Candidates’ kids in photo ops

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The McCain campaign — and most everyone else — has warned reporters not to focus on the pregnancy of the daughter of vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin. A candidate’s children are “off limits,” the candidates themselves usually say. It’s not an unreasonable point.

So why would you make the young Palin, and her soon-to-be-husband, part of the photo op with the arriving Republican presidential-nominee-to-be at the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport today?

It’s not just Republicans, of course. Candidates have regularly used their kids to portray an image.

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When are the children of candidates “off limits”?

  • Joel

    Evidently when the attention giving to them is negative.

    btw, any bets on how long this marriage between Palin’s oldest daughter and her beau will last? Or is such a question inappropriate?

  • Heather

    Joel, I would say that particular question is not appropriate. However, we SHOULD be asking about how well abstinence-only sex ed policies are working, or about what we can do to ensure that other kids in the same situation actually have a choice about whether or not to have a baby.

  • brian

    I hope that they are really in love and were planning on getting married anyway. That seems doubtful though.

  • Bob Collins

    I tend to believe that the “leave ‘em alone” instruction should apply to making fun of the kids. They’re just kids and anyone who’s ever had a 17-year old knows that — as I said before — you hold on and hope for the best.

    There are plenty of people out there to judge you based on your teenage kids, which is too bad. The kids face challenges.

    More indicative of the parents, however, is when and where they choose to shield their children from the glare of the media, and when they don’t and — more over — WHY they don’t.

    In this area, I think you really have to give credit to Gov. Pawlenty who has rarely let the public see his daughters. He’ll occasionally talk about them, but that’s about it. He doesn’t use them as props.

  • Amanda

    hey – she’s not having an abortion.

    Leave the kids alone. Normal parents are impossible to deal with – we’ve all been there. It’s got to be a million times harder if they’re in politics.

  • Bob Collins

    Amanda, back to the original point. Can you say to the media, “leave the kids alone,” and then stick ‘em out on a tarmac for a photo op?

    Is there some hypocrisy here?

  • brian

    I think trying to tie abstinence-only sex education into this story is more inappropriate than asking how long the marriage will last. I personally think abstinence-only sex ed is a horrible idea and that all pro-lifers should be for comprehensive sex ed as a way to stop abortions, but Sarah Palin’s daughter being pregnant isn’t evidence that I am right. It also isn’t evidence that I am wrong. One case isn’t evidence either way.

    I think a shotgun wedding does show something about her character, and is more relevant to the story.

  • Appleby

    I have four sisters who have had 9 husbands among them — and eight divorces. Every time they married because they were “in love” (one of them three times).

    Shotgun marriages were commonplace in the 1950s neighbourhood where I grew up. In fact, it was commonplace to believe that if you were not married between 18 and 20, you either went to university in a last ditch effort to gettaman or you committed suicide.

    Treating this pair as if they were toddlers is absurd. And even more absurd is the boy who thinks he can impregnate the governor’s daughter and walk away laughing. Next time maybe he ought to think about the consequences of his behaviour.

    P.S. If you have a son who plays hockey, how often do you wonder what he’s up to when you aren’t holding his hand? Could he be setting himself up as guest of honour at a shotgun wedding too?

  • Heather

    Brian, the how-long-will-they-last question just isn’t relevant to the rest of us. It’s a natural question to ask, but it’s more gossipy than substantive. It doesn’t have anything to do with policy or government. When you say “I think a shotgun wedding does show something about her character,” whose character do you mean? Do we actually know who is making the decisions regarding the prospective marriage?

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I’m with Bob, in that the kids should be off-limits. It’s not fair for us to stand in judgment of them. HOWEVER, they have been brought forward in a way that should free us to have the POLICY discussions that they bring so immediately to mind.

  • bigalmn

    Think about this. Instead of hiding this issue and others and then trying to sneak them into a Labor Day weekend announcement in the middle of a hurricane, what would have happened and how would have the country viewed her if she would have stood up as part of her announcement speech and said “Once the press starts checking me out they will find out that I am being investigated for abuse of power as governor and my 17 year old daughter is pregnant so lets get past those two facts and lets start talking about what really matters in my background as it relates to me being Vice President.

    First, most of the press would be shocked and second the public would have gone wild for her because of her honesty. She lost alot of points by trying to be sneaky. Probably the result of her “handlers”.

    If the kids are put in front of the public by the candidates for political gain then the kids are exposed and it is likely their actions will be scrutinized.

