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June 8, 2011

Disabled Infants as Campaign Props: Santorum, Palin and a Trig Update

Santorum daughter

Perhaps you saw yesterday’s Bag Tumblr take about the photo above.  It read:

Interesting how some candidates treat their disabled children as lucky charms to cart in front of crowds and loft like medals. (Caption doesn’t go there but Santorum’s 3 y.o. daughter Isabella Maria born with Trisomy 18.) Always wondering why candidates don’t leave their very young or disabled children at home in peace. Is Santorum’s gesture here an act of compassion or campaign badge of authenticity? (And, did Palin set the bar?)

For Bag Readers, by the way, do you remember this shot of Palin during the ‘08 hoopla posing for People Magazine?

To follow up (because little Trig was really the catalyst for the Santorum Tumble), I was interested to know whether and how much Sarah’s Downs son was being showcased these days. Straight away, I discovered Trig leading off the photo thread as an Iron Dog snow racing fan and mascot. Sweet enough. Short of a formal study, I decided to page back through the last four or five stories/events/trips on Palin’s Facebook site.

Palin FB 1

Palin FB 2

Palin FB 3

From there, though, I had to click back 56 pictures to a series of photos from December 11, 2009 of Palin doing the “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” (currently fourteen shots starting here) to find our young gentleman, appearing in the photos above, in this order. (Okay, yes, he’s only in two out of three, but the fact he’s “suddenly not there” in the third photo seems noteworthy, his absence from the shot before still carrying his resonance.)

Even more interesting, though, not just as reference and comparison to Trig, but providing even more fodder for weighing the depth of Palin’s maternal instinct against her promotional one, are these photos of her holding or posing with babies in Haiti. (Besides the photos shown, there are currently a total of 16 total starting here.)

Palin FB 5

Palin FB 6

Perhaps Palin, having thoroughly exploited Trig as a prop during the ‘08 campaign, has smartly moved on? Or more likely, Trig, in transitioning from baby to toddler, has literally outlived his “cute time.” (For favorite scenes from his heyday: RNC Wednesday Wrap-Up: Family Values, as well as this and that early Trig juggling/People shoot again.) Past his prime or not, however, perhaps Sarah’s flinching in Haiti with these otherwise solicited infants – which could have been due to a fear of cholera or other diseases, or a more primary concern with where the camera was on this “working trip,” or other reason I imagine you’ll speculate on in the discussion below — might have just been because she was missing her baby!

Downs girl Palin book signing

But then, seeing this woman holding a Downs child as the reference point for this Nov. 26, 2010 book signing portrait, I would say “that’s more like it!“ I mean, he might be confined to the edges now, but it’s hard — given the indelible mark he made on Campaign ‘08 — not to look at this picture and still warmly and fondly re-visualize Trig.

(photo 1: Reuters. caption: Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (L) reaches back to rub the forehead of his daughter Isabella Maria, who is held by his wife Karen at a rally to officially announce his candidacy for President of the United States on the steps of the courthouse in Somerset, Pennsylvania June 6, 2011. Santorum launched his long-shot Republican bid for president on Monday, pledging an unflinching commitment to conservative policies, including a Medicare reform plan that has proved unpopular with voters. photo 2: mccainblogette.com. All other photos: Sarah Palin Facebook site)

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