Republican National Convention
Friday, August 04, 2000

Comments underscore family's importance in politics




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        It has become known as the “daddy slam.”

        Just as the convention was about to begin, President Clinton said at a fund-raiser in New England: “The message of the Bush campaign is just that, "How bad could I be? I've been governor of Texas. My daddy was president. I own a baseball team.'”

        This was followed by an interview with George Sr. on the Today Show. Clearly furious, the elder Mr. Bush said, “If he (Clinton) continues that, I'm going to tell the nation what I think of him as a human being and a person.” (As if we didn't already know.)

        New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote gleefully, “OK. Now we're in business.” The New York Daily News headline shouted, “Poppy to Bubba: Lay off my boy.”

        At a breakfast for Ohio delegates Thursday, the candidate's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said, “The family does kind of pull the wagons in a circle when one of us is threatened.” And he talked about his own son, George P., who addressed the convention Thursday night. “I'm still getting used to people asking me what it's like to be the father of a hottie.”

        At a fund-raiser earlier in the week, the hottie joked that he's hoping for a great pick-up line: “Would you like to take a walk through my uncle's Rose Garden?”

        Family. Kids. I have been watching them all week, some not so famous as the Bush children. But interest ing nonetheless.

        One terrifying little girl, 7, climbed up on a stage to read a composition she “wrote herself,” saying she longs for the Reagan years. She must be channeling with Shirley McLain. Lots of peo ple thought she was adorable. Myself, I prefer the children of Sen. Mike DeWine, who have made no public speeches.

        Anna, 8, will be starting the third grade in Virginia, where the DeWines live dur ing the school year. “We go back home to Greene County during the summer,” Fran DeWine says. I watched Anna sitting on her father's lap at a luncheon. Very quiet. Watching. Kids are little sponges, and I wondered what she was absorbing. “She adores her father, loves to be with him. He had to be here this week, so we turned it into a family vacation.” Family.

        The senator says that's the point. “For instance, we know two-thirds of the children in Cleveland are born to single moms. And that two-thirds of children there will not graduate from high school. We have got to help these kids. It used to be that if everybody took care of their own kids, we'd be OK. That's not good enough anymore.”

        Rep. John Kasich, who made an early grab for the presidential nomination, said, “The Bush family has been in national politics for 30 years. I've been in it for three years. My father was a mailman. Maybe my future is as postmaster general.”

        The truth is, our daddies — and our mommies — have a lot to do with the way we turn out. Their example, their support. Some people will see George W. Bush's “daddy” not as a slam but as a reason to vote for him. And others will remember Al Gore Sr. fondly, maybe give his kid the edge.

        The question, of course, is not whether Mr. Bush's daddy can beat Mr. Gore's daddy.

        The real question is what either of these candidates will do for the children who have no daddies at all.

        Laura Pulfer is a Metro columnist.

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