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"White House Objects to Poster That Invokes Obama Children":

Here's the poster:

According to The Washington Post, "the White House asked the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to take down the ads, which feature Jasmine Messiah, a vegetarian who attends a Miami-Dade County public school that, she says, offers no vegetarian or vegan lunch options." According to the president of the Physicians Committee, the White House Counsel's office "made it clear that they viewed this as something that could lead to legal action if I wasn't responsive. But that was an implication."

It's hard to evaluate the White House Counsel's office statements based on such a paraphrase, but if they did suggest that the reference to the President's daughters was legally actionable, they were wrong. The so-called "right of publicity" may go further than I'd like, but even it doesn't go that far, especially in the context of a noncommercial poster that references someone in the course of making a political point.

Such speech is protected by the First Amendment, and in any event not an infringement of the right of publicity in the first place. See, e.g., Vassiliades v. Garfinckel's, Brooks Bros., 492 A.2d 580, 592 (D.D.C. 1985); Berkos v. NBC, Inc., 515 N.E.2d 668 (Ill. Ct. App. 1987); 765 Ill. Comp. Stat. 1075/1 et seq.. That the names aren't used is not itself dispositive, but the noncommercial nature and the fact that it involves something more than just selling a copy of someone's name or likeness should be dispositive.)

Of course, if the people from the Counsel's office simply relayed a request on behalf of the President, asking the Committee to do what they argued was the morally right thing and not really threatening legal action, that's a different story. I'm not sure why that should come, though, from the Counsel's office; but maybe the Counsel's office has historically had a broad mandate in such matters.

Still, even if the claim is that the Committee is doing something unethical or in bad taste, I don't see how that would be so. They aren't saying anything offensive or demeaning about the girls. They aren't faulting the girls for anything they've done. They're not, I think, putting them in a position where they might be deeply embarrassed if they see the ad, or if a friend asks them about it.

In fact, the ad isn't about anything the girls did — it's about what their relatively well-to-do parents are able to provide them, and what the Committee says the government should provide to all children (a position, incidentally, that I don't share on the merits). I don't see anything tasteless or ethically improper in commenting on public affairs, and in part on the options that the President has, by mentioning in this way the privileges that the President's children enjoy.

Constantin:
I'd leave kids out of it and find another way to make my point. But it's worth mentioning that it's exactly the kind of thing Saul Alinsky did, and advocated doing, and both Obamas are on record with their Alinsky reverence. And it's also worth mentioning that if the lady had made a poster featuring Barack Obama or Michelle Obama, I'm guessing it wouldn't be covered in the Washington Post.
8.11.2009 5:49pm
Steve:
Hard to leave the kids out of it when the issue is SCHOOL LUNCHES. I respect the Obamas' protectiveness but this strikes me as entirely fair and inoffensive political speech.
8.11.2009 5:55pm
Angus:
Fair? Perhaps. Inoffensive? I don't think so. You could argue that the impact, if any, would be more to generate resentment at Obama's daughters than to raise support for school lunches.
8.11.2009 6:00pm
PeteP:
Angus - "You could argue that the impact, if any, would be more to generate resentment at Obama's daughters than to raise support for school lunches"

And it has recently been argued ( for instance, by Chris Matthews on his MSNBC TV show ) that calling someone 'socialist' is now an indication that you are in fact a closet racist. The same goes, according to him, for anyone who opposes Obama's policies in any way.

Obama himself has shown his ( lack of ) respect for free speech, by recently stating, in reference to anyone who disagrees with his policy initiatives, that "....They should just stop talking and get out of the way".

You agree with these positions by the President and his supporters, I guess ?
8.11.2009 6:05pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
There's plenty of good prudential reasons to leave the kids out of it, at least unless they have voluntarily entered the public debate on an issue, but Professor Volokh is quite correct as a matter of First Amendment law.

I suspect that the White House does this sort of thing as a matter of course in order to deter more serious intrusions on the privacy of the First Kids, but that said, when you issue it from the Counsel's office, Prof. Volokh is right about that one as well-- it makes it look more like a legal threat.

It would be best if the statement came out of the communications office and read more like "while we recognize that people have a First Amendment right to comment about public issues including by using the image of President Obama's children to make their point, we urge all Americans to respect the privacy of the President's children and not turn them into a debating point or a political issue".
8.11.2009 6:05pm
skyywise (mail):
I believe this is what law professors call a "slippery-slope" concern. Sure, this ad is fair and inoffensive, but the WH wants to prevent other less conscientious parties from using the Obama children in political speech that is more inflammatory rhetoric than substance. The WH has stated they are going to be protective of the girls in order to keep their lives as normal as possible, they did not choose to be thrust into the public spotlight and should not just be "fair game" because their father is a public figure.

Out of curiosity, a question directed to the VC community. Did this kind of advertising happen with other young children in the WH? Amy Carter is the most recent example to look at, I suppose.
8.11.2009 6:10pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
The framing is inconvenient for the Administration. First of all, you've got to think like a liberal would -- the poster suggests that the reason the little girl isn't getting the right kind of lunch is because the wrong kind of people are exerting their "privilege" to do so. It would cast the Obamas, who have earned their millions, as possibly villainous characters in the narrative.

The second is the race issue. President Obama has been burned multiple times within the past couple of months when he has forcefully try to broach it; e.g., the Sotomayor appointment, the Gates fiasco. Although that framing benefited him during the campaign, with the honeymoon effect of his inauguration wearing off, I think he is loath to offer Republicans a weapon that many amongst them believe is just begging to be handled.
8.11.2009 6:11pm
troll_dc2 (mail):
I take it that the policy against using members of the President's family in advertisements, whether for commercial products or for public-policy issues, is based on custom. Can anyone imagine that a lawsuit to forbid such advertising could succeed?

