There are a few stock phrases in American politics, ones you expect to hear at certain points. When a candidate is seeking election, he promises to “shake up Washington.” Once elected, he is “proud to be fighting for you.” And, should he decide to end his career early and return to the private sector, the line “I need to spend more time with my family,” is repeated continuously. Hearing about the antics of some of the children of our elected officials, it’s little wonder why that phrase is so common. There are some things that elected officials can do well. Effective parenting, for the most part, doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Over the summer, Howard Dean “officially” announced that he was running for president. It’s a silly tradition that candidates don’t officially announce once they start running, and it’s known that the announcing candidate will receive the bulk of that day’s media coverage. One would think that Dean would have paid more attention to getting positive publicity that day.

“It’s a bit of a club down there,” the doctor-turned-governor said, referring to Washington, D.C. “The Democratic Party, all the candidates from Washington, I mean, they all know each other. They all move in the same circles. What I’m doing is breaking into the country club.”

Yeah, funny thing about that: Dean’s son had broken into a country club a few days prior. But hey, the ability to craft first-rateon the spot analogies usually doesn’t weigh heavily on a voter’s mind.

Just for fun, let’s assume that other politicians with famously troubled children wanted to try their hand at a familial gaffe. They would go something like this:

Al Gore: “I’m going to zoom past George W. Bush, and we’ll see who’s higher in the polls!”

His son, Albert III, was stopped and ticketed a few years back for doing 97 in a 55. He was also suspended from high school for smoking marijuana in the cafeteria.

Ronald Reagan: “I am willing to bare all to the American public.”

His daughter Patti posed naked in Playboy shortly after his presidency.

George H.W. Bush: “I love the GOP. I’m a true party animal.”

You can fill this one in yourself.

George W. Bush: See George H. W. Bush.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not beating up on the kids. They’re entitled to private lives; they haven’t been elected to anything. But one must wonder why children of the most recognizable politicians being disproportionately likely to behave badly? It is forbidden in American politics to talk extensively about the antics of a politician’s children, and for good reason: it’s a family matter, and Adam Jones, for example, really has no business knowing.

Or does he?

We’re told about everything else a candidate has done, is doing or wants to do. Why not focus attention on something of real substance? Compared to how one sculpts another human life, a stance on ethanol subsidies, educational background or even reasons for running seem to pale in comparison. It speaks to how well the candidate has done the most important job he hass been given. It’s a significant piece of a life story, and part of me wants to see that listed right up there in the “family” category of the biography. “Currently, neither of the candidate’s children talk to him, and he doesn’t have sufficient time to phone home and find out why.” So many politicians invoke a “pro-family values” platform. Sure, when it applies to someone else’s kid. It’s as if they were touting a “pro-fiscal responsibility” agenda, having twice declared bankruptcy.

America seems to love the idea of publishing the names of “deadbeat dads” – men delinquent in alimony payments – in an effort to embarrass them into shaping up. I’m rather taken with the idea of putting that kind of threat out to our elected officials: if you want to have children, put them on the back burner while you pursue bigger and better things and just hope that it is kept out of the papers, think again. With 435 members in the House and 100 more in the Senate, just think how many walking wounded are out there, thanks to a parent’s “desire to help mankind.” It seems to me that one’s own children figure into that “mankind” picture.

What about a politician who just doesn’t have the time to care for children, go to parent-teacher conferences, be there at night when they have bad dreams, care for them when they are sick? Don’t have kids. When planning for children, people often shy away from having them if there isn’t enough money to buy groceries. What if there isn’t enough time to play an active role in their lives? Same deal.

There are few things more troubling and more taboo than wondering how many young lives are being compromised in the name of a real misnomer for this situation – public service. How about our candidates and elected politicians do first things first, and once they have sent a stable, healthy young person out into the world, then they can worry about the rest of humanity.

No doubt about it, the aforementioned stock phrases used by politicians are throwaways – largely meaningless and just for show. By analogy, it seems that many hold a similar view of their offspring.

Adam Jones is a senior in the College and can be reached at . Point of Order appears every other Friday in The Hoya.

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