In the Friday Wisconsin speech, we were reminded again of how central the Trig pregnancy remains to the Palin phenomenon. McCain, in the three minutes he spent thinking about it, saw Palin as some kind of "reformer". In fact, she was carefully marketing herself in 2008 as the uber-Christianist, and her carrying to term a Down Syndrome baby was the single most important fact about her for the base (and still is). This is what Kristol saw in her: a walking embodiment of the pro-life movement, but also usable to launch further warfare in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or wherever the next neoconservative adventure can be found.
So what did we learn on Friday?
We learned for the first time that the Dish's appalling interest in her odd amniocentesis was onto something. In September 2008, I asked:
Why would a pro-life woman choose the procedure that could lead to the death of her unborn child rather than the safe, less invasive procedure? I don't know. It's one of many mystifying weirdnesses in Palin's own account of her pregnancy.
You'd think I'd accused her of manslaughter. But it now turns out that Palin did have an early ultrasound before the amnio - at least according to her latest version of the one-month-long public pregnancy and miraculous airplane labor across several time zones and continents. And it was the ultrasound, and not the amniocentesis, that revealed the Down Syndrome:
Palin spoke movingly of her youngest son, Trig, who has Down syndrome. She recalled that when she was pregnant, she underwent an ultrasound and the technician told her, "I see boy parts." Later, the technician told her that the baby's neck "is a little bit thicker," an indication that there might be an extra chromosome. A few days later, Down syndrome was confirmed.
Presumably, the confirmation came by amniocentesis, a procedure that posed a small but real threat to the baby's life. So the Dish wasn't crazy to ask this obvious question. Palin might have finessed this story last year because she didn't want to answer the question of why, as a pro-life woman, she would risk the life of her unborn child merely to confirm a diagnosis that had already been made. It could also be explained by a simple compression of the pregnancy story - but that's a little convenient given her acute control of the message at the time. There's one other aspect of her current story that's a bit strange as well.
The story, as we knew it from before (from the book, "Trailblazer", and a recent speech in Indiana), was that Palin found out she was pregnant "while out of state first, at an oil and gas conference." (It's unclear if she had had a pregnancy test at her doctor's and had the results confirmed to her over the phone or if she did a test herself, or just realized she must be pregnant.) Before she knew anything about the condition of the child, she said Friday she contemplated an abortion:
While out of state, there just for a fleeting moment, wow, I knew, nobody knows me here, nobody would ever know. I thought, wow, it is easy, could be easy to think, maybe, of trying to change the circumstances. No one would know. No one would ever know.
By her account, she resisted that temptation but lapsed back into conflict after the Down Syndrome confirmation:
Then when my amniocentesis results came back, showing what they called abnormalities. Oh, dear God, I knew, I had instantly an understanding for that fleeting moment why someone would believe it could seem possible to change those circumstances. Just make it all go away and get some normalcy back in life. Just take care of it. Because at the time only my doctor knew the results, Todd didn't even know. No one would know. But I would know.
Some remaining questions: When exactly did Todd find out about the pregnancy? And when did he discover that his son had Down Syndrome? Or were those two pieces of news delivered simultaneously? Why did the Palins make no attempt to prepare their other children for Trig's special needs when they had so long to do so? Why on earth did Palin believe that the mere fact of her pregnancy would elicit criticism and disdain - "Oh, the criticism that I knew was coming" - when it would obviously actually redound to her credit as a working mom and governor?
Maybe her "book" will resolve these and other empirical questions about the logic and detail of her pregnancy and labor stories. Maybe someone will even ask her to clarify the chronology of the critical reason for her enduring appeal. It would, you know, be relevant, if not deferent.