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A change in the rules?

Gov. Sarah Palin’s surprise announcement Friday that she would be resigning July 26 may have implications beyond who serves as Alaska’s top executive for the remainder of her term.
It has been speculated that Palin, who came to national prominence last summer when Republican presidential nominee John McCain selected her to be his running mate, is stepping down because of the beating her family has taken by political opponents and the media.
If that’s the case ‘ and one assumes it is, since stepping down before completing her first term wouldn’t seem to be a great strategy in propelling a 2012 presidential bid ‘ then the lesson to be taken is frightening.
The unwritten rule has been that opponents can say what they want about political figures but their family, and especially their children, are off-limits. Or, that was the rule until Palin.
In the 10 months since she became the GOP vice presidential nominee ‘ including eight after the election ‘ Palin and her family have been treated as no other national candidate or officeholder.
First, there were nasty rumors that her special-needs son whom she gave birth to in early 2008 wasn’t hers, and instead was her daughter’s. When that didn’t force her out, some in the so-called mainstream media suggested it would be impossible for her to be both an effective vice president and mother.
Then, her pregnant teenage daughter and boyfriend were the subject of much media scrutiny. They called Palin a hypocrite because she believes in abstinence before marriage and, here, her unwed daughter was pregnant. Like kids never have disobeyed their parents before.
However, the real scrutiny of her daughter didn’t begin until after the election. After her daughter and boyfriend, who were planning on getting married, broke up, talk shows sought the young man so they could ask him such relevant things like, did he and Palin’s daughter have sex in her family’s home.
Then, there was the recent David Letterman incident, where the late-night television show comedian insinuated that her daughter ‘ the video showed her 14-year-old, but he said he meant her 18-year-old; either way, it doesn’t matter ‘ is a slut.
If Palin resigned because she is tired of the attacks on her family, then a terrible precedent has been set: If you disagree with someone politically, go after their family without a second thought until they can’t take it anymore and back out of political life.
Now that the template has been established, will we begin seeing more ruthless attacks on the families of politicians? Prospective candidates long have had to weigh whether serving in office is worth the inevitable attacks on their own character. Now, they may have to ask if it is worth attacks on their family.
For many, the answer understandably will be no. However, if that happens, we lose. If good people don’t run for office because of concern for their family, we’ll be left with candidates who are concerned more with advancing their careers at any cost and not in truly serving the public interest.
Politics is a dirty, unfair game, and, unfortunately, the lone remaining set of rules may just have been tossed out.