A MEANINGLESS DISTRACTION…. Good lord, what a mess.

Top McCain aide Steve Schmidt is surrounded by press asking about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy as he enters the GOP convention site.

Sarah Palin apparently lied about abusing her powers as governor, firing a capable Public Safety Commissioner without cause. Campaign reporters find that mildly interesting, but during a lengthy interview between John McCain and Chris Wallace yesterday, the subject didn’t even come up.

But now that John McCain’s running mate’s teenage daughter is having a baby, now reporters are swarming around Steve Schmidt, demanding answers.

I suppose news outlets might justify their prurient interests, arguing that Palin’s family may have a Jerry Springer-like quality, but as the day as unfolded, I can’t help but find the whole thing ridiculous. Bristol Palin is not a candidate for public office. Her pregnancy is none of the political world’s business.

The McCain campaign, as part of its pushback, had an anonymous aide tell Reuters that the Obama campaign has been behind the rumor mongering on Palin’s family life, and for reasons that defy comprehension, Reuters ran the allegation without support or evidence.

This afternoon, Obama hosted a press conference in which he hoped to talk about the federal response to Hurricane Gustav. Following the McCain campaign’s sleazy tactics today, reporters had other issues on their minds.

Barack Obama told reporters firmly that families are off-limits in this campaign, reacting to news that Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant.

“Let me be as clear as possible,” said Obama, “I think people’s families are off-limits and people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as governor, or her potential performance as a vice president.”

Obama said reporters should “back off these kinds of stories.”

As for the McCain’s campaign’s assertion that the Obama team played a role in going after Palin’s family, Obama didn’t even let the reporter finish asking the question: “I am offended by that statement…. “We don’t go after people’s families. We don’t get them involved in the politics. It’s not appropriate and it’s not relevant. Our people were not involved in any way in this and they will not be.”

Here’s hoping the political world can find something else interesting tomorrow.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.