Let's go to the next step. Suppose Planned Parenthood decides to use Sarah Palin's daughter in advertisements opposing abstinence-only sex education. There certainly would be a firestorm over such an ad campaign, but there is a public figure (or two of them) here and an issue of public concern. Could a court properly enjoin the campaign?
8.11.2009 6:15pm
rick.felt:
For those who think that this ad impolitely or unfairly drags Obama's issue into a political debate, what about the following scenario:

At a town hall, someone asks Obama if he would insist that any health insurance bill that he signs apply to his children's health insurance.
8.11.2009 6:15pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
Argh, I hate having to defend the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine--one of the most annoying nanny socialist groups out there. But they're right; the poster is perfectly legitimate and inoffensive. Responding to Angus: Yes, the goal is to make people resent Obama's daughters, who are privileged to get healthy school lunches that aren't available to other children. If that's offensive, we've really lowered the bar for offense.

Meanwhile, I'll credit the Obamas for consistency when they condemn the left's constant Trig &Bristol bashing even half as much.

Anyways, maybe some voucher proponents could do something similar so I can unequivocally support them? Maybe a similar child looking at a slum school in Harlem with a caption, "President Obama's daughters can attend a quality private school; why can't I?"
8.11.2009 6:16pm
californiamom:
This ad isn't directed against the Obama kids at all. They didn't sign themselves up for the expensive private school they attend. Obviously, the ad is directed against the parents.
8.11.2009 6:19pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Anyways, maybe some voucher proponents could do something similar so I can unequivocally support them? Maybe a similar child looking at a slum school in Harlem with a caption, "President Obama's daughters can attend a quality private school; why can't I?"

Sidwell Friends costs $30K. I would unequivocally support such a level of funding for vouchers . Would you?
8.11.2009 6:20pm
rick.felt:
Maybe a similar child looking at a slum school in Harlem

Do they even have slums in Harlem anymore? My understanding is that Harlem was becoming touristy and is slowly being colonized by hipsters.
8.11.2009 6:23pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):


At a town hall, someone asks Obama if he would insist that any health insurance bill that he signs apply to his children's health insurance.

So ... what? He's going to attach a signing statement exempting his daughters?
8.11.2009 6:24pm
zippypinhead:
I saw the poster at Union Station. Caused me to do a double-take at how tasteless it was to use the President's young daughters in this way. My second thought was that the poster displayed a remarkable amount of political tone-deafness - and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only person wearing a necktie and heading south out of Union Station to think badly of the ad campaign. It's no defense that the President is presumably not inherently opposed to the general point of the ad - or at least wasn't before his daughters were involuntarily recruited as stalking horses.

First Amendment violation? No. Dumb? Yes. PCRM officials probably shouldn't bother applying for a VIP White House tour anytime soon...

Then again -- PCRM got a LOT of free publicity from the poster -- even placement on VC, gratis! So thinking strategically (or cynically) maybe it DID pay off for them after all...
8.11.2009 6:31pm
rick.felt:
ruuffles:

The subtext of the interlocutor's question is "are you willing to subject your daughters to the same health insurance system that you're subjecting everyone else's daughters to?" Perhaps that is the question that I should have asked initially.

My point was not to have a debate about the health care bill or signing statements (huh?) but to probe whether any mention of Obama's family can ever be part of any debate.
8.11.2009 6:31pm
Obvious (mail):
Ignoring the First Amendment issues, what is the point of the ad? Do the Obama daughters insist on and receive vegan meals from Sidwell? If the girl in the picture kept Kosher instead of vegan, or was on a liquid protein diet, is it a matter of public policy that her specific dietary preferences must be met? The ad is legal, but very silly.
8.11.2009 6:36pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Quite aside from the propriety of referencing Mr. Obama's children in a political ad, the mind reels that people are cutting political ads over the lack of vegan or vegetarian options in public school lunchrooms.

Memo to vegans and vegetarians: that you choose to observe bizarre dietary restrictions in no way obligates the rest of us to make accommodations on your behalf. Bring your own damn lunch or go hungry.
8.11.2009 6:36pm
FWB (mail):
Why is the govt in the business of feeding OUR children?

"Even a dog knows not to bite the hand that feeds it!!"

Tiocfaidh ar la!
8.11.2009 6:38pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Given how bad school lunches are, I thought the poster was just fine.
8.11.2009 6:38pm
Malvolio:
But they're right; the poster is perfectly legitimate and inoffensive.
It's offensively stupid, does that count?

President Obama's daughters get to ride on Air Force One. Why don't I?

President Obama's daughters get to Avril Lavigne. Why don't I?

President Obama's daughters' father has a button that could blow up the world. Why don't I?

The argument would only make sense if we accepted that (a) no-one should ever be treated better than anyone else or (b) the President and his family should be the worse-treated people in the country.
8.11.2009 6:39pm
Metro rider (mail):
Just to add to zippys comment -- these are plastered at nearly every dc metro stop -- there is also such a striking resemblance of the girl in the ad to the Obama girls that three tourists were talking about "how cute the oldest Obama girl is on the poster" -- I had to politely inteject that the picture merely looked / remembled one of the Obama girls ...
8.11.2009 6:41pm
neurodoc:
: Argh, I hate having to defend the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine—one of the most annoying nanny socialist groups out there.
I too find them objectionable, but not because of where they are with respect to Left vs Right. (What pegs them as socialist?) My problem with them is that they make dubious scientific claims in support of their tendentious promotion of a form of "alternative" medicine. They are all about vegetarianism, approaching it as a secular form of religion, not so much based on objective, reliable evidence as on what largely amounts to "faith." And part of the package is a common vision with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
http://www.pcrm.org/about/report08/
2008%20Year%20in%20Review.pdf
8.11.2009 6:41pm
neurodoc:
One of these ads caught my eye the other day when I was using Metro here in Washington. I assumed, incorrectly it turns out, that the claim was that poor children were not being provided with nutritious meals in school. No, it is that schools are not required to provide vegetarian meals as an option. I believe, though am not certain, that PCRM's version of "vegetarian" eschews "lacto-ovo," that is products without meat or fish in them, but with milk and/or eggs. And one might question from a nutrition standpoint the suitability of such diets. (I don't wish to engage with anyone about the merits or lack thereof of "vegetarian" diets. My point is that there are layers to this, and the PCRM ad lacks in candor.)

