Here is a clip of presumptive vice presidential Sarah Palin responding two years ago to a hypothetical question about whether she would reconsider her opposition to abortion even in the case of rape or incest in the tragic hypothetical event that one of her daughters were impregnated by a rapist or relative. "I would choose life," she repeats, smiling placidly, in what should serve to remind all of the nauseating mendaciousness of that trope we keep hearing about how Palin's daughter's non-hypothetical pregnancy is a "personal" matter that ought to be "off-limits" to the media and in any case "irrelevant" to the greater issues of the day. This question, first asked (and answered decently!) in my own personal-political memory of former vice president Dan Quayle, is now itself old enough kill a fetus without the consent of its parents in most American states. By what demented logic does its relevance recede when the hypothetical becomes actual? As Meghan McCain pointed out in a blog post today, it's a question that, posed of her father eight years ago, "single-handedly changed my life."Specifically, John McCain was asked what he would do if Meghan, then 14, were to get pregnant.

To the delight of reporters some of whom must believe that the candidates' daughters' menstrual cycles should be public information McCain actually answered. He said his daughter would have "the final decision." Then later he backpedaled and said it would be a "family decision."

McCain's then-opponent in the Republican primary Alan Keyes, you might recall, was less wishy-washy about it, likening Meghan McCain's hypothetical abortion to "killing her grandmother." (Who is, entirely irrelevantly, 91.) You will not find Sarah Palin, in this gubernatorial debate performance, to be so jubilantly unequivocal regarding the moral equivalence of the lives of fetuses and zygotes and toddlers; she qualifies her statements repeatedly throughout the debate by saying she is only speaking "personally" and that she doesn't know "if it would be up to me individually" and that such cases are "a private matter." Of course, having theretofore stated that she would support a statewide constitutional amendment banning abortion (except in the case that one might save the life of the mother) such qualifications are, well, "disingenuous" might be a less accurate characterization than "lies." By law of course it is still a "private matter." Bristol Palin's "decision" to carry her pregnancy to term was, by law, her own. And although Palin stated back in 2006 that it would be she who would "choose life," it was not then in Alaska — where parental consent laws have never been enforced pending court challenges and where Bristol is old enough anyway to render them irrelevant — her choice to make. But she, as any avowedly pro-life politician presumably does, would have preferred for it to be. Which is why debates on abortion — and assisted suicide, and stem cell research, which Palin saliently points out in the clip is not underway at any educational institutions in her state, rendering the question truly "hypothetical" — occupy so goddamn much time at these goddamn things, even on a hokey little non-Supreme Court justice-nominating secessionist state level. Reporters — and, I think, voters — are forever trying determine just how "pro-life" pro-life candidates are. But that's a trick question! IT'S ALL SACRED. And so it forces reporters to pry further, parsing legislative hypothetical upon legislative hypothetical until it reaches the only realm in which the hypothetical murderers in question are people they happen to love "unconditionally": within the jurisdictions of their own households, wherein their only real control over the "choices" of others can legally or practically be exercised, is their belief in the sanctity of human life beginning at conception so absolute that, against their wishes and even in the case of rape or incest and invariably risking no small amount of sacrifice on the parts of all members of the family, they would have their daughters — as Obama so eloquently put it — "punished with a baby," before so much as entertaining the notion that God might force them to invoke that other great Judeo-Christian virtue known as "forgiveness"? To anyone who truly believes abortion is a kind of genocide, there should be little hesitation in answering "yes," and further, moving to outlaw the barbaric (if perfectly safe and often pill-induced!) custom with all deliberate speed. Interestingly, this past April, less than a week after the birth of her disabled son Trig, Sarah Palin rejected the opportunity to push for a strict new law outlawing various methods of this form of legalized murder when she rebuffed a state senator's call to expand a special session to make room for debate of the law. Palin said she felt it was a more urgent matter to her state's already-born citizens, human and corporate, to craft legislation expanding the state's natural gas pipelines. So with regard to what she calls her "centeredness"; well, even Sarah Palin has her limits. (The same cannot evidently be said of her ambition.) True sympathizers will undoubtedly find it deeply unfortunate for Palin that two of the toughest potentially life sanctity-threatening dilemmas upon which she has staked her short political career have touched her so personally in such rapid succession just in time for her moment in the national spotlight; true partisans know it couldn't "play" any better. The base now needs less assurance of the level of Palin's "personal" devotion to the sanctity of life beginning at conception than it does John McCain's bottomless patriotism. Great for them. Now the press doesn't need to probe those needling personal hypotheticals; as Palin herself knows, the real challenges lie in the actuals. Palin actually aced her the first test, the "Are you actually for real, with your taxidermy and your snowmachinery and your commitment to protecting the unborn children of rapists and/or MySpace 'fuckin rednecks'?" test. The base is energized, and for the same reason, everyone is watching now. It's all for real! And anyone who thinks it was irrelevant, or that it could somehow have been kept off-limits, is delusional. Sarah Palin Debates Tony Knowles In 2006 (Abortion debate starts about 13 minutes in) Sarah Palin: The Life-iest Pro-Life Candidate Who Ever Scared The Crap Out Of Me [Jezebel] Why The Palin Pregnancy Story Matters [National Review] (and if I may, National Review, duh.) Meghan McCain's Blog Palin Rebuffs Call For Abortion Debate [Juneau Empire] Palin's Mother-in-law supports abortion rights [IHT Palin On Obama [New Yorker] Quayle Insists Abortion Remarks Don't Signal A Change In His View [NYT]