Democratic Underground

The Sins of the Daughters
July 28, 2001
by Mark M. Eide

In recent years media coverage of presidential children has become a secondary barometer for the fairness of the media and, in the case of politicians commenting on the subject, for the politicians as well. Overall the "mainstream media" has recognized this and not gone overboard in its coverage of first daughters. (I am excluding the moron who tried to paint a target on Chelsea Clinton. He was clearly out of the mainstream both politically and psychiatrically.) After all it wasn't until Clinton's second term that we even heard Chelsea's voice! Still, there is a fairness problem, but it isn't quite what you'd think.

The first source of complaints is the "what if" comparisons. "What if Chelsea had been caught drinking underage?" Well, one of Gore's daughters was caught drinking underage and she didn't find herself on the cover of People magazine. Of course hers was a one-time offence and she was also the VP's daughter so a meaningful comparison isn't easy. "Okay, but what if Chelsea had shown up at Buckingham Palace in jeans and a denim jacket?" Once again it's unknowable because Chelsea didn't. Of course my gut instinct is to say that it would have taken at least three weeks for that "scandal" to work its way out of the news. Of course I could be wrong. I can't imagine Hillary trying to lie about it on the Today Show either. Hillary would have probably said, "My daughter showed poor judgment in her choice of clothes. I am disappointed. Do you have a question about something else?"

The one meaningful comparison requires us to go back a little farther into history. In 1977 or `78 Amy Carter went to a state dinner at the White House and *gasp* read a book! Oh! The horror! From the way the media carried on you'd have thought she invented lap dancing. Given that she was in her own house and was a young teen, or maybe even a preteen, this "offence" doesn't quite rise to the level of showing up at Buckingham Palace in denim. I think this comparison shows a definite bias in favor of the children of Republican Presidents (or Residents), or is it quite as simple as it appears?

There is another set of Presidential children we dare not over look, namely Patti Davis and Ron Reagan Jr. Both of them, in different ways managed to embarrass their father. Both of them made it clear that, although they loved their father, they disagreed with him and sometimes passionately. Neither of them got the media attention they deserved, and probably wanted. Of course since the inability to persuade his own children would have damaged the Gipper's credentials as "The Great Communicator" his children's dissent was swept under the rug as much as possible.

Could it be that this is what we are seeing with Barbara and Jenna Bush? Are the first daughters also the first protestors? Are they trying to tell us that their father is a jackass of epic proportions? If so the media coverage they don't get is actually just another case of the media ignoring dissent. We should still object but for a different reason. If the first daughters are actually "Underground Democrats" we should be no less incensed that their antics go unreported.

In any event what seems clear is that, to the extent we even talk about the twins, it needs to be in terms of fairness. Was Amy reading a book at a state dinner a more egregious breech of etiquette than Barbara showing up at Buckingham Palace in denim? At what point should someone ask them if they are trying to tell us something with their antics? As I see it there is a 50-50 chance that one or the other of them is a potential ally. I wouldn't even be shocked if one or both of them belonged to DU. After all, 19 years of living with shrub would make a Democrat out of almost anybody.

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