I wonder if PCRM's notion of a "healthy school lunch" would require that all foodstuffs served to children be "organic."
8.11.2009 7:01pm
DangerMouse:
As I recall, Obama's family, including his two children, were on the stage at the Democratic National Convention. He has also invoked them in abortion politics by saying he wouldn't want them punished with a baby. He has brought them into the public spotlight and used them for his political advantage.

As such, the kids are fair game. If it happened to Sarah Palin, it can be done to the Democrats. Period.

I don't care about the vegitarian nonsense agenda they have, but Obama's kids are as fair game as Palin's.
8.11.2009 7:21pm
SSFC (www):
Bear in mind that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is almost, but not quite, a PETA front. They're the same group suing Hebrew National to require warning labels on hot dogs. For what it's worth, they're also not physicians.

I would expect them to respect Obama's children no more than I would PETA to do so, if some publicity could be garnered from it. It would not surprise me at all if this ad was published in the express hope that the White House apparatus, which in this incarnation is no more or less concerned with protecting presidential children than past White Houses, objected. They were praying for it.
8.11.2009 7:25pm
cirby (mail):
For those of you complaining about President Obama's daughters being "dragged into" this:

Since he mentions them in pretty much every speech that could possibly have some bearing on anything he supports, and uses them as stage props on a regular basis, it's hard to suggest they're being used against their wills, or that they're not fair game for political commentary like those signs.
8.11.2009 7:27pm
Angus:
Since he mentions them in pretty much every speech that could possibly have some bearing on anything he supports, and uses them as stage props on a regular basis, it's hard to suggest they're being used against their wills, or that they're not fair game for political commentary like those signs.
If that's the low standard, then every politician's child is fair game.
8.11.2009 7:33pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
You have no standing for dissent, Angus. You defended the risible way Joe the Plumber was treated at length in another comment thread when prompted on your views by SG and Dr. Weevil. Anyone who deviates from Democratic party line is "fair game" to you.
8.11.2009 7:38pm
Owen H. (mail):

At a town hall, someone asks Obama if he would insist that any health insurance bill that he signs apply to his children's health insurance.



The answer to that would be, "yes", because nothing is going to force you into the public program, or force you to lose the program you've got.
8.11.2009 7:40pm
PeteP:
owen - "The answer to that would be, "yes", because nothing is going to force you into the public program, or force you to lose the program you've got."

Really you should try to pay at least a LITTLE attention before posting garbage and lies like that. Just because Obama says it, that don't make it so, Joe.

There are NUMEROUS circumstances, too many to enumerate here, that WILL force you to lose your current program, and FORCE you onto the 'public option'.

For instance - as the government makes your current plan more and more onerous with requirements of all kinds that raise costs, guess what ? The insurance company stops offering that plan.

For instance - your employer decides that he would rather pay the $ 750 / year 'penalty' for not offering insurance, rather than the $ 4,000 - $ 12,000 per employee he's paying now. Guess what ? Your other option the 'the public plan', because yours just went away.


Those are just a COUPLE.....
8.11.2009 7:53pm
Toby:
When do we get to call all of the offended people racists because they can't tell kids of African American descent apart...
8.11.2009 8:01pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
More than 30 comments in, I'm impressed no one has drawn the obligatory wing-nut connection between President Obama and this kid's last name.
8.11.2009 8:02pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
DangerMouse:

As such, the kids are fair game. If it happened to Sarah Palin, it can be done to the Democrats. Period.

Does that mean now that it's happend to Obama's kids you think Palin's kids are fair game?
8.11.2009 8:05pm
Owen H. (mail):
Pete- and just because Obama said it doesn't make it a lie, either. Frankly, I'm tired of the lies coming from the opposition.

You know, in the past decade I've been on three different health plans, yet I've had the same doctor the entire time.
8.11.2009 8:07pm
Angus:
You have no standing for dissent, Angus. You defended the risible way Joe the Plumber was treated at length in another comment thread when prompted on your views by SG and Dr. Weevil. Anyone who deviates from Democratic party line is "fair game" to you.
If you can't see the difference between someone A) actively injecting himself into the political debate and getting "exposed" as a fraud, or B) someone injecting a second person's kids into the political debate, then C) you are dumber than I assumed.
8.11.2009 8:23pm
Observer:
After what was said about Trig it is truly beyond belief that anyone would find this poster objectionable.
8.11.2009 8:30pm
Steve:
For instance - your employer decides that he would rather pay the $ 750 / year 'penalty' for not offering insurance, rather than the $ 4,000 - $ 12,000 per employee he's paying now. Guess what ? Your other option the 'the public plan', because yours just went away.

