Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kids Say the Politically Profoundest Things

Having spent three summers as a camp counselor and one year as an elementary school teacher, I feel like I have at least a rudimentary understanding of the workings of the child mind. Which is why the following section of the mustachioed marvel's latest column, on the Gulf oil spill, struck me as so absurd:

Answering those questions is the president’s great opportunity here, but he has to think like a kid. Kids get it. They ask: Why would we want to stay dependent on an energy source that could destroy so many birds, fish, beaches and ecosystems before the next generation has a chance to enjoy them? Why aren’t we doing more to create clean power and energy efficiency when so many others, even China, are doing so? And, Daddy, why can’t you even mention the words “carbon tax,” when the carbon we spill into the atmosphere every day is just as dangerous to our future as the crude oil that has been spilling into the gulf?

That is what a child would want to know if he or she could vote.

Granted, I haven't spent much time discussing the oil spill with twelve-year-olds. But I'd be willing to bet that very, very few of them have spent the last couple weeks pondering the politics of a carbon tax or the dangers of falling behind the Chinese in the race to develop clean energy technologies. And I can guarantee you that those are NOT the questions a child would want to want to ask if he or she could vote. Instead, those questions would probably be things like: "Are you in favor of extending recess?" "Do you think there should be more ice cream in school lunches?" and "Would you consider appointing Justin Bieber to a seat on the Supreme Court?"

Essentially, what we have here is Friedman recognizing that, however reasonable his proposals are, very few other pundits and political figures have spoken up in support of them. To compensate, he engages in the time-honored political tradition of projecting your views onto others and casting them as cheerleaders for your approach. (See Nixon, Richard M.: "Silent Majority.") This despite that fact that the rationale for doing so might be pretty thin -- keep in mind that here, what prompted this summary of kid public opinion was a single question from Malia Obama about whether her dad had plugged the oil leak. Let's hope Bo doesn't bark disapprovingly when he sees video of the leak on television, lest we find Friedman boasting that the dogs are behind him, too.

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