This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
Texas reproductive rights hero (and I really mean hero) Wendy Davis' children think she was a fine mother. End of discussion, right?
Were that it were so, but Bristol Palin disagrees.
On her blog about parenthood and faith, Palin wrote last week about the Texas gubernatorial candidate's past:
"Actually, she found a man to marry her, pay her way through college, and then through Harvard Law School. The day after he paid the last bill, she left him. By the way, she left her kids too. She said, 'it’s not a good time for me right now' to be a parent.
"Is everyone paying attention? This woman is the hero of the Left? A woman whose ambition and ego were so big she couldn't have both a career and kids at the same time.
"Gosh, children are sooo inconvenient, huh? I'm glad my mother didn't put motherhood on the shelf when she was elected to City Council, then became our mayor, then Governor….
"Let me be clear. I think it'd be so nice to have a husband take care of me, and my son, so I could attend school. (Any school -- let alone, Harvard!)
"But the way Wendy Davis did it -- by getting married and leaving him as soon as the ink dried on his last check -- is downright pathetic.
"Plus, it perfectly shows that -- no matter what they say -- feminism is a farce. If you truly believe in strong, independent women, you'd be a conservative."
As with almost everything the Palins say in public, the question "Who asked you?" comes to mind. And given that they make money hurling invective on issues they have no business commenting on, a screed like the one Bristol Palin directed at Davis for being something less than a full-time doting mother after her divorce shouldn't come as a surprise.
But for me personally, this piece stings, and not only for its sexism. (On that point, if Palin is so concerned about attentive parenting, has she ever gone after ex-Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, a tea party bomb-thrower who excoriated President Obama for putting too much debt on the back of his "kids and grandkids" but was also a deadbeat dad? If she has, Google hasn’t heard yet.)
No, the piece stings because it brings back memories of a time when it was politically fashionable to beat up on single moms. As someone who came of age not long after Dan Quayle blamed society's ills on Murphy Brown, I can tell you that we don't want to go back to the days when these mothers were fair game in the culture war. And it would be a shame for Palin -- a notable single mother herself -- to set us back.
Here's what I remember about that time: slowly coming to grips with the fact that others think there's something wrong with your family. It was no fun being an elementary school kid having to explain over and over again to other children (and sometimes their parents) why I had a different last name than my mom. Or why, much of the time, she couldn't show up to Little League games or other after-school events. Or why, even though the Bible says divorce is a sin, it was best for Mom and Dad not to live together. Or that, yes, we heard from people like Mr. Quayle that kids of divorced parents will end up worse off than others and cause so many problems, but we're trying our best.
And because we were trying our best, my mother was forced to make uncomfortable decisions that culture warriors like Palin might find unbecoming of a good mom but that were definitely in our best interest (or, in some cases, were the least bad out of a few horrible options). And mothers like mine or Davis shouldn't have to explain to sexist blowhards or Palin why they did what they did.
Oh, and about the opinions of Davis' daughters, here's what one wrote in defense of her mother:
"I can tell you that my mom was a remarkable mother and continues to be so to this day. She was there on my first day of school and my last, and so many days in between. She never missed a school performance or a parent-teacher conference. Even if that meant she had to miss something else important. My sister and I were always her first priority. She was there when I needed her and even when I thought I didn't."
Theirs are the only opinions that matter.
[For the Record, Jan. 29, 3:21 p.m.: The original version of this post incorrectly identified Joe Wilson as "a tea party bomb-thrower who excoriated President Obama for putting too much debt on the back of his 'kids and grandkids' but was also a deadbeat dad." Former Rep. Walsh, not Wilson, has had legal issues regarding child support for his children.]
Follow Paul Thornton on Twitter @PaulMThorntonCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times