In analyzing why, in the 2004 election, all the media interest in President Bush’s Air National Guard service seemed to make no difference, the Washington Post’s TV critic, Tom Shales wrote: “It’s common knowledge that Bush was a spoiled little rich boy who did not serve with any great distinction, so this story wasn’t exactly a blockbuster.”
Think about that for a minute.
“It’s common knowledge that Bush was a spoiled little rich boy…”
Let’s think about this: George W. Bush had no more choice in being born to a wealthy family than did Ted Kennedy or John Kerry. In fact, for all the blueblood he was born into, he was not raised on a compound on the briny, exclusive coast like Kennedy, and did not spend summers on a private island like Kerry. He grew up in a basic middle-class house in a dusty town in Texas and went to public elementary school.
But the thing is, beyond that, this gentleman – Tom Shales – who writes for a prestigous newspaper, reviewing television a couple times a week, for which he is very likely compensated well beyond an average middle class salary, and whose children very likely attend private schools, is sneering and calling someone a “poor little rich boy.” This writer works in a field where he his associates are extraordinarily wealthy people like Katie Couric and Barbara Walters and Ben Bradlee, gazillionaires all, raising or having raised children in very elitist company. Would he for one moment consider referring to any of their children as “poor little rich kids?” Would he blithely accept hearing their children, or his own, referred to in that way?
Of course he would not.
This is something that bothers me now and then: that people in the press quite rightly take great pains to shield their children (and for that matter their own parents and siblings) from cameras and gossip, but rarely stop to consider that they make careless hay with other people’s children, or parents, or siblings. Oh, they are careful, sometimes. They gave Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore Jr, and the other Gore daughter who is so protected, I don’t even know her name, enormous amounts of privacy – as well they should have. The press can manage it, if they really want to.
But what I am really struck by is how Shale’s thoughtless throw-away line about President Bush being a “poor little rich boy” says so much about how the media seem to feel that other people’s children – as opposed to their own – are merely inconsequential nothings or exploitable fodder.
I’m thinking about how Matt Cooper called Karl Rove in tears, worrying that his young son would be “confused, if Daddy went to jail.” Yes, Daddy going to jail would be a lousy thing for any child to deal with. Rove apparently took that to heart and said, “hey, I did nothing wrong, go ahead and report on our emails and our talk.”
So that Daddy wouldn’t have to go to jail, so that a little kid would not have to endure that.
At which point Matt Cooper wasted no time in contributing to the fake outrage, confusion and obfuscation of “Plamegate.” I wonder, if while Matt Cooper and Chris Matthews and all the rest of them were talking, on camera and off, about “getting Karl Rove,” if while Lawrence O’ Donnell and countless columnists were calling Rove a “Treasonous, Nazi, Evil, Robot, Traitor, Vampire, Liar, Darth Vader, Goebbles…” if any of them stopped to think about what hearing all of that must be like for Rove’s kids.
Matt Cooper’s son doesn’t have to deal with Daddy going to jail, and Sandy Berger’s kids have not once had to endure hearing or reading anyone in the MSM use the word “treason,” about their father, but Karl Rove’s kids have had to listen to that crap for 5 years. And on a made-up scandal that the press itself told the court involved no criminal activity.
If, in fact, Karl Rove had “outted” a real-live still-undercover agent who had been deeply submerged, and if the press had proof of it, then yeah…the press had some room to vilify him while reporting on the story. But when you have a “scandal” made up of whole cloth, when you know that you’re simply playing a game…shouldn’t you stop and consider that this man, like you, like Matt Cooper, has children he loves, who love him, and who are subjected to all of this mindless we-hate-him-and-we’re-out-to-get-him-so-he-deserves-it prattle and spin?
Do people in the press remember, at all, that the people they are writing about are also human?
Bloggers do it too, to an extent. I know that I sometimes; over-generalize, when I’m tired or not thinking clearly – or when I am angry – and I should not do that. It becomes so easy, sometimes, to stop seeing the people you are writing about as people.
But we must try to remember. And I think perhaps the press should try to remember it, too. They, who love their children and want the best for them, and who would protect them from confusion, harm, fear, sadness, malice, jeering and uncertainty, might try to consider that the people they hate also love their children and want the best for them, and want to protect them from all the same things. And that the children of Karl Rove are every bit as innocent and entitled to their innocence, as the children of Matt Cooper. Or Katie Couric. Or Tim Russert.
Matt Cooper loves his son, and loves being a hero to that little boy, and he didn’t want anything in the world to destroy that.
Karl Rove, it seems, understood.
Matt Cooper, and his associates, it seems…still need to learn it.
UPDATE: Speaking about treating your opponents like they are human beings with families – Take a look at the “tolerant progressives” last night. John Robert’s kid was cute, the president smiled and refrained from laughing, the harried mother, having taken the kid offstage looked a little distressed at the mention of the kid’s name – ergo – HE MUST BE GAY!!!! And…”Let’s see what we can dig up on him!!!!!’
No…he’s simply an exuberant 4 year old. Got that?
This man is a human being, people, as are his kids…they are more than simply expendable political fodder to be aimed where it is most politically expedient! GROW THE HELL UP!!!
And for the record, it’s a great time to ask it: Who is it that makes a big deal, all the time over whether or not someone is gay???WHO?
MORE: Stones Cry Out notes that since the press can’t find out much on Roberts, they are going after his wife. Once again – someone’s spouse and children are “fair game” if it is politically expedient. Captain Ed is also pretty peeved about it.