The Campaign Spot

Morals, Rules, and Politicians’ Kids

I’m scheduled to appear Sunday morning on Howard Kurtz’s Reliable Sources on CNN, most likely talking Palin and Letterman, the Holocaust Museum shooter and the DHS report, etc.

A quick thought on the Palin-Letterman back-and-forth: There’s a reason that politicians’ kids are supposed to be off-limits, and why it’s supposed to apply to the Obama daughters, to Chelsea Clinton, to Palin’s children, to the Bush daughters, to McCain’s children*, etc. Kids don’t choose their parents, and they don’t choose their parents’ careers. None of those children asked to be in the spotlight, or asked to be subjects of public scrutiny; a portion of their privacy and their ability to enjoy a “normal life” has already been partially sacrificed by their parents’ ambitions. Those of us who talk, write, think, and joke about politics aren’t supposed to make their lives any harder than it already is.

Maybe, if given the choice, they would still select the same life; a politician’s child gets some nice perks, like getting to see Paris with mom or what have you. But even if you think Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Sarah Palin are the biggest doofuses to walk the face of the earth, you’re not supposed to take it out on their kids. Because they’re kids. If you really can’t instinctively grasp why it’s wrong for a grown man to make a child a butt of jokes, I don’t know whether it can be explained to you.

It may be that Hollywood mobsters are more ethical about “civilians” than their real-life counterparts, but there was always a certain responsibility in those references to “civilians,” that those who signed on for mob life knew the consequences, but that those who didn’t had to be kept out of the line of fire as much as possible. In politics, you run for office, you ask for votes, you write a column or (sign) a blog, you’re accepting a certain potential consequence in criticism, mockery, or ridicule. But the kids didn’t sign on for any of this.

Even Tony Soprano said, “I don’t know about morals. But I do got rules.”

* Meghan McCain is over 18 and is stepping into her own as a pundit/commentator; as long as the criticism directed at her is directed what she says and does, as opposed to criticizing her because of who her father is, it’s fair game.

UPDATE: Over at AOL’s Politics Daily, I’ve found one of those web comments that can actually suck you into a vortex of stupid if you look at it too long: “To compare her kids [to] the President’s daughters is ludicrous.”

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