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Originally published September 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 3, 2008 at 8:34 AM

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Danny Westneat

Nearly everyone has spoken out about Palin, except Palin

The rules of spin control are to tell it all, tell it early and tell it yourself. Sarah Palin has done none of those things. On Friday, the day...

Seattle Times staff columnist

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The rules of spin control are to tell it all, tell it early and tell it yourself.

Sarah Palin has done none of those things.

On Friday, the day she was nominated, the news about the Alaska governor was good. The stories were about how McCain's mostly unknown vice-presidential nominee was a reformer who had taken on Alaska's most fossilized politicians.

Since then, it's been almost all negative. She's under investigation for what may have been an improper firing. She was for the wasteful "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it. Her teen daughter is pregnant.

Now, in a mirroring of the Jeremiah Wright story, tapes have surfaced of her longtime pastor in Alaska talking about how anyone who criticized President Bush would go to hell. And of Palin herself describing the Iraq war as "a task that is from God."

Palin is an exciting new politician on the scene, but another way of putting that is that nobody knows much about her. What is known is now being filled in by opposition research, the press and, most irresponsibly, by anonymous Internet postings (that's how the teen-pregnancy story was flushed out).

It's getting out of control. When I arrived here on Sunday, Palin was the toast of the town. Yet by Tuesday I heard a number of conversations in which people used the conditional to describe her place on the ticket (as in, "if Palin stays on the ticket, then ... ").

Shouldn't we at least wait to hear her speak?

More to the point for her, shouldn't she hold her first press interview?

Why is the McCain campaign letting others write Palin's story for her?

Call me jaded, but it's truly remarkable that the McCain camp thought it could sail along without having to address her background more deeply.

Public people can't expect private lives anymore. They get full-frontal scrutiny. Especially in an era where everyone's a publisher, so absolutely anything can be printed.

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It means, despicably, that even their kids are fair game.

I was taught early on in journalism to leave the kids out of it. They didn't ask for the political life — they were forced into it. Sometimes that's true of the spouses, too.

Now, families are pushed to the front of the stage by the candidates themselves. And decades of harping on "family values" in politics have made the values of individual families a public matter.

Hypocrisy about that was on display here in St. Paul. Conservative groups such as the Family Research Council denounced the press for intruding on Palin's family, but then went out of their way to hail the Palins for "choosing life" by keeping the baby.

Isn't that also intruding on Palin's family — in fact using it to score political points?

Some liberals are trying to portray Palin as a hypocrite because she's for abstinence-only sex education, even as her own daughter was out getting knocked up. I don't buy it. Things sometimes fail. Parenting strategies. Advice. Even condoms. The story means Palin's human, not a hypocrite.

At a forum Tuesday on dynamics in the upcoming elections, two female political analysts said Palin's choices in juggling work and family mean we're about to have another skirmish in the ongoing Mommy Wars.

"I'm hearing from women a concern, which is how is it that somebody who's just given birth to her fifth child, a special-needs child, and her teen daughter is pregnant, could think that this was a good time to run for national office?" one of them said.

That's the kind of question men never get asked. It's not fair. Maybe we shouldn't even be talking about it.

But it's out there. I can't remember a time when so many questions were being asked, at once, about a politician at this high a level.

As Barack Obama did with the race issue, she's got to meet it head on. Starting soon. Maybe even tonight, when she's set to address the nation in easily this convention's most anticipated moment.

Tell it early (well, it's almost too late for that). Tell it all. And, most of all, tell it herself.

Danny Westneat: 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Danny Westneat
Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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