Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sep. 2: Change Needed For GOP Perception of Birth Control, Media's Perception of Eagleton

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Chicago journalist Carol Marin, as usual, sums up the political events of the last 24 hours quite well:


Indeed, the views of the two candidates on the Republican Party ticket, and of their party, are extremely relevant. This circumstance shows perfectly why it's time for the GOP to get its head out of the sand on the issue of birth control, on the issue of parents speaking to their children, and on how sex is portrayed to teens in the media.

A word about the latter two, since Marin covered the first:

I don't agree that abstinence isn't 100 percent realistic. But some context is needed in discussing it as an alternative, beyond just saying "Don't do it." Teens are smart; if they have good reasons in front of them - the emotional commitment to someone, the consequences of unprotected sex, the responsibilities of teenage parents, etc. - they'll be more likely to delay sex.

Having better influences in the mass media might help, too. Remember the days when the character of Jenny Gardner (played by Kim Delaney) on ABC's "All My Children" decided not to sleep with her boyfriend, Greg Nelson? The characters waited until their wedding night. Remember when "The Facts of Life" actress Lisa Welchel decided not to have her character, Blair Warner, involved in losing her virginity? Many teen viewers applauded, including me.

Who takes such gutsy stands today? Not many of the teen or young adult characters frequently seen on today's prime time programming. By the way, some of the trashiest prime time programming is produced by FOX, owned by longtime Republican supporter Rupert Murdoch. Whose family values is he promoting?

And when young actors or actresses do play squeaky clean characters, they tend to have some "ooops" moment (listening, Miley Cyrus?) that indicates that maybe the characters are too much of a burden for them.

If Sarah Palin's candidacy survives long enough for her to make it to the vice presidential debate, you can bet she's going to be asked about this issue. She might want to take some time to think about her answer. It's got to be more than the standard "It's just life" we've been hearing from her fellow Republicans for the last 36 hours.


The question of whether Sen. John McCain or the Republican leadership did their jobs in vetting Palin is a valid one. Yesterday, Chuck Todd, the political director for NBC News, had a good theory; he suggested she was vetted legally (i.e., any Geraldine Ferraro's husband-type financial issues), but not politically.

However, can we finally get beyond the idea that Sen. Thomas Eagleton did something wrong in 1972?

Eagleton, a Democratic senator from Missouri for almost 20 years, was picked by Sen. George McGovern to be his running mate during that year's presidential campaign. After that, it was revealed that Eagleton had suffered from depression and received electroshock treatments, thought to be the best treatment for depression at the time, during the 1960s. McGovern forced him off the ticket. It's been getting a lot of mention with reporters speculating about whether Palin will quit or be dumped.

When Eagleton died last year, McGovern said publicly he had made a mistake in removing Eagleton from the ticket, that he had listened too closely to public outcry. Indeed.

By 1990, knowledge of depression had progressed to the point where Lawton Chiles said during his campaign for governor of Florida that he had been treated with Prozac for the depression he suffered after he left the Senate in 1989. Chiles was elected governor.

(That moment led to one of my all-time favorite political cartoons by the Miami Herald's great Jim Morin: An elephant, representing the Republicans, walking into a drugstore and asking the clerk, "Got any Prozac?")

In the coverage of the last two days, though, it seems we've gone backward again, with the descriptions of how McGovern was right in throwing Eagleton off the ticket. So once more: Thomas Eagleton battled depression, just like millions of other Americans. He served his state and his country long and honorably. He was a capable vice presidential candidate. Enough of throwing darts at him.

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