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''Knocked Up'' -- not the comedy

September 3, 2008 |  3:00 am

Sarah Palin, Bristol Palin, John McCain, Republican National Convention, Barack Obama, teen pregnancy, Murphy Brown, abstinence, family planning It's not a slogan I would ever have expected to see at any political convention, and here it was, a homemade button on a conventioneer's hat among the Republicans in St. Paul:

''Support Unwed Mothers.''

The pregnancy of Sarah Palin's unmarried teenaged daughter, Bristol, will surely be one of those watershed moments of cultural history. A couple of decades on since the ''permissiveness culture'' and its icons -- like Madonna and her ''Papa Don't Preach'' unwed-pregnant-girl 1986 hit -- were assailed by conservative leaders in the Reagan years, has that culture come home to roost and set up housekeeping in the home of the GOP's vice presidential nominee, to the approval of the delegates in St. Paul?

What a headspinner -- a week or so after Barack Obama demands that black fathers take responsibility for their children, ''Support Unwed Mothers'' shows up at John McCain's convention.

Deja vu all over again?   Dan Quayle controversially assailed absentee fathers and single mothers, too, during the Bush/Quayle campaign reelection year of 1992. His vehicle was the sitcom character, a mature TV newswoman, Murphy Brown. Ten years later, he told CNN, the subject of that controversial talk was ''the poverty of values, the breakdown in the family. If in fact you don't finish high school, you get married before 20 or have children before 20, you have an 80 percent chance of living in poverty.''

Liberals who are gleeful at the Palin predicament had better be careful to draw a bright shining line between the mother's politics and the daughter's personal problems, lest they be skewered by the same accusations of hypocrisy that some are leveling at Palin for her support for abstinence-only sex education (with the obvious conclusion being drawn). And John McCain has, according to the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, voted to end the federal family planning program and against funding teen pregnancy prevention programs that might help teenagers like Bristol Palin.

And conservatives who now rush to defend a teenager's pregnancy just because the political limelight is nudging the pair toward the altar -- the baby's father supposedly said on his MySpace page, ``I don't want kids'' -- had better be careful not to get whiplash trying to recraft ''family values'' to retrofit this particular sad story of teen pregnancy with a halo of virtue just because the ''I dos'' arrive before the baby does.

Richard Cartwright's 1992 photo of Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown is courtesy of CBS Inc.

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