That's a frightening scenario. Of course, your employer's penalty for doing this under current law is $0, and you seem oddly unconcerned.
8.11.2009 8:35pm
DangerMouse:
Leo,

Obviously, you live in a cave, because otherwise you'd know that for Democrats and the left, the Palin kids have been fair game since day 1.
8.11.2009 8:37pm
Owen H. (mail):
Really? Can you point out the ad that uses them this way? Or the campaign speech?
8.11.2009 8:41pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
I'm sure if the little girl in the photo looked a little bit different, there would be no issue - if you catch my drift.
8.11.2009 8:42pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Owen H:

The answer to that would be, "yes", because nothing is going to force you into the public program, or force you to lose the program you've got.


However, I think that politicians should eat their own dogfood (this is a software industry expression about using one's own software before it is released to the public). This means that the politicians should be the first ones on the public plan (Obama and family, Congressmen, and high-level executive officers) rather than the last.

If a congressman cant get good care under a plan it will change. They have the power to make the chances, so they need to subject themselves to the plan as among the first movers.

This isn't about everyone else's choice, and I don't even think the whole federal government's insurance should be moved. However, we are better off if politicians experiment first on themselves than on the public.
8.11.2009 8:44pm
Matt_T:
Any group that doesn't practice evidence-based medicine shouldn't refer to themselves as "Responsible". I'm looking at you, PETA-front jerks.
8.11.2009 8:45pm
BT:
I rarely find myself in agreement with Angus, but I, too, think that BO's kids should be off limits. They didn't ask to stand on the platform at the convention, what are they gonna do say, no? Would you? I am second to none in my dislike of BO and his policies and his wife. But his kids should be off limits, as should Palin's or any other pols. When Rush criticized Chelsey Clinton's looks it was reprehensible and he was called out for it and rightfully so. He eventually apologized. This group should come up with a different ad campaign.
8.11.2009 8:47pm
neurodoc:
Matt_T: Any group that doesn't practice evidence-based medicine shouldn't refer to themselves as "Responsible". I'm looking at you, PETA-front jerks.
Unless you count "anecdote" or "personal experience" as evidence, then much of modern medical practice is not evidence-based. Still, evidence-based practice should be the aspirational goal, and I agree with you that it isn't for PCRM, which is in truth about "ideological" practice.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/aug/01/animalwelfare.world
8.11.2009 9:16pm
Fury:
DangerMouse:

"As I recall, Obama's family, including his two children, were on the stage at the Democratic National Convention. He has also invoked them in abortion politics by saying he wouldn't want them punished with a baby. He has brought them into the public spotlight and used them for his political advantage."

Good point and perhaps no different (in a general sense) than Sarah Palin talking about her children/having them on stage/etc, which some folks believed gave the green light for her children to be scrutinized more closely.

I say leave the kids out of it, even if the parents discuss them.
8.11.2009 9:16pm
neurodoc:
Leo Marvin: More than 30 comments in, I'm impressed no one has drawn the obligatory wing-nut connection between President Obama and this kid's last name.
Well, since you let the cat out of the bag, the kid and her mother are in fact related to him. (Remember, you heard it here first.)
8.11.2009 9:19pm
ShelbyC:

That's a frightening scenario. Of course, your employer's penalty for doing this under current law is $0, and you seem oddly unconcerned.


Sure, b/c we don't have a public option, but we do have a subsidy for private insurance. So right now the best use of my employer's $4,000 - $12,000 is to give me insurance. But if I have to pay for the public option anyway, and it's available, the employer might find that his best option is to stop providing insurance (and maybe giving me a taste of that money)
8.11.2009 9:23pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The best way to keep all the kids out of the game is to return the treatment in kind. If Obama doesn't want his kids in the game, then he will have to stop his folks from using Palin's kids. Sort of kiddie MAD.
8.11.2009 9:29pm
law student:
Now for something completely different... but marginally related. Though the First Amendment issues may be interesting, since this comment thread has shown some signs of veering off towards more general discussion of the government lunch program and government health programs and the like... it's perhaps worth noting that public school lunches are often abysmal, like, to the point of inedible. I don't know that many people realize this. There is a lot of public discourse -- such as this ad -- about how the meals aren't healthy (see also: feelgood articles about Alice Waters in the Berkeley schools etc.). OK, well that's all true, but it's also kind of beside the point. In many if not most schools the problem is way more basic than whether or not there are vegetarian options or the food is healthy or organic or whatever.

To provide some admittedly totally anecdotal and possibly out-of-date illustration, I recall being served weird frozen "rib" things and hamburger patties and the like -- all of which were served basically still-frozen, so you couldn't really cut or bite into it. There was also about a year long period where my urban public high school served nothing but these gross square "pizza" things (the "cheese" had usually hardened into a plastified form that sort of floated above the "crust") and corn -- nothing green on the plate, no protein unless you count the alleged "cheese" (though I guess this vegetarian in the ad would have been satisfied) and nothing but pizza and corn -- literally EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Instead of eating this stuff, most kids survived on the soda, Doritos, and cookies that could be obtained from the vending machines or bought a la carte from the cashiers. I'm in my 20s though, so maybe things have gotten better in the years since I was in school, though I kind of doubt it. Anyway, then we wonder why we have nutrition and health problems in this country. Who knows what the policy solutions are to any of this; maybe the government should just get out of the lunch business altogether, though I do think this is one area where the government has some business meddling -- if we are going to have public schools at all, and kids attending them who can't afford lunch otherwise, then you have to feed the kids or they aren't going to learn anything because no one can concentrate when hungry. I also don't think it should be this hard to do -- I've had institutional food both in other countries and at American institutions that are not K-12 public schools, and it's often at least edible, recognizable, not-still-frozen food. For some reason in the K-12 context everything goes awry. I know they have to use USDA commodities, but you would think they could at least also put said commodities into an oven before serving them. Oh well.
8.11.2009 9:36pm
Steve:
So right now the best use of my employer's $4,000 - $12,000 is to give me insurance. But if I have to pay for the public option anyway, and it's available, the employer might find that his best option is to stop providing insurance (and maybe giving me a taste of that money)

Unless you're saying the only reason your employer provides you with insurance right now is that he feels bad that you have no other options, I can't parse the logic of this.