    I do think the point about sex education is interesting. I grew up before there was any and it seemed that the girls that got pregnant were the ones that did not know anything and the animal instincts kicked in and all of a sudden they were pregnant.

    The girls that were risky knew the risks they were taking and were more careful. Discussion of the risks of life whether it is sex, smoking, drugs etc. need to start with the parents and continue from there.

    If you are not willing to have the discussions then you should not be a parent. Heck even adults make mistakes, I had a 28 year old cousin who got pregnant because she did not take care not to.

  • bsimon

    Bob asks

    Amanda, back to the original point. Can you say to the media, “leave the kids alone,” and then stick ‘em out on a tarmac for a photo op?

    Is there some hypocrisy here?

    No, there’s not. It is up to parents to determine who has access to their kids. It is not up to the public, or the media to determine that, for example, if the kids are on the tarmac, then its fair game to hunt down the father of a 17 year old’s unborn baby & ask him for a comment.

  • Linda Reed

    Well,,, we think this couple represents the best in our young people and in the Chrisitan values their parents instilled in them. I can hardly wait till after the election when the wedding plans start. In would be so special if they got married in the Rose garden. It’s been a long time since we had a good old White House wedding.

    It is so nice that their mothers sent them both to Minneapolis so that we can see their love for each other and for that little one in the oven. God bless them and God bless America.

  • Amanda

    Was it really a photo op? US Weekly has a section called, “STARS THEY’RE JUST LIKE US!” Pages chocked full of “stars” at the grocery store and eating fast food. These kids were on the tarmac because they have to get out of the airplane sometime. Is it dumb to have McCain out there asking how the flight was and if he can help carry bags if they really are trying to get the kids out of the picture? Probably. Hypocrisy? You know there was a silly motive for this.

    Either way, I think that the media should still leave the kids alone and find some real news instead of loitering on the tarmac.

  • Mac Wilson

    The point here is whether children should be included in photo ops, especially after political parties say that families should not be part of it. Part of me wants to give the Palin camp credit here: there’s no getting around the fact that Levi Johnston is joining the family soon, so they may as well embrace him and treat him as one of them. Pushing him or Bristol Palin to the background would look even more ridiculous: this is what it is, and it doesn’t look like the Palin camp is treating it otherwise. I think this whole situation is tremendously relevant in judging Palin’s policies, and it should be a springboard for discussion if anyone so wishes.

    Alright, that was my useful contribution to this thread. My real question is this: what is John McCain saying to Levi Johnston in this photo? “Congratulations”? This kid went from being an average high school jock to being at the forefront of one of the world’s most important political campaigns overnight. You can’t script this stuff.

  • Joel

    You are correct, Heather. It is inappropriate, and gossipy of me to ask such a question. Mostly I was trying to reference an earlier News Cut blog about an online betting company putting odds on whether or not McCain will boot Palin from the ticket.

    but, I admit, I was also making a comment about the forced marriage. Those never seem to work out so well, though I could be wrong.

  • Bob Collins

    Amanda. it was the arrival of the Palins. It was the arrival of McCain. that’s what made it a photo op. As for hanging around on the tarmac, photographers can’t. They have to be invited and then credentialed to be on the tarmac.

    And, finally, after the arrival ceremony, the two families posed for pictures.

    That’s a photo op and while you may be right that the media should hang out somewhere else, the point is if you want the kids off limits, why on earth would you parade them out like that?

  • Heather

    Sorry, Brian — I missed that post, so I missed your reference. There has actually been a series of pretty interesting posts about their “odds” over on the XXFactor blog on slate.com if you’re curious about the statistical outlook!

  • Amanda

    Bob – I can’t win with you! :) more thoughts on the issue….

    Tonight all the kids were on stage after Palin’s speech (so I heard on MPR). Obama pulls his wife and kids out on stage like in the above picture which creates a photo op of a happy family like yours and mine. However, the press doesn’t have any interest in what kinds of grades Obama’s kids get or what kind of after school activities they participate in. For one, it’s just not very interesting and two, it’s none of the public’s business as the kids are not going to be the president. So – I think there is a difference in asking the media to leave your kids alone and taking photos of a seemingly happy family. A family that the candidates want to portray to the media – especially in Palin’s current position. I think this could be agreed upon?

  • Lily

    Remember Jackie Kennedy?

    She was a woman who did protect her kids from the press. There were not many photos off little John John and Caroline, once she became a widow. The photos we saw were those she wanted us to see. I think the same thing can be assumed with the Palins and the Obamas. They want us to photograph their kids and that makes it totally fair.

    May God bless them all!