CONVENTION SPECIAL: Republicans React to Bristol Palin's Pregnancy

by Chris Krohn
Wednesday September 03, 2008 - 10:21:00 AM

ST. PAUL—Alaska Governor and current Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant, but the family says she will bear the child and marry the father.  

Barack Obama’s reaction: There was also “empathy from Barack Obama.” Obama was shown saying, “My mother had me when she was 18. How family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics.” (U.S. News and World Report) 

Here in St. Paul, Minn., site of the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC), 10 registered Republicans inside and outside the Convention Hall were asked how Alaska Governor and John McCain’s selection as vice president, Sarah Palin, reacted to the news of her daughter, Bristol, 17, being five months pregnant. 

Included in these interviews along with Republican delegates from Texas, Michigan and Oklahoma were a hospital technician, a retiree and waitress from St. Paul, a nurse from Iowa, and a political campaign consultant from Oklahoma. Almost to a person this group of random interviewees seemed to be right on message, even if the responses were more libertarian than mainstream Republican. They were perhaps best summed up by Mary Kiritschenko, a waitress from St. Paul. Her comments covered the gamut of reaction, “This is 2008, it’s awful (abortion) like it was when I was growing up. I like Palin, but it’s tough and this is America and there happens to be thousands of families in the same situation.” 

Brett Farley is a self-described conservative Republican and campaign political consultant from Okalahoma City. “It was a bit of a surprise, at first I thought ‘poor girl’ … but I think it helps her candidacy … I am now willing to wear a McCain button, as long as Palin’s name is on there.”  

Farley’s friend, fellow Okalahoma alternate delegate and lawyer, Jason Reese, describes himself as a moderate conservative. “Brett and I represent opposites within our party,” he smiles as he looks at his friend. “And good for her for getting married. We’re from the south and it’s good to see somebody living up to their obligation. The easy thing would have been to go off and have an abortion.”  

Reese added, “Palin brings in a reformist credential. She has stood up to people in her own party, she will stand up to the Tom Delays and Jack Abramoffs of the world. She’s a staunch conservative, but one moderates can live with.”  

Reese is the current Republican candidate for Labor Commissioner, a statewide office in Okalahoma. 

Perhaps Alvin, Texas-delegate Sandy Golden’s comments are as blunt as they are complex. “I’ve had two daughters who got pregnant when they were teenagers. My first reaction was I appreciate that the mother and the father have not rejected their daughter. I’m sure they are feeling horrible. I’m pro-family and pro-life and they [Golden’s daughters] were not raised that way … and they have paid dearly in a lot of ways.”  

Executive Producer and Grosse Pointe, Mich., delegate Julie Corbett said, “I was upset about it, but it’s a family matter and it should remain a family matter.”  

Lexington-Circle Pines, Minn. resident Bob Hanson, who works in Nutrition Services at a local hospital, was equally forgiving, if not outright enthusiastic for Palin’s candidacy. “Since I’ve learned more about Sarah I think she’s totally awesome. I’m not voting for [Bristol] I’m voting for her mother. I was also impressed to find out that she said her parents were life-long school teachers.”  

Linda Cooper from St. Paul said, “Sarah Palin’s daughter is just like every American teenager … she has her own road to travel through life and thank God she’s a pregnant teenager with an active mother and father.” 

Independent voters and St. Paul residents, Melissa Mattson, a restaurant manager, and community college student Katy Kobold may be representative of many voters in 2008.”Her daughter is not running for office,” says Kobold, “I heard about it this morning and it’s unfortunate that it has become public.”  

Mattson is more circumspect, “I’m still undecided and it [Bristol Palin’s pregnancy] does not make a difference in my vote … and what about the guys? There’s lots of young men out there that could be in the same situation but we may never know.”  

And just to add further complexity, Mattson’s friend, waitress Kiritschenko chimes in on cue, “Yeah, it just happened to my son last month [He got a girl pregnant].