Barack Obama has invoked his experience with his grandmother’s death in support of his health care restructuring plans.
Does this mean Obama used his grandmother as a “prop,” and that this would justify mocking his grandmother? No.
We each have personal experiences with the health care system, and other aspects of society, and we can use those personal anecdotes as we see fit, including political discourse.
But when it comes to Sarah Palin and Trig Palin, there is a completely different standard.
When Sarah brought Trig on stage at the Republican National Convention, and at campaign events, the left-wing blogosphere and pundits went wild with condemnation. The Chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party asserted in response to seeing Trig at these events that Sarah’s “primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”
Numerous bloggers picked up this line of attack, claiming that Trig was being used as a campaign “prop.” The “Trig as prop” meme has been used consistently by the left-wing blogosphere, including earlier this summer when Trig appeared in Runner’s World photos with Sarah.
The “Trig as prop” meme also was used to justify crude Photoshops of Trig, as detailed in my prior post, Wonkette Goes After Trig Palin Again.
Just days ago, when Sarah invoked Trig in the debate over “death panel” provisions in the health care restructuring bill, the “Trig as prop” line appeared with full force. A blogger at the popular Firedoglake, linking to a post about the Trig Photoshop controversy, proclaimed the “Tao of Trig,” namely “Sarah’s first rule of Trig: Don’t talk about Trig, unless you’re me.” Another Firedoglake blogger used the term “
prop baby Trig” (word strike in the original).
James Wolcott at Vanity Fair asserted that Sarah’s use of Trig amounted not only to using Trig as a prop, but revealed Sarah’s secret death wish for Trig:
That Palin would place her Down Syndrome baby in the same sentence with a highly charged phrase like “death panel”* isn’t just cheap, morbid melodrama (personalizing the health-care issue to a shameless degree), it may betray an unconscious resentment of the burden such a child represents and a desire to be rid of that burden. Putting Trig and “death panel” into conjunction to score a dubious debating point is not an act of loving-kindness or consideration.
It is not only unkind for Palin to use her Down Syndrome child as a rhetorical prop, a political football, it is exceedingly unwise. She would be well-advised to dial down the Joan Crawford histrionics–such stridency is vulnerable to sudden, shattering cracks.
Another blogger proclaimed: “It’s nice to know that Trig passed his mother’s ‘death panel’ and has been afforded the right to live – as a prop only, of course.” At the Huffington Post, blogger Robert Elisberg went so far at to say that Palin’s use of her children as props made them fair game:
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, has found few events she couldn’t shove her children into – during the campaign and after. Sarah Palin used her children so much that they not only became circus props, but Barnum & Bailey probably took lessons.
Wherever she went, she seemed to have her youngest child on her shoulder. Whenever she could talk about her child having Down Syndrome, she did…
The person who has been putting her children on stage, while shedding crocodile tears for a year how they are off-limits – just used her Down Syndrome baby as another circus prop by writing for a national audience how he could be killed by the government.
The “Trig as prop” meme is completely mainstream among the left-wing blogosphere. I hope that the right-wing blogosphere will not use Obama’s comments about his grandmother the same way.
Not even taking into consideration that Obama called his grandmother a “typical white person” to deflect attention from Obama’s association with Jeremiah Wright. Not even if attacking Obama’s grandmother seemed like just payback for the treatment of Trig and Sarah.
Leave the kids and family members alone. We can win the health care debate on the merits, so let’s do it.
UPDATE: Jim Treacher’s post reminds me that Obama also invoked his grandmother’s medical history with regard to whether she should get a hip replacement, and the issue of end-of-life care. Still no reason to mock the grandmother. We can discuss the merits of end-of-life care, including the merits of what Obama and Palin said, without getting personal about a politician’s family.