Ignore politicians who don’t play nice with the other children

First,, a liberal political action group, uses a full-page New York Times ad to attack the character of an American commander, calling him “Gen. Betray Us” and accusing him of “cooking the books for the White House” on the war in Iraq.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton assails the general’s report to Congress, saying it requires “a willing suspension of disbelief,” essentially calling him a liar. Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani runs a full-page ad in The Times highlighting candidate Clinton’s quote and reproducing the ad. Candidate Giuliani’s ad claims Democrats orchestrated the attack on Gen. David Petraeus. His ad closes this way:

These times call for statesmanship, not politicians spewing political venom.

All of which makes me wonder: Did the current crop of presidential candidates — and modern politicians in general — fail kindergarten?

You remember kindergarten, don’t you, candidate Giuliani? Where we learned how to play with the other children? And you remember what was taught in kindergarten, don’t you, candidate Clinton? And candidates Thompson, McCain, Romney, Obama, Richardson … and the list does on.

And you all remember, of course, the lessons found in Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten“?

In case you’ve forgotten, here they are:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup — they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned — the biggest word of all — LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all — the whole world — had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Yes, I know, it’s silly and saccharine. But given the venom associated with political campaigning in the post-Ailes, post-Atwater, post-Deaver, post-Rove era, perhaps an appraisal of character of people who wish to be president or representatives or senators ought to begin with much more fundamental yardsticks than we’ve been using.

At its core, governing is about behavior. Why do we tolerate the loutish behavior we witness in our candidates during our too-long campaign seasons? If our kids acted this way, we’d smack ’em upside the head or make ’em wash their mouths out with soap.

We see candidates who have participated in what candidate Giuliani calls “venomous” attacks on each other make up after the conventions and make nice-nice. And we’re supposed to believe that? That the churlishness that marked the candidates’ behavior — and that of their advisers — was only a brief aberration?

Imagine other governments witnessing this particular election season from afar. Oh, they’re getting a good look into the character of the candidates. Now imagine Venomous Candidate Take-No-Prisoners Jones metamorphosing into President Nice-Nice Jones sitting next to Foreign Potentate Dubious Smith at a state dinner. Potentate Smith ought to take the presidential smiles with a large grain of White House table salt.

Well, maybe the candidates didn’t fail kindergarten. Maybe their closest political advisers and consultants did. For the past few months, The Washington Post has run stories on the advisers to many of the presidential campaigns. It’s the called The Gurus Series. It’s insightful reading.

How about the candidates’ fundraisers? Fugitive financier Norman Hsu has caused candidate Clinton’s campaign to return $850,000. Now all the candidates are resorting to criminal background checks on their major fundraisers and bundlers.

Political campaigns have degenerated into ugly, messy, vindictive, increasingly criminal attempts to fool all of the people all of the time. Let’s send everyone associated with politics back to kindergarten. Maybe the warm milk and cookies will at least put them to sleep and we can have some respite from their shenanigans (and their ads).

We need to judge our leaders-to-be much more critically on the present behaviors they display as they court our votes, not the behaviors they claim they’ll have once elected. Past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior. On that basis alone, most, if not, all failed kindergarten. And that includes their entourages, official and unofficial, as well. didn’t do well before first grade, either.

11 replies »

  1. Great stuff, Denny. The slime pumping that Ailes and Atwater brought to politics turned things more surely away from any semblance of issues campaigning and toward the politics of personal destruction than any other tactic in American political history.

    I wish I had good ideas, but I always get stuck on silly things like “tell the truth, dammit,” and “no one should be able to run for more than two terms for any office.”

    What a misanthrope I am….

  2. Sliming and backbiting show that a candidate is willing to fight dirty. That’s considered an asset in an age when our main enemy, terrorists, have taken the art of not fighting fair to new heights.

    B ush was “elected” the first time because people thought he was someone they’d like to have a beer with.

    He was “elected” the second time because people thought he was now a nasty little son of a bitch who’d allow innocents to be tortured even unto death to protect us.

  3. Hmmm. What do the kindergarten rules say about candidates who forget things like the 1st Amendment. Because you have to hear McCain’s latest. He’s saying MoveOn “ought to be tossed out of this country.”

    I do not recall any similar anti-American claptrap coming out of his mouth when another decorated US military hero – his good buddy John Kerry – was slandered by the Swift Boaters.

    Do the rules say anything about hypocrisy? How about being a sold out whore who’d pimp his mother for a few votes?

    Of course, now I guess I need to revisit the rules…..

  4. In my dotage I appear to be turning into a Boy Scout. I hadn’t heard about McCain, Sam. Thanks for the tip. Thompson, as i pointed out in an earlier post, doesn’t think much of the First Amendment, either.

    When will voters wake up?

  5. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that a chief selling point of the Obama campaign is his refusal to indulge in these childish antics. Although he and Clinton have crossed swords a few times, he’s largely held to that.

    Plus, many elements of both parties want their chosen candidates to get out and hit hard. For some, it shows strength and an ability to honestly defend one’s viewpoint (rightly or wrongly). I was juiced as hell that John and Elizabeth Edwards went on the attack against people promoting the haircut meme, for example–it sabotaged a lot of the typical thinking that Democrats are “yella bellies.”

    And I’m not exactly sure why you’re slagging for saying what everyone else already knows–that Petraeus is simply shilling for Bush and using a report that the White House wrote to do it. Remember, being in the military should not automatically grant you a presumption of deference or honor, or else we would never know the phrase “war criminal.”

  6. Thanks Dr Denny for yet another wonderful analysis. You are one clever chap. I loved the quote beginning “Share everything…”

    “First,, a liberal political action group..”

    …and I appreciate the quote above. It enlightens me to know the mindset of people writing crap.

  7. Political campaigns have degenerated into ugly, messy, vindictive, increasingly criminal attempts to fool all of the people all of the time. Let’s send everyone associated with politics back to kindergarten. Maybe the warm milk and cookies will at least put them to sleep and we can have some respite from their shenanigans (and their ads).

    It is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

  8. I’ve found that the way someone governs can be pretty accurately predicted by how that person campaigns. It is a far more accurate predictor of their actions than their stump speech. Another factor is the people that the candidate chooses to surround himself with – advisers, lackies, etc. By looking at just those two things, you can get a pretty good sense of how they will handle their office.

  9. Djerred – I’ve started noticing that too. Add “who they take money from” and we’ve got probably the three biggest indicators about a politician’s future governing style and interests that there are.

  10. Djerrid, that makes sense, particularly for candidates without a long history in political office and the corresponding public voting record. In fact, it may well be more indicative of a candidate’s true character than either of those things.

    But the negative campaigning article makes me wonder once again: is it possible for anyone’s integrity to survive a successful run for a major political office? Can anyone win a campaign without “fighting dirty?” I wish I knew.