The law of supply and demand still applies. If your employer could get away with unilaterally cutting your comp package after health care reform passes, he could get away with it equally well right now.

Of course, there's the possibility the public option could provide a win-win, but that's a different issue.
8.11.2009 10:03pm
Owen H. (mail):
Shelby- what "subsidy" are you referring to?
8.11.2009 10:16pm
some guy:
You have no standing for dissent, Angus. You defended the risible way Joe the Plumber was treated at length in another comment thread when prompted on your views by SG and Dr. Weevil.

Angus' reply: If you can't see the difference between someone A) actively injecting himself into the political debate and getting "exposed" as a fraud, or B) someone injecting a second person's kids into the political debate, then C) you are dumber than I assumed.

Umm, "actively injecting himself"? Joe was in his front yard when Obama and his entourage approached him. He asked a legitimate question, to which Obama gave an honest (and ultimately unpopular) answer.

There are these pesky things called "facts," which exist whether or not they support your agenda.
8.11.2009 10:17pm
some guy:
According to the president of the Physicians Committee, the White House Counsel's office "made it clear that they viewed this as something that could lead to legal action if I wasn't responsive. But that was an implication."

This should not surprise anyone. After all, Obama's campaign asked the DOJ to prosecute people for running negative ads against him.
8.11.2009 10:24pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Heavy-handed, thuggish threats of legal action, with no legitimate basis?

Hope and change!

Where is the D.C. Bar Association? Disciplining these White House attorneys would set an example for the rest of the nation, and show that no lawyer is above his ethical duties.
8.11.2009 10:34pm
name:
I don't understand how the president is supposed to prevent the media, or Andrew Sullivan, or random bloggers from talking about Sarah Palin's kids. The only thing I've ever heard him say about them is that they should be off limits. And, not that the president controls Democratic members of congress either, but I don't recall them ever talking about Palin's kids either.

I agree that it's silly to say that Joe the Plumber injected himself into the debate. It was actually McCain that did that by talking about him incessantly in the the 3rd debate. And, again, I don't recall -- although I studiously avoided the coverage of this -- Obama or democratic officials attacking him or providing oppo research about him. That was mostly the media, bloggers, and random Ohio civil servants who apparently illegally looked him up in various state databases. I don't quite get how that's Obama's fault.
8.11.2009 10:35pm
Lior:
Owen H: Health insurance provided by the employer is not a taxable benefit. If your employer gave you the cash to buy insurance with it, the money would be taxable. This is a subsidy leading you to negotiate for health care with the employer -- you're willing to give up some salary in return for the health care benefit. Moreover, non-employer-based health coverage is very expensive, so employers will find it difficult to find employees without offering health coverage.

If you introduce health care from the government partly paid for by other people's taxes then the employees won't negotiate so hard for health-care from the employer -- a cheaper solution is to give the employees some of the value in cash (even if it's taxable). The new set of incentives will have a different equilibrium.
8.11.2009 10:36pm
PeteP:
Owen - "just because Obama said it doesn't make it a lie, either. Frankly, I'm tired of the lies coming from the opposition. "

Apparently you didn't see his PR appearance aka 'town hall' today, where he bragged about how 'he didnt' plant questioners in the audience' - then he took 3 questions in total :

The first one was from the leading liberal Democrat in the New Hampshire Senate, who asked 'Why dont' you just forget the Republicans and pass your agenda anyway, you have the votes in Congress to railroad them ?'

The second was from cute little teenage twippy who asked, in her little screechy teeny voice, "When I was coming here today, I saw a bunch of people outside with signs that said really mean things about your health care policy. Why are people so mean to you, and how can we help pass healthcare ?"

The third one I misssed - I was running to the porcelain bus to get the taste of the first two out of my mouth.
8.11.2009 10:38pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Danger Mouse,

Nice job changing the subject. I asked if you approve. You said:

If it happened to Sarah Palin, it can be done to the Democrats. Period.

I don't care about the vegitarian nonsense agenda they have, but Obama's kids are as fair game as Palin's.

.. which I assume means you think Palin's kids are as fair game as Obama's. Right?
8.11.2009 10:42pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
neuro,

If that's true, it's pretty funny.
8.11.2009 10:42pm
ShelbyC:
Owen H:

Shelby- what "subsidy" are you referring to?


I'm refering to the fact that employer provided health insurance, neither the employer paid portion nor the employee paid portion, is taxed. So if my insurance costs $15,000 a year, it's considerably cheaper to have my employer provide it (or provide, say, $12,000 and I provide the rest) than to have my employer pay me $12,000 more and I go buy insurance. The downside is that I don't get to choose my provider, so they're less responsive to my needs. They can do things like cancel my insurance if I get sick and loose my job. If I were choosing an insurance company myself, the first thing I'd check for is that they can't drop me if I get sick.
8.11.2009 10:50pm
rick.felt:
I fail to see how the Obama gals have been "dragged in" to any debate by this poster. Their likenesses have not been used in this poster. Their appearance, habits, intelligence, and personalities have not been questioned, ridiculed, exploited, or even mentioned.

This poster is not about the Obama girls. It's about parenting decisions made by a politician, and whether those decisions, coupled with his stated policy positions and actions in office, expose that politician as hypocritical, dishonest, inconsistent, or lacking in empathy. It's a form of the persuasive - if not entirely convincing - argument that Democrats promote inept public school bureaucracies and let teachers' unions run amok, while letting their children escape the consequences of those policies.

