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Why Do We Care About Bristol? Because of Her Mother

Original Article

Why, one might ask, would an aging lawyer living in the Midwest bother to write a column about Bristol Palin? Well, she has recently published a book and been in the news because of it, but the truth is that the public (including me) is interested in her because of her mother, Sarah Palin.

I will say, by way of fair disclosure, that I am a fan of Sarah Palin. I don’t think she will run for president. I could be wrong, of course, so I don’t need to get into that debate. But Palin is an important figure on the current national scene. She is a smart, dynamic, from-the-shoulder, what-you-see-is-what-you-get American woman.

I saw her address a packed house at Memorial Coliseum during the 2008 campaign. People had been waiting in line, four abreast, for hours in order to get in, and when she appeared, the place became electrified. Like her or not, she is a force.

As most of us know, however, there was a personal family problem that cropped up during that campaign. Her then teenage and unmarried daughter, Bristol, announced she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend, Levi Johnston, were going to be married, or so it was announced at the time. The marriage never occurred, and Bristol and Levi split up. Bristol had the baby, became a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars,” where she reached the finals, and now has written a book about her life.

I am not sufficiently interested in the book to have bought it, but I have been reading the reviews, and they are not all kind. Apparently, young Johnston, who will doubtless soon be publishing a book of his own, is a sort of a rounder, and Bristol says very uncomplimentary things about him. According to some of the reviews, Bristol does not come off so great, either. Keep in mind, though, she is only 20 years old. As Eva Peron sings in “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”: “Remember, I was very young then.” Given Bristol’s age, I am willing to cut her some slack if she sometimes sounds bitter or immature.

Besides, the new book was co-authored by a writer named Nancy French, a journalist who grew up in Tennessee and has since lived in Philadelphia and New York City.

She also has published a book of her own and has good credentials. But when I read a book “written by” a current celebrity “with” a professional writer, I assume the celebrity probably could not have written it herself. (Or himself – example: Andre Agassi, whose book, by the way, is very good.) Which is OK, but one has to wonder how much of the professional journalist bleeds over into the content of the book.

So why does Bristol decide to come out with a book at this young age, thrusting herself into the unflattering spotlight, and risking the scorn of her mother’s political enemies? The answer, I suppose – money. She is, after all, a young woman with a small child to raise, and her family is not wealthy. I’m guessing that, as the years pass, we’ll hear less about Bristol Palin, except to the extent it may involve her mother. In the meantime, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and wishing her well.


Howard Chapman is a resident of Fort Wayne.