It was good of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has a daughter of his own, to come out in support of his running mate, Sarah Palin, after her daughter — or daughters — were slandered by late-night comedian David Letterman.

The Palins have shown remarkable grace and restraint in this. Other commentators have disgracefully attacked their children in the past, some working for the highest newspapers. If it was my daughter, I’m not sure that I could be so restrained.

Letterman — still boyish at 62, which should tell you something right there — half-apologized as best he knew how and added that luckily, there is no Hague for him to be called up on for this slander. Lucky for whom?

The understanding we who write in public have long had is that politicians have a low threshold of protection against slander and libel, as do public performers and the very rich. It is why the supermarket tabloids go after movie stars.

As Mike Bloomberg recently pointed out, you can say pretty much anything you want about a congressman so as to protect the public’s legitimate right to know. But anyone with any trace of character can see that this would be a terrible thing to say about a child. It would be a terrible thing to do to the child. Has this elderly man-boy even considered the child once? Is he capable of doing so? Does he as a parent understand the animal passions aroused when that parent’s child is threatened? Is he capable of such passion himself? I expect not.

Letterman fully misses the point. His claim that he was talking about the 18-year-old Bristol and not the 14-year-old Willow takes his disgraceful commentary out of the classification of statutory rape. It still publicly injures and shames a child who is only 18.

Bristol Palin should be given this year’s hero award for bearing up with a pregnancy unmarried at such a young age and having the courage to go through it by herself — something people like Letterman could not even begin to understand — even as the world watched. And this, while the cute and the immature Lettermans mocked and shamed and taunted mother and child for almost a year now on the airwaves.

She is clearly a girl with sturdy character.

But the Palins should not let this end here. I do not believe that the high level of scorn politicians like Sarah Palin are allowed to sustain by pundits and public comedians applies to children. It certainly should not. I have never in my life seen underage or teenage children of presidents — not with Kennedy, not with Nixon, not with Carter, not with Obama — treated so shamefully.

This should come to a dead stop right here. The Palins should sue on behalf of their daughters.

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