Vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has reason to be proud of her son Track, 19 of whom she spoke at length at the Republican National Convention. Track will be deployed to Iraq on Sept. 11, Palin informed the crowd (and the press) last night, while her nephew Casey is already serving on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. But Palin mentioned her family's military service by way of explaining her strong support for her running mate John McCain, and in so doing broke sharply with the presidential candidate and veteran's own, much-acclaimed policy on refusing to discuss, and thus benefit from, his own son's military service in Iraq. She also opened herself up to more discussion of her unwed daughter's pregnancy, heretofore characterized as off-limits because it involved Palin's children.
McCain has refused, as recently as last week, to discuss his son Jimmy, 19, who has been deployed to Iraq at least once, or his son Jack, 21, who enrolled in the Naval Academy. His spokesman said earlier this year this is done "out of respect for the men and women who serve around Jimmy and for security reasons." Though the identity of Palin's son's specific unit has been made known, Palin speaks about him openly.
When McCain refused to talk about his son's service, here's what fellow Republicans said:
“It goes to the character of McCain that he typically does not exploit his familial connections,” said Jim Pitts, co-founder of Navigators, a Washington lobby shop. Pitts is a McCain supporter and fundraiser...
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has talked to McCain in private about Jimmy’s service. The two serve on the Armed Services panel, where McCain is the ranking member.
“I know that John McCain is very proud of his son’s service and he talked to me about it many times, but he is certainly not going to exploit it for political purposes,” Collins said.
“I did not have a problem, either, with my father talking about me when I was over there,” said Duncan Hunter Jr., who now is running for his retiring father’s seat. “Sen. McCain is higher-profile than my father was and it could put his son in jeopardy and in a spotlight where he does not need to be.”
McCain and other politicians with children in the military face difficult choices about what, if anything, to say in public about their kids. By all accounts, it is a tough call to make. Palin and her son have reached their own decision, and the Democrats, who have declared they will not delve into family matters, are unlikely to make anything of the change.
But the McCain ticket must also deal with the press, which has been fishing around in aspects of Paliln's personal life she is less keen to discuss. When news broke that Palin's 17-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol was pregnant, McCain's chief strategist told the press it was "a private family matter." The Wall Street Journal quoted an anonymous aide saying the issue was off-limits. As others have noted, that line will now be tough to sell.