Politics & Policy

It Takes a Sober Britney

Public policies don't neglect children, parents do.

There’s no way to escape Britney Spears’s personal drama — her romances, marriages, divorces, and recent battle over custody have been more thoroughly documented in newspapers than battles in Iraq. In agonizing increments, we’ve witnessed the gradual failure of Spears to meet the demands of motherhood — even with the help of a “manny,” her male nanny. First, she was photographed driving with the baby between her and the steering wheel. Then, she defended the practice on Dateline — smacking her chewing gum — by claiming that’s the way it’s been done in her family. (“We’re country,” she explained to Matt Lauer.) Next, Sean Preston cracked his skull after falling from his high chair. Then, Britney nearly dropped him in New York while getting in a limo.

Weeks after her second husband Keven Federline found out via text message that his marriage to Spears was over, anyone with an Internet connection could find out whether his former wife prefers a G-Wax or the full Brazilian. And it’s gone downhill since then — Spears checked in (and out) of rehab, shaved her head completely, and even attacked paparazzi with an umbrella.

But finally — finally — the tide of public opinion began to turn on the pop princess during the MTV Awards. In a performance that was supposed to herald her triumphant return, she half-heartedly writhed onstage, fumbled her lyrics, and sported the kind of hair weave normally seen at the local mall on some kid wearing velour pants with “Hot Stuff” emblazoned on the seat.

Around our nation’s watercoolers, she was universally scorned because she squandered her career and apparently didn’t check her butt in a mirror before walking onstage. But this sentiment was limited to simple schoolyard derision — notably absent from the entertainment industry scorn was any mention of her titanic (and possibly) criminal failures as the mother of young children..

Certain kinds of righteous indignation are simply hard to come by in the entertainment industry.

Take for example, R&B star R. Kelley who was indicted with 21 counts of child pornography after a videotape allegedly showed him having sex with a young girl. Five years later, the 40-year-old has had seven top-selling albums and two national tours.

Billboard senior chart manager Raphael George explained the moral ambivalence surrounding Kelley to MTV News : “People are just like, ‘Eh.’ He seems no different than any other celebrity who’s gotten caught up in some kind of scandal.”

And, since scandals are just expected aspects of life in the fast lane, and the welfare of innocent children — real children — becomes collateral damage.

But let’s pause just a moment and face facts — it’s difficult to lose custody of your kids. Britney didn’t just have a bad day — her bodyguard claimed to have witnessed “nudity, drug use and safety issues” related to her children. The fact that she makes K-Fed — a father who’d already left his first two children — look like Ward Cleaver says more about her degeneracy and self-absorption than it says about his paternal skills.

Yet there’s hope for Britney. Musicians still fight over cutting an album with R. Kelly, actresses still dream of acting for Woody Allen, and producers will fawn over her until she’s no longer profitable. (On Tuesday, “Gimme More” was number one on Billboard’s Hot Digital Songs chart and at number three on the overall pop chart.) And so, the drug-using, wealthy mom will ride public interest in her “struggles” all the way to the bank — especially when the news breaks of her new sex tape. She’ll take the “Paris Hilton path” to even greater fame and riches.

This is why the “fashionably Left” entertainers are so hard to take seriously. If you listened to Democrats, you’d think sick children are going to be pried from hospital beds now that President Bush vetoed the expansion of a children’s health-insurance program by $35 billion. Their shrill concern “for the children” is merely academic, manifesting itself in over-reaching and ill-conceived public policy — think also of Hillary’s baby-bond proposal. Yet when the behavior of the Hollywood base damages actual children — kids like Sean Preston and Jayden James, now known as the “cutest mistakes ever made” — they grow strangely silent.

The collective yawn you hear coming from liberal entertainers is proof that their self-righteous advocacy of policies “for the children” is nothing more than moral preening. It’s time they realized that public policies don’t neglect children, parents do — and it doesn’t take a village to see that.

— Nancy French is the author of Red State of Mind: How a Catfish Queen Reject Became a Liberty Belle.


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