Tuned In

Candidates, Please Treat Us Like Children

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I just watched a screener DVD for one of Nick News’ Linda Ellerbee specials, Kids Pick the President, which airs this Sunday. As a lead-up to an online kids’ vote, which will go live after the special airs, John McCain and Barack Obama took questions from interested kids on issues including immigration, health care and climate change.

The striking thing was that their answers, while aimed at kids, were not appreciably dumbed down compared with what they would give an audience of adult voters in a debate. But they were calm, positive, focused on their own policies and what benefits the candidates believed they would have. There were no ad hominem attacks, rehearsed stump jokes or zingers. No drumbeat of coded hits like “erratic” or “doesn’t understand.”

Why? Because if you did any of that before an audience of kids, you would look like a complete tool.

But in front of audiences of adults, McCain and Palin this week are feeding their base sufficient hostile red meat that their crowds are calling Obama a “terrorist”, swearing at the campaign press and using a racial epithet for a black cameraman while telling him “sit down, boy.” (I’m sure these examples sound unbalanced, but I have not been seeing equivalents from Obama and Biden rallies.)

People consider it an insult to say that candidates talk to us like we’re children. But maybe the problem is that they don’t do that enough.

Of course, a kid did also ask the candidates what their favorite Halloween costumes were. Curiously, both of them, no lie, answered “pirate.” See, they do have common ground!