Sunday, August 26, 2007

Playing Checkers

Sunday AM with the wife and kid away, just me and the cat--a tiny ten-week-old terror named Mimi, found by a friend under her hydrangea bush--and the New York Times, where I learned from Jodi Kantor's piece that there are a lot of tiny terrors running around the campaign trail, too. These are children, not felines, all under the age of ten, who belong to John Edwards, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Sam Brownback, etc.
Observe the video of John Edwards putting the hammer down on his sulky son, Jack--Edwards' reaction seems a little extreme, given the provocation, but most parents will recognize this as a classic "tip of the iceberg" response, in which the kid has been driving you crazy for about a week now, so the slightest thing makes you blow, particularly if he's embarrassing you in front of the Times.
Campaign trails are no place for kids, but I'd prefer these young louts to the older variety as represented by the five Romney boys. I hesitate even to link to their "fivebrothersblog." Here is a representative entry, from Josh: "I kept busy all day doing about 10 television, radio and print interviews. It's pretty exhausting, I still have no idea how my dad is able to do it day after day. Here's a shot of me with Tom and Austin from the Liddy and Hill show."
Whew. It's pretty exhausting just reading that, Josh.
But no politician has ever used his kids like Dick Nixon did in the Dwight Eisenhower/Adlai Stevenson contest of 1952, during his famous "Checkers" speech on national television. Nixon, then the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had been accused of being the recipient of an 18000 dollar "slush fund" set up for him by a rich Republican businessman. Nixon is absolutely insane during this speech, introducing his wife, Pat ("My wife's sitting over here. She's a wonderful stenographer. She used to teach stenography") and himself as ordinary Americans struggling to pay off simple debts and make ends meet.
But he really kicked it into high gear when he talked about his girls, Tricia and Julie, and the little dog an admirer had given them. “It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl-Tricia, the 6-year old-named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it."
Nixon was so worked up at the end of the speech that he kept on walking towards the cameras, talking and pleading, even after he had been given the "cut" signal. He only seemed to come out of his trance when he literally banged into the camera, at which point, according to his director, he began to weep copiously. But, hey, America loved him and Dwight Eisenhower, although he didn't like it much, kept Nixon on as his veep.
Would Edwards et al ever be so crass as to use their kids in such a fashion? Heaven forbid, right?

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