How do you think we'll fare?
Mrs. Palin:
Does this affect your view of teaching abstinence only in the schools?
Do you now regret not educating your daughter about contraception and not allowing the government to provide such assistance so this wouldn't happen in the first place?
Will you uphold the law and file statutory rape charges against the man responsible for this?
What about this campaign compelled you to abandon your infant and the one soon to be born when they are in need of special care?

Sent by D Haff | 5:21 PM | 9-1-2008

Another example of his thoughtful INTEGRITY.

Palin: Mayor of a small town- 4 years
Governor Less Than 2 years....

We need Reason and Integrity in the White House.
Please spread the word!

Sent by Donna | 5:40 PM | 9-1-2008

obama gets it more than his 'base' does!

sort of like john mccain can say 'agents of intolerance', obama can call out the unnecessary cruelty of his side too. maybe politics are changing, slightly.

but, we can tell from youtube, this comment board, and the front page of npr.org and cnn, that some people still dont 'get it'. media hacks still think its a valid story.

two wrongs don't make a right. that is what my parents used to tell me, and i am reminded of obamas grandparents and mother, and what they might have to say on the subject too.

i dont know where these screaming head operatives came from, who obsess over every worthless detail, go after children, and try to twist it like a knife, and not caring at all who they hurt in the process.

Sent by anonymous source | 5:52 PM | 9-1-2008

A number of listener commentators seem to see this news about Bristol Palin's pregnancy as an opportunity for fawning praise of Obama and opportunistic chiding of Palin. Why I ask?
Certainly, I think Obama gave the only decent and acceptable answer he could to the question--fine by me, but scarcely Nobel prize stuff--and the presumptive GOP vice-presidential nominee is dealing with an unintended but normal fact of life in a way that demonstrates her love of family and respect for life.
Maybe some NPR listeners really are annoyed that the Palins do not exercise a "woman's right to choose" when disabled or inopportune unborn children appear on the horizon. Instead, as at least one listener seems to think, they have chosen to be unfashionably inflexible in their response to the inevitable failure of abstinence-only sex education!
What can those of us who do not live, breathe, and pontificate in Berkeley, Cambridge, or Chapel Hill say? Our fellow citizens who think Barack Obama has just passed some supreme test of presidential statesmanship as Sarah Palin has slid into ignominy are showing about as much human perspective, moral acuity, and political objectivity as..well, the average NPR reporter.

Sent by Richard | 6:11 PM | 9-1-2008

Why am I not surprised by the latest announncement regarding Palin's 17 year old daughter. There is so much we don't know about Palin, but the decision to put her on the GOP ticket tells us all we need to know about McCain.

Sent by Maureen | 6:14 PM | 9-1-2008

Well, there goes a well performed, classy moment of professionalism and compassion to waste. Will the opposite party appreciate the gesture? I'm sure they won't. And the people who already decided to vote for this man have their choice confirmed: the man has more moral fiber than those who think they get it by wearing flags in their lapel.

Sent by Francisco Solares-Larrave | 6:31 PM | 9-1-2008

There are so many things about this news that can be picked apart. Obama, I beleive took the right course of action with dignity, integrity and class, something that is sorely missing from out administrations.
Palin is obviously not the best choice , though she may be capable the history just isn't there.
I think it was McCains mistake and a bad campaign tactic from the Republicans to pick Palin knowing the issues. It shows lack of foresight when American politics and media is so easily predictable

Sent by Meghan in Alaska | 6:37 PM | 9-1-2008

I appreciate that Obama takes the high road even when the same courtesy would never have been extended to his family had the situations been reversed.

That said, I do think the story is politically relevant for lots of reasons, not least of which is the McCain camp's claim to have thoroughly vetted this candidate. They have stated they knew of the teen's pregnancy before selecting Palin as the VP candidate; I'm more interested in proof of *this* (and all other evidence of the alleged "vetting" - why they didn't request access to archives of Palin's home newspaper for relevant stories, why they didn't, apparently, talk to the fired employee in "Troopergate," etc.) than I am in, say, evidence it's not actually the poor kid's 2nd pregnancy.

I agree, leave Bristol alone.

John McCain and Sarah Palin, however, have lots to answer for in terms of their ability to exercise competent judgment.

Also, isn't the story of police crackdowns on freedom of the press at the RNC convention (which the mainstream media is virtually ignoring) a little more important than all this? (Not to mention the story of Gustav.) I get why this story has "legs" but let's try to keep some perspective, shall we?

Sent by Victoria Marinelli | 6:48 PM | 9-1-2008

Re: Another example of his thoughtful INTEGRITY

Palin: Mayor of a small town- 4 years
Governor Less Than 2 years....

We need Reason and Integrity in the White House.
Please spread the word!

What about:

Obama: State legislator for 7 years
Senator for less than 3 years

What's the difference?

Sent by kontrol.ca | 6:52 PM | 9-1-2008

The republican party tells us that they are the party of family values. As a mother, I can't imagine leaving my small children, especially a special needs child, to become vice president. It flies in the face of logic.

They tell us that each child deserves a mother and a father and that's why gays can't marry. Yet, we're to believe it's alright to leave children behind to further our careers. How does one live in Washington, D.C., be the VP, which I'm assuming take quite of bit out of one's day....and still be an effective mother to your special needs child?

What party is the party of family values again??? I hardly think it's the republicans. This tells us exactly what we need to know about John McCain and Sarah Palin and their collective judgement.

Sent by Debra | 8:12 PM | 9-1-2008

Dear kontrol.ca and others:

Here's is a quote by McCain that epitomizes the difference.

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno."
-John McCain

John McCain does not feel that family is off limits.

