Sarah Palin's reaction to Bristol's engagement: 4 interpretations

After news broke that her daughter was reuniting with Levi Johnston, Sarah Palin issued a crisply worded statement — but, ask commentators, what was she really saying?

Sarah Palin
(Image credit: Getty)

After Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston announced their engagement on the cover of Us Weekly without briefing her parents first, Sarah Palin quickly responded with a seemingly chilly statement to The Today Show. "Bristol, at 19, is now a young adult," it begins. "As parents we obviously want what is best for our children, but Bristol is ultimately in charge of determining what is best for her and her beautiful son. Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice in our daily lives." (Read the full statement here.) What's the takeaway from Palin's words — especially in terms of how she'll handle her family and the media in light of a rumored presidential run in 2012? Commentators offer interpretations: (Watch a CNN report about Palin's response)

The Palins hate Levi: After this erstwhile Playgirl model trashed the Palins in the press, it's unlikely they'd welcome him with open arms, says Dan Amira in New York magazine. "Grudging acceptance mixed with subtle resentment seems like the best you can hope for, and that's basically what 'the Palin Family' offered...." The statement can be summed up as, "We are helpless to stop this really terrible decision from happening. We have yet to stop hating Levi. At least Tripp will have someone to play catch with."

"Sarah Palin is ecstatic about her daughter’s engagement to Levi Johnston"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

They doubt Bristol's judgment: "It's hard to miss the inference in the first line that what's best for Bristol and what she's intent on doing are two very different things," says Allahpundit in Hot Air. And "the bit about [Bristol's] capacity for forgiveness suggests that, in this case, maybe not everyone in the family shares that capacity" in their cold Alaskan hearts.

"Er, great news: Bristol Palin and Ricky Hollywood getting married"

This episode, though characteristic, won't slow the Palins down: "Continuing the family tradition of communicating via press release, [the Palins] icily note that, at 19, Bristol is an adult," Gail Collins says in The New York Times, a word that reads as a dig at Bristol's youth and naivete. But, the Palin show will go on. "What next?" Collins asks. "My money's on an all-Palin-Johnston edition of 'Dancing With the Stars.'"

"The Bad News Bears"

Is Palin's terseness a sign of new savvy? Does this unusually short, succinct statement signal a new direction in Palin's media strategy, asks Mediaite's Glynnis MacNicol, or is it just a temporary stop-gap while she formulates her next best media move. Remember, this is a woman who issued multiple Facebook notes on Piper’s vulnerability in the aftermath of journalist Joe McGinniss' arrival next door. Some are speculating that Levi's return to the fold indicates that "Palin is keen to wrap up loose ends now that her presidential ambitions appear more serious, so perhaps this new brevity is a sign she intends to keep her family out of the spotlight going forward." But don't count on it.

"Sarah Palin responds To Bristol And Levi’s engagement"

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.