As for actual attacks, no matter how mild, on the children of politicians: they're appalling. They don't become any less appalling no matter how much the politician uses them as props. Is it fair that Obama gets to drag his kids out on stage and deck them out in designer duds while the press coos? Of course not. Is it fair that Palin gets to hold an adorable baby immediately after speeches? Of course not. But you know what? Tough. Life isn't fair. Politics isn't fair. Gotta leave the kids alone, even if their parents won't do the same.
8.11.2009 10:53pm
ShelbyC:

Unless you're saying the only reason your employer provides you with insurance right now is that he feels bad that you have no other options, I can't parse the logic of this.

The law of supply and demand still applies. If your employer could get away with unilaterally cutting your comp package after health care reform passes, he could get away with it equally well right now.

Of course, there's the possibility the public option could provide a win-win, but that's a different issue.


The reason the public option isn't a win-win is because I still have to pay for it, through taxes. So right now, with tax-free employer provided health care, my employer can pony up, say, $15,000 to give me health care that would cost me ($15,000 + marginal tax rate) to buy on my own. A no-brainer. But the I can get the public option for no additional money than I already pay in taxes (say it costs $12,000 but that cost is hidden by the tax system) then the employer is paying $15,000 to give my $3,000 more health care. A no-brainer the other way.
8.11.2009 11:00pm
ShelbyC:
Whoops: give myme $3,000. Sorry
8.11.2009 11:02pm
ArthurKirkland:
The grammar seems more troublesome than the mention, without name or likeness, of the President's daughters.

I am open to education or correction, but would not "healthful" (instead of "healthy") lunches for students be the proper usage as well as a worthy goal?
8.11.2009 11:10pm
DangerMouse:
Nice job changing the subject. I asked if you approve.

Meh, it doesn't matter whether I approve or not, because the reality is, kids are fair game now because of the Palin treatment. I fully support attacks on Obama's kids because of what happened to Palin's kids.

Although, as far as my generic approval goes, I think Elliot123 had a good idea: kiddie MAD. Don't attack my kids and I won't attack your kids, etc. But since they attacked Palin's kids, the Dems are going to have to learn a hard lesson.
8.11.2009 11:12pm
SATA_Interface:
Considering that Palin is currently using Trig as a hold-up example of what might happen with Obamacare death panels, I don't see either side taking the high road. Pretty tasteless.
8.11.2009 11:19pm
name:
Shelby, I don't follow your last comment. As I understand it, the public option will be funded by premiums. I'm sure that there would have to some initial capital infusion, but on an ongoing basis, it would be funded by premiums. Of course, premiums would be subsidized for lower income people, but the same is true of non-public plans.

The bigger point is that if you already have insurance through your employer you likely would not be eligible for the public plan. Under the House Bill, it is only open to people who are uninsured or to small employers (fewer than 10 employees the first year, and fewer than 20 thereafter).
8.11.2009 11:23pm
name:
Again, you say that Dems attacked Palin's kids, but you don't say which Dems did that -- did any actual Democratic officials do that? Obama specifically said that Palin's kids were off limits, that he did not want his supporters attacking them, and that he would fire anyone on his staff who did it. Why should his kids have to pay for the actions of Andrew Sullivan or some random Alaska blogger?
8.11.2009 11:30pm
ShelbyC:

The bigger point is that if you already have insurance through your employer you likely would not be eligible for the public plan. Under the House Bill, it is only open to people who are uninsured


And if I my employer stops providing insurance, I'm uninsured, right? And even if some of money comes from premiums, just plug those numbers in. The premiums make it less of a no-brainer to switch, but there's still an incentive to capture the subsidy. And govt programs tend to structure themselves so that they grow.
8.12.2009 12:03am
Steve:
Again, you say that Dems attacked Palin's kids, but you don't say which Dems did that -- did any actual Democratic officials do that?

It's just a stupid rationalization, no point trying to argue. It's easy to muster a sense of moral superiority by convincing yourself that the other side engages in depraved acts, while our side never does anything but retaliate.
8.12.2009 12:13am
Libertarian Girl (mail) (www):
I'm a libertarian, so I don't necessarily agree with the end goal of the PCRM, but I don't disagree, either. As it is, the government provides school lunches to the extent that it's the country's largest meat purchaser, to the tune of billions. It keeps shady companies like Smithfield in business this way. The lunches aren't healthy for the most part, as only one other commenter has pointed out, and in many cases they are inedible. IF we get a public health care system, we will be paying for all this in heart disease and cancer later, so you might as well spend more money at the outset on healthy food (if you're going to do that, which we are).

This girl is a vegetarian. It's not a "bizarre" eating choice, as one commenter called it, it's just a choice that for whatever reason the girl has made and it's sad that her public school doesn't have that option. Cheap, unhealthy meatloaf vs. vegetarian anything, including pasta? It's not that hard to have vegetarian food. The fact that we don't serve fruits and veggies to these kids is ridiculous.

Neurodoc-- please point out the specific claims this group makes that are not based on science. I'm sitting with my scientist (vegetarian) boyfriend right here, who says everything in the pdf is scientifically based. A plant-based diet is just plain healthier.

The fact is that neither the Obamas nor Sidwell Friends is feeding the Obama girls the meaty blobs that pass for school lunches in some public schools, and that's not right when judged by Obama's own rhetoric or stated political beliefs. I like the ad, and I think it's justified in light of Obama bringing his own daughters into the spotlight when it benefits him.
8.12.2009 12:47am
neurodoc:
Leo Marvin: neuro,

If that's true, it's pretty funny.
Do you think I would kid you about so serious a matter? But do keep it under your hat, because if O'Reilly learns of it, we'll never hear the end of it.
8.12.2009 1:18am
Dave N (mail):
Here is the rule (or at least what I think it should be):

If you are a politician and you have kids. You have every right to brag about them (same goes for grandchildren), mention them in speeches, drag them out on stage, etc.. Everyone else, leave the pol's kids alone. Period.