Sent by Paul | 9:53 PM | 9-1-2008

The pregnancy isn't as important as Palin's membership in the fringe nutcase Alaska Independence Party, which wants Alaska to secede from the US. Why 500 stories on this, and only 4 so far on her ties to the AIP?

Sent by Gary | 10:23 PM | 9-1-2008

i must say though i am a republican, i highly respect sen. obama for his integrity and etiquette. Hillary clinton would have a field day if she were in obama's place. The fact her daughter got pregnant is NOT sarah palin's fault. She can't watch her daughter 24/7, sometimes, regardless of your values, you can't control your kids completely. We ARE the party of family values, we know that marriage is between a man and a woman and that abortion is murder. Our pastor preached a sermon on the family unit, and that the way it has worked for hundreds of years has worked in most cases, the times where it doesn't is when the roles of the family are not executed properly, like daughter denies her mother and has sex with a guy and gets pregnant. The unit fails when a part doesn't function properly. But that's enough about that, like sen. obama said, families are off limits. Of the few things i agree with from Obama, this is probably the best thing he's said this entire campaign.

Sent by Alex Mann | 10:39 PM | 9-1-2008

Response to kontrol:
My apology for not being more specific.
The statement about Barack Obama's THOUGHTFUL INTEGRITY was related to his response and this article- 'Leave Bristol Alone'
If the tables were turned, There would be So Much flack about an 'unplanned pregnancy'- Specifically: Double standards for a 'white' unplanned pregnancy and a hypothetical 'black' unplanned pregnancy.

My comments about the lack of experience Sarah Palin:
She was on the City Council- and then elected to Mayor in a town - with Population Less Than 7,000.

Governor of Alaska (population less than 700,000) - and less than two years- Seems Pretty 'Small Time' to me.

Part of her 'experience' listed is: membership in the PTA.
(and we are going to trust this 'hockey-mom' with National Security Issues?!)
While the PTA is a 'good' thing, it hardly qualifies one for VP.

Ten years in Legislature experience- (with greater population) seems preferable to me.

Obama graduated from Columbia U. with a Political Science Major.
He went to Harvard Law School and was president of the Harvard Law Review before he graduated in 1991.
He went on to Teach at the U of Chicago Law School.

In contrast, Palin:
Bachelors degree in JOURNALISM.
Thats it.

Oh, yeah, she won a Beauty Pageant in 1984, when Barack was doing Community Organizing... (Barack's 'Community'
organizing, at one small point, involved a community of 5,300- Altgeld Gardens) - that is Nearly the Population of that small town, Wasilla!

Obama coordinated with church groups, parent groups, and others for the difficult task of bringing a lower income community Together.

gee, I wonder what difficult tasks Palin faced as Mayor of bustling Wasilla?

Regarding: We need Reason and Integrity in the White House.

Barack Obama has shown Reason, Forethought, Common Sense and Integrity - all-along.
Things that has been missing in the White House for the last 8 years- and qualities that McCain appears to be lacking as well.

I hope kontrol is a better informed voter, at this point!

Sent by Donna | 10:47 PM | 9-1-2008

Obama is Obama - he sees this as it is, meaningless. There are a lot of issues at which to determine who Sarah Palin is and why??? why would McCain pick this women over all other republicans? This just, once again proves, why our country needs Obama!

Sent by Norm | 10:48 PM | 9-1-2008

Wow. Could you people kiss any more a*s than this? On experience.. Obama has been a Senator less than 2 years.. Palin has more executive experience than ANY OTHER CANIDATE COMBINED. Police crackdowns? Family values??? You people will think, breath, repeat and follow anything that (Jesus himself) Obama says! There is a reason your convention was attended by MANY losers. The above thread.

Sent by joelpk | 10:48 PM | 9-1-2008

This is what makes me so excited that he's a real contender for the White House! It takes a comment like that - rather than going for a cheap and easy shot - to make a real leader.

Sent by Jess Sanders | 11:05 PM | 9-1-2008

I agree with Sen. Obama's stand. I also agree with the Alaska delegation who said it was a private family matter. I totally agree and look forward to the anti-abortion folks understanding that is true for EVERY family & to stop their governmental, judicial, political, and financial invasions of our privacy.

Sent by V Wright | 11:52 PM | 9-1-2008

joelpk, it's OK. We know you voted for George "I feel like God wants me to run for President" W. Bush. Probably twice (if you're old enough that is). We'll still let you play tough guy games when this reasonable and compassionate person is in the White House. And it's not because we think he's a God or that any God wants him to be president. It's because he has very real, earthbound skills to bring people together to do good and solve problems. Don't be so jaded and cynical all the time and you might actually get what's going on all around you.

Sent by Matt | 12:32 AM | 9-2-2008

Wow you liberals are amazing.

How low has American society come for one side to just assume another side wouldn't give the same respect if the roles were reversed? Stupid two-party system.

I'm telling you as a conservative, if someone attacked Obama's children, I would be outraged. As outraged as I am that Palin's children are being attacked.

I applaud Barack Obama for his generosity and kindness. I wish I could say the same thing about all you liberal commenters and bloggers - but apparently all the "change" you guys want is just in words.

Obama is about reaching across the middle and bringing people together, and all of your hateful words are only further separating us. How low can you go?

"Children are off limits. Children are off limits." -Joe Biden

Sent by Amy | 1:51 PM | 9-2-2008

I definately agree with previous comments. Obama is a man of integrity, and honors respect.

Sent by James | 6:44 PM | 9-2-2008

Obama is no longer a viable candidate with Joe Biden as his running mate. Joe Biden has no respect for the 14th amendment ( specifically due process and equal protection ). A vote for Obama with Joe as his running mate is a vote for a police state and the degredation of constitutional rights. Is a vote for Obama really for Obama? Joe Biden is a snake and a party mole.

Sent by Sean | 1:07 AM | 9-5-2008

Support comes from: