Thursday, March 05, 2009

How Much Does Sarah Palin Like Condoms?

A couple of weeks ago, Fosco waxed enthusiastic about his new favorite Palin, new mom Bristol. In the course of that post, Fosco made some accusations about the beliefs of Bristol's mom, Governor Sarah Palin. An anonymous commenter (who I assume is The BeeMaster, although he forgot to sign the comment) took issue with some of Fosco's facts and asked that Fosco make "corrections." This is a reasonable request--assuming Fosco was wrong. Let's find out, shall we?

Here is the first question raised by the commenter (Fosco's original words are in italics):

And so, on behalf of America, I'd like to apologize to Bristol Palin. Bristol, I'm sorry your mom is a hillbilly idiot who didn't want you to learn about how not to get pregnant.

Untrue. Sarah Palin has never backed abstinence-only sex education. In fact, she supports contraceptive education in public schools:

And from a radio show debate: "...I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something I would support also.”
The question, then, is: what type of sex education program does Sarah Palin support?

The commenter has found two statements by Palin that suggest she supports sex ed that teaches about contraception. Both of these quotes are referenced in an LA Times article:
“I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues,” she said during a debate in Juneau.


"I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something I would support also.”
All of this may seem relatively straightforward, and Fosco is willing to admit that Sarah Palin is not quite the anti-contraception crusader that he has painted her as. However, I think Palin's view is a lot more complicated (or confused) than the commenter would like to admit.

The problem, of course, is Palin's response on a questionnaire by the nutjob Eagle Forum. When she was running for governor, Palin responded to the following question in the following way (you can find the full questionnaire here):
3. Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for [sic] explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

SP: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.
Now what are we supposed to make of this answer? On the face of it, it does seem to suggest that Palin supports "abstinence-until-marriage education" instead of "explicit sex-education programs." After all, the question was worded as an "instead of" question and Palin explicitly (teehee!) chose the second alternative.

Of course, the problem here is what the hell the phrase "explicit sex-ed programs" means? Well, it turns out that "explicit sex-ed" is a loaded code phrase used by conservative groups as another, scarier, name for "comprehensive sex-ed." You can read about its deployment in this NY Times article. And while most parents do support the teaching of basic contraception in sex-ed classes, it is not clear whether a scare term like "explicit sex-ed" is intended to include such information (although I'd be willing to bet that unrolling a condom over a banana or cucumber would count as "explicit" for these people).

Palin's own clarification of the term explicit is about as useful as most of her clarifications. Once again, from the LA Times piece referenced earlier:
In August of that year, Palin was asked during a KTOO radio debate if “explicit” programs include those that discuss condoms. Palin said no and called discussions of condoms “relatively benign.”

“Explicit means explicit,” she said.
"Explicit means explicit"? Fine, but what does "explicit" mean to you, Sarah? Because, even from the way their questionnaire is worded, there is good reason to believe that the Eagle Forum understands the word "explicit" differently than you do (and I bet it includes condoms).

So I think we've managed to tease out Sarah Palin's true beliefs about sex ed. I guess she does actually support condom education. However, at the same time, she is also happy to suggest to conservative groups like the Eagle Forum that she is against "explicit sex-ed," even though "explicit sex-ed" is a conservative synonym for "comprehensive sex-ed" and comprehensive sex-ed does indeed include condom education. Whew! I may have been wrong about her position, but I think you can see why.

Which brings me to the better question here: why is it that Fosco had to spend an hour parsing scattered quotes in order to arrive at a barely half-satisfying position statement for a candidate for the second-most-powerful elected office in the country? We knew exactly what kind of sex ed programs the other candidates (Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and John "Walnuts" McCain) supported. Once again, Palin is a completely blank space. And why? Two reasons:
  1. She never talked about any of her beliefs that she didn't want to talk about.
  2. No one in the media had the opportunity (or the balls) to make her talk about those things.
No doubt her support for contraception would have been unpopular with "the base"; luckily, she never had to talk about it during the campaign. Maybe Fosco is old-fashioned, but he tends to think that candidates for public office have to be explicit (teehee!) about their positions, even when those positions may be unpopular. Hey, this would have been a great question for Greta Van Susteren to have asked Sarah Palin during her drop in! Hmmm, I wonder why Van Susteren didn't think of that...

Okay. On to the commenter's second objection:
And I'm sorry that people like your mom were in charge of your education in the state of Alaska, thereby preventing you from receiving meaningful sex ed.

Untrue. Bristol Palin attended Wasilla High, a public school in Alaska which does teach contraceptive use:
Really? What's your source for that? Ah, here it is:

Hmmm. Maybe I'm being a "source snob," but I am not going to accept the third-hand testimony of the daughter of a "buddy" of a conservative Alaskan blogger, even if his name is "Rory."

Hey, here's a better idea. What if we considered the testimony of the Principal of Bristol Palin's Wasilla high school. According to an article in the Boston Herald, WHS Principal Dwight Probasco (pictured at right) stated that his school's sex ed curriculum "pushes abstinence." Whether or not this means that the curriculum is "abstinence-only," I don't know. I also don't know how whatever curriculum the school board and principal have approved gets translated into everyday lessons by the teachers in the school. And we certainly have no way of knowing what specific information Bristol Palin received in her sex ed classes (without, of course, asking her--another missed question by Van Susteren).

All of which means that Fosco cannot guarantee that Bristol Palin didn't learn something about contraception in high school sex ed (although her principal's quote seems to suggest that she did not). However, I think I'm more likely to be right on this than the commentator's pal "Rory." And I think it is clearly not the case that Bristol Palin received comprehensive sex ed, as the commenter asserts:
So, despite receiving "comprehensive" sexual education, Bristol Palin still got pregnant! How can this be? Shall we use draconian terms like "personal responsibility," or shall we chalk up her pregnancy as failure of "comprehensive" sex ed?
Ummm, can I answer "neither"? All sex ed, even comprehensive sex ed, is going to have a failure rate. The question is not whether a program prevents pregnancy altogether, but whether it does better than the alternatives. And, based on that criterion, there is little doubt that comprehensive sex education is effective.

And yes, of course Bristol Palin bears some personal responsibility for her pregnancy. However, we do tend to believe that ignorance lessens responsibility and if Bristol was kept ignorant of basic facts about reproduction and contraception (and we don't know to what extent she was), I think those people who kept that information from her must be held responsible as well.

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kungfuramone said...

To quote *both* Lindsey and Tobias: Do you WANT me to be explicit?

You, sir, are a mouthful.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to leave my comment unsigned. Yes, tis I, The BeeMaster (although the title can certainly be questioned as all my honey bees have recently died).

[insert link to my Facebook note reporting my failure as I cannot figure out how]

It's unfortunate that Governor Palin used the word EXPLICIT in her questionnaire response, because the word can mean two different things as expressed in FoscOlives' post. Then, she failed to clarify when given the chance: "Explicit means explicit." Nice. I almost still want to do you, Sarah.

As a final reality check, her radio interview suggests that she considers abstinence to be the "other" method that she is not afraid of. But clearly (okay, not clearly) she considers contraceptives the primary educational point.

As for the lame reference regarding Wasilla High, you got me there. I really hoped you didn't check. (Really, as I typed it, I hoped you wouldn't check)

For the record, I don't believe (but cannot prove) that abstinence is the law of the land in Alaska and really hope (but cannot prove) that Bristol Palin did know where babies come from and how to prevent all that.

It's unfortunate Sarah wasn't clearer in her remarks, or the chances she was given to extend and revise her remarks. This is an ongoing problem for her as Palin made some other embarrassing gaffes:

She complained that we didn’t have enough “Arabic translators” in Afghanistan -- not realizing the natives don’t speak Arabic in Afghanistan, but rather a variety of regional dialects, the most common of which is Pashtun.

Speaking to military veterans one time, Palin said, “Our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today.”

She bragged about passing a law regulating the nuclear industry that it turned out never became a law at all.

Some days Palin said Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez should suffer "regional isolation" -- but then on others she’d say she supported the president’s meeting with Chavez.

She told one audience about recent tornados in Kansas that had killed 10,000 people. In fact, a dozen people were killed in the tornados.

She referred to the “57 states” that make up the U.S.

Speaking of her eldest daughter’s pregnancy, she said Bristol was being “punished” with a baby.

