A great deal of attention is being paid to the fact that Palin’s 17 year old daughter is pregnant. While this would be an easy target for the Democrats, Obama has elected to take the moral high ground by declaring that family should be “off limits.” Naturally, this situation raises many moral issues.
One important moral concern is whether family should be off limits or not.
On one hand, a case can be made that family members should be off limits. First, the family members are not running for office and hence there seems to be no basis for the public to claim a right to know about their private matters. Second, such scrutiny can be damaging to family members. While misdeed should obviously not be concealed, the media can do significant damage by digging into a person’s life. While many people do seek fame and attention, some people prefer to avoid that sort of intrusion and would find it both unpleasant and harmful. Third, people do not get to pick their families (aside from the marriage aspect), so it seems unfair to focus on family members. As such, the media should do the right thing and leave the family members alone.
On the other hand, a reasonable case can be made that it is acceptable for the media to investigate family members.
First, when someone runs for public office it is understood that they will be subject to investigation. As such, if they choose to step into the spotlight, they really cannot complain when their family members get illuminated as well.
Second, While people do not get to pick their family (with the exceptions of marriage and adoption), a great deal of relevant information can be learned about a candidate by investigating their family. For example, if a candidate claims to be strong for traditional moral values and a staunch supporter of abstinence, then the fact that her teenage daughter is unmarried and pregnant would seem to be a relevant fact. After all, one might wonder, how can a person run the nation in accord with her values if she cannot even run her family in accord with said values?
In light of the above considerations, it would seem to be acceptable for the media to investigate family members when that investigation is relevant to assessing the candidate. If it is being done for other reasons, such as mere sensationalism or a political attack, then it would not be acceptable.