I don't care if the parents are using them as props for political purposes. That is not the point. They have had little or no say in their parent's choice of occupation. When they are still children, sniping at them is actually rather pathetic.

The ONLY exception to this rule is if the politician's kids are a) adult; and b) inject themselves into the political process.
8.12.2009 1:27am
Eli Rabett (www):
Eli doubts ShelbyC made the same point about Social Security

Sure, b/c we don't have a public option, but we do have a subsidy for private insurance. So right now the best use of my employer's $4,000 - $12,000 is to give me insurance. But if I have to pay for the public option anyway, and it's available, the employer might find that his best option is to stop providing insurance (and maybe giving me a taste of that money)


Remember how if we killed off Social Security, the employers were going to put all of their part into our salaries? Another libertarian fantasy.

More to the point, the public scheme will include premiums for all participants and employers will pay part of the premium. Their payments will be tax free.
8.12.2009 1:55am
DangerMouse:
Again, you say that Dems attacked Palin's kids, but you don't say which Dems did that -- did any actual Democratic officials do that? Obama specifically said that Palin's kids were off limits, that he did not want his supporters attacking them, and that he would fire anyone on his staff who did it. Why should his kids have to pay for the actions of Andrew Sullivan or some random Alaska blogger?

Because that's the only way to hold them accountable. Until the left shames its own into stopping attacks on the kids of their opponents, an attack by one must be understood as an attack by all.

The Dems = the Media = Sullivan, for all I care. They're one in the same, an amorphous mass of liberalism. They have no faces. And all of them stand together, because they all benefit from each other's actions. Don't tell me that the MSM wasn't living off of Sullivan, or that he didn't go to a private dinner with President Obama and others at the Atlantic because of his actions, and that he wasn't secretly praised and lauded and celebrated all because of his conspiracy mongering over Trig Palin. It happened, and they loved him for it. If you expect me to believe that Obama rebuked him privately at that dinner, then I've got a bridge to sell you.

It doesn't matter who pulls the trigger. Conservatives should go to the mattresses every time it happens and fight back indiscriminately. "That's the Chicago way."
8.12.2009 2:21am
pot meet kettle (mail):
This is Nazism. Why do you think you never saw pictures of Hitler's children in PSA's for better soap for everybody?
8.12.2009 2:40am
pot meet kettle (mail):

The Dems = the Media = Sullivan, for all I care. They're one in the same, an amorphous mass of liberalism. They have no faces. And all of them stand together, because they all benefit from each other's actions. Don't tell me that the MSM wasn't living off of Sullivan, or that he didn't go to a private dinner with President Obama and others at the Atlantic because of his actions, and that he wasn't secretly praised and lauded and celebrated all because of his conspiracy mongering over Trig Palin. It happened, and they loved him for it. If you expect me to believe that Obama rebuked him privately at that dinner, then I've got a bridge to sell you.


Your tinfoil hat looks mighty pretty on you, dahling.
8.12.2009 2:48am
Ken Arromdee:
This is Nazism. Why do you think you never saw pictures of Hitler's children in PSA's for better soap for everybody?

There aren't pictures of Obama's children in this ad either.
8.12.2009 2:54am
Ken Arromdee:
Your tinfoil hat looks mighty pretty on you, dahling.

It's called a good cop, bad cop routine. The "bad" Democrats do the attacking, and the "good" ones pretend to be more reasonable.
8.12.2009 2:56am
Brian K (mail):
It's called a good cop, bad cop routine. The "bad" Democrats do the attacking, and the "good" ones pretend to be more reasonable.

sure beats the republicans who apparently were never told as kids that there's supposed to be a good cop.
8.12.2009 2:59am
Leo Marvin (mail):
DangerMouse:

Nice job changing the subject. I asked if you approve.


Meh, it doesn't matter whether I approve or not, because the reality is, kids are fair game now because of the Palin treatment. I fully support attacks on Obama's kids because of what happened to Palin's kids.

It only matters if you value principles. If you're OK with the partisan moral relativism Orin has blogged about (i.e., "now I believe it" (when your side's in power), "now I don't" (when mine is)), then you're right. It doesn't matter.
8.12.2009 3:35am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I have a simple rule on charges of hypocrisy. You aren't allowed to make them until you take one, consistent, stand on the underlying issue. This prevents a lot of the crap that we are seeing in this comments threads, where people are trying to use this issue to show how hypocritical the Democrats are while not having the guts to criticize their own side.

If kids are off limits, fine they are off limits. But then you have to say that Obama is right, even if you think he's a hypocrite.

If kids are not off limits, fine, they are not off limits. But then you have to say that Palin is wrong.

But if you don't want to admit that your side is wrong or that the other side is right, then your charges of hypocrisy are just a cop-out for your own taking of a position. In other words, you are being a jerk.
8.12.2009 3:40am
Anatid:

A plant-based diet is just plain healthier.


Yes, it is. But that's more the presence of plants than the absence of meat.
8.12.2009 3:44am
Owen H. (mail):

I'm refering to the fact that employer provided health insurance, neither the employer paid portion nor the employee paid portion, is taxed.



Why do you think this would change?

The rest of your post sounds more like an argument in favor of the reforms.
8.12.2009 7:14am
Toby:
As has been pointed out severaltiemsin this thread, the Obama kids aren't in this ad, or in these posters--merely a mention that he has kids. How this compares to discussions of the Nicon girls, Amy, Ron the Dancer, Chelsea, thous "out of control college Bushess" etc is beyond me.