As you probably know -- or guessed by now -- none of these gaffes were uttered by Palin. They are all Obama gaffes. Luckily, he made them to a star-struck press that managed not to ask him a difficult question for two years.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, they painted Palin as inexperienced (which is rich as she has more executive experience than Obama) and not well spoken (maybe she would do better if she were tethered to a teleprompter like the messiah.)

The problem is that experience and speaking ability can be obtained. So the best the Dems could say is Sarah is not the best choice right now, leaving the door open for us to hear from her in later elections.

- The (humbled) BeeMaster, who has no bees.

todd said...

I don't have the time or energy to rebut point by point, but I had to post a quick comment.

Some of your supposed gaffes are so minor as to not matter (57 states, anyone with a brain realized he meant contests and to say otherwise is disingenuous), some were corrected within the same speech (the tornado thing) and some not gaffes at all (I fail to see how the Chavez thing is contradictory in any way).

Oh, and I just love the meme that Obama was never tested by the press. Without acknowledging the accuracy of the sentiment, it didn't seem to bother any Republicans in 2000 and 2004 when Bush was on the receiving end of an adoring press.

If the Republicans want to run Palin in 2012 this Liberal will be very, very happy.

todd said...

Following up my own post to note that minor incidents of misspeaking are of little interest to me as long as the speaker actually demonstrates understanding of their topic. Not just the talking points, but nuance and detail. On a broad range of issues President Obama has done this. I have yet to hear any such command of a topic from Gov. Palin.

Anonymous said...

Yah, like his "nuance and detail" on that economy thing?

So we can look forward to hooping it up together when the Palin-Romney (or Romney-Palin) ticket is announced? (While watching Fosc Olives' head explode?)

The BeeMaster

Anonymous said...

Hey, hos come my link above don't work?

These are the same media that investigates whether Palin can see Russia from her house (which she never claimed) or if she herself has ever seen Russia from Alaska (which she also never claimed).

And it's shameful how, during the campaign, the press sauteed war hero Senator John McCain's senior-moment, "minor incident of misspeaking" when he referred to "profit to earnings" instead of "price to earnings" ratios.

Oh, wait. That was Obama's gaffe this week! So glad CNN was on top THAT! Not!

The BeeMaster

todd said...

Whether or not Palin actually said she could see Russia from Alaska (and while I definitely recall hearing the quote I've done this enough times to know not to trust memory on these things) is a non-issue since she absolutely 100% clear as the Fiji Water Fosco posted yesterday tried to claim that living in Alaska gave her some special insight into foreign policy.

COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters--


PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.


Anonymous said...

STILL more foreign policy experience than Obama -- and she wasn't running for president!

It looks like Obama could use some etiquette lessons from somebody...

More on what they are calling "giftgate" in the UK...

It was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin who said, "I can see Russia from my house!" Even so, after Obama insulting our #1 strategic ally, I can't imagine Governor Palin doing worse.

The BeeMaster

FOSCO said...

"STILL more foreign policy experience than Obama." Ummm, there is no way you can argue that being the governor of Alaska means that she has foreign policy experience. So that leaves her little junket to Afghanistan (or wherever). But if we are counting overseas travel as foreign policy experience, Obama has her beat pretty handily there as well. Not to mention that Obama had already met with a number of world leaders before he was elected; Palin couldn't even name a number of world leaders when she was running. I'm not going to argue that Obama was a foreign policy expert when he was elected--he wasn't (although he easily had as much as GWB did when he was "elected." And as much as Clinton.). But by ANY standard, Obama still had more foreign policy experience than did Palin.

As for "giftgate"... Seriously, BeeMaster? You really think that Obama's gift "insulted" Britain? Don't you think you (and the British tabloids) are being a little dramatic? Personally, I don't see what the big deal is--I think it sounds like a nice enough gift. Maybe not as "personal" as the gift that Brown gave to Obama, but still within the realm of acceptability. It's certainly not any worse than the bomber jacket that GWB gave to Brown. And do you really imagine that a "bad" gift is going to cause Britain to leave NATO or something? Seems like much ado about nothing.

Besides, would a giant cooler of moose steaks really be a better gift?

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