Mouths Of Babes

Hillary Clinton has been making the rounds of the talk shows, in keeping with her campaign’s rather stupidly telegraphed plan to try to humanize the candidate. She popped up on Jimmy Kimmel last week and managed to appear lifelike, to get off one pretty good, probably scripted remark, but missed a chance at a real teaching moment.

The humanizing came down to a few Garbo Laughs sort of moments when she reacted to events with the look of spontaneity. The remark came when she was asked about climate change and whether any president can hope to overcome entrenched opposition from tools of the fossil fuel industry and deniers who prefer faith to the scientific method.

Hillary said she keeps hearing opponents arguing that they can’t possibly take a position because they aren’t scientists. Her response was that if they were interested, they could probably meet a scientist who would be happy to explain the world to them.

That wasn’t bad, but even more amusing was a segment in which several kids appeared with Kimmel. They appeared to be in the four to six range, one boy and a couple girls. Kimmel asked them what they thought about the possibility of a woman president. The boy said that would never work since women aren’t strong enough to be in charge. The girls rolled their eyes but failed to comment until Kimmel asked what they thought about that. They disagreed and the boy said – more of less – he could beat them in a fight, so what was their opinion worth?

At this point Kimmel brought on Hillary and told the kids she was running for president. He asked them what they’d like the next president to do for them. Hillary got out a pencil and paper, like a good attorney, and said she’d take notes. Like most actual voters, the kids had no interest in the good of the country but did have a personal wish list.

One girl said free food would be good. Another, obviously taken with the free idea said she’d take free toys. The boy, perhaps no surprise by this time, said what he’d like from the next president would be no school.

Hillary, a lifelong grinding overachiever, was clearly taken aback. “No school at all?” she said. Right, said the kid cheerfully. All of this got laughs, of course, but also was more than a little depressing. Undoubtedly Republicans watching were delighted to learn that even kindergartners confirm their view that Americans have been trained by the wicked Democratic welfare state to expect their government to supply them with free foods and toys.

They may also have been heartened to discover that at least one child showed signs of becoming a GOP voter since he didn’t think the government should provide public schooling or that women should be treated as the equals of men.

Alas, Hillary missed a terrific teaching moment, not just for the kids, who won’t be able to vote until the 2028 election, but for their parents. She did not tell them it wasn’t the government’s job to give out free toys and that it only provided free food to really hungry children who were in families below the poverty line. Nor did she take the opportunity to explain that it was, however, the government’s role to help its citizens to acquire the skills to earn the money needed to earn their own daily bread and buy their own toys.

She might have told the kids that some very smart men in 1787 decided the government ought to “establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, and promote the general welfare.” When they learned to read, they could look it up. In the Preamble to the Constitution. All this fussing and fighting called politics was about deciding which things the government should do to carry out that mandate and which they should not. Candidates got to offer their answer and the voters got to decide.

Sort of. A later lesson might have to cover PACs and Citizens United and lobbyists, demagoguery, dirty tricks, attempts to restrict voting rights and gerrymandering, but why depress five year olds so soon. Ideals first. Reality later.

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