The girls's aren't pictured.
The girls's aren't named.
The girls's activities aren't discussed.

There are numerous commenters aparently of the opionon that all minority kids look alike, and so they are unclear on some of these issues (Didn't *that* used to be a racist position?). They should step away from the keyboard and actually meet a minority kid or two.
8.12.2009 7:18am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Would the ad be any less effective if the president HAD NO children? Same poster exactly... would the message change?

This isn't about Obama's kids, it's about Obama. No problem here.
8.12.2009 8:35am
Angus:
If this organization wanted to make it about Obama, the poster would read something like "President Obama, why can't I get a healthy lunch at my school?" Instead, it brings Obama's daughters into it. Not illegal, but definitely in bad taste.

As for the whole Palin/Obama kids thing. It's wrong to attack Palin's or Obama's kids, but I think it is perfectly fair to attack parent/politicians for how they treat their kids, including if they use their kids to score political points in debates. The criticism, though, is of the politician only.
8.12.2009 8:45am
dearieme:
The sentence in the ad has the daughters as its subject. If it were instead phrased as "Pres O, you ensure that your daughters get healthy..." it would be just as legal and a lot less loutish.
8.12.2009 9:22am
rarango (mail):
My basic view is that the family of the president should be off limits for any purpose. Having said that, please recall the President elect, prior to his inaguration, published his "personal" letter to his daughters--so if the president himself chooses to use his family for political purposes, then this poster pales by comparison. We really are pole vaulting over mouse turds on this one.
8.12.2009 9:27am
Matt_T:
I'm sitting with my scientist (vegetarian) boyfriend right here, who says everything in the pdf is scientifically based.

You may be surprised to learn that the terms "scientist" and "person with advanced knowledge of the effects of a particular average balance of macro and micro nutrients across a representative sample of the human population" aren't synonymous.
8.12.2009 9:30am
Matt_T:
Additionally, witness the risible and medically illiterate campaign by PETA/PMRC against milk.
8.12.2009 9:32am
geokstr (mail):

Angus:
As for the whole Palin/Obama kids thing. It's wrong to attack Palin's or Obama's kids, but I think it is perfectly fair to attack parent/politicians for how they treat their kids, including if they use their kids to score political points in debates. The criticism, though, is of the politician only.

Of course, in Palin's case, the left had it going for them both ways.

Bringing your kids on stage with you for these kinds of events is pretty common; even Obama did it. If she had not brought Trig with her for the speech, the howls from the left would simply have changed direction to "Oh my! She must be ashamed of her Down syndrome baby. What a hypocrite." Apparently for them, the mere mention of the fact that she had a less than perfect child would have been "injecting" the kid into the campaign, making Trig fair game.

I love watching the left contort themselves into virtual Mobius strip-like pretzels to explain why they didn't raise any objections whatsoever over the previous eight years to the despicable behavior of their ideological comrades, both on the internet and in the MSM. Now that there is the slightest hint of some of it coming back at them, they go nuts with the "hypocrite" label, and say that we can't stoop to the levels they themselves did without bringing ourselves down to their own sleazy level.
8.12.2009 10:16am
Aultimer:
Back to the post - of course the legal arguments are losers, but there are good faith arguments that people who publish offensive speech should be prepared to deal with - free speech ain't free. If losers had to pay expenses in 1A cases, our current level of offensive discourse would seem tame.

PCRM is on crack of they seriously think the marginal health benefit of spending public funds on merely providing additional food choices exceeds the potential benefit of directly paying for health care or even spending those funds on educating kids about health. Not that I support any of those.
8.12.2009 11:03am
DangerMouse:
It only matters if you value principles. If you're OK with the partisan moral relativism Orin has blogged about (i.e., "now I believe it" (when your side's in power), "now I don't" (when mine is)), then you're right. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter because the left will do it anyway. So whether I personally disapprove of people attacking kids is completely irrelevant to the real world we live in. And since that will happen, then the only response is to fight back in kind.

pot,

Andrew Sullivan did, in fact, have a private dinner with the President. It's well known.
8.12.2009 11:07am
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Sidwell Friends costs $30K. I would unequivocally support such a level of funding for vouchers . Would you?


There are several DC children going to Sidwell on vouchers. But Congress and Obama eliminated the program in the future. So that mistake won't happen again.
8.12.2009 11:17am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
BTW, this thread is an amazing example of team cheering in politics.

With one or two exceptions, Obama suporters find the ad bad and Obama opponents find it unobjectionable.
8.12.2009 11:19am
Observer:
DangerMouse: To be fair, so did Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.
8.12.2009 11:27am
Officious Intermeddler:
It's not a "bizarre" eating choice, as one commenter called it, it's just a choice that for whatever reason the girl has made and it's sad that her public school doesn't have that option.


Humans are naturally omnivorous. Our bodies require nutrients from a diversity of sources, and our teeth and digestive systems have evolved to support such a diet. The choice to forego meat is indeed bizarre.

Vegetarians and vegans are entitled to their choices. They are not entitled to have the world cater to those choices, any more than folks who keep Kosher are. If you have nonstandard dietary requirements, whether imposed by physiology or religion or what have you, that burden is on you: do not attempt to foist the added costs of providing food suited to your particular needs and desires off on the rest of us.
8.12.2009 12:39pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
DangerMouse:

It doesn't matter because the left will do it anyway. So whether I personally disapprove of people attacking kids is completely irrelevant to the real world we live in. And since that will happen, then the only response is to fight back in kind.

In other words, you don't have a principle you'll admit to that doesn't change with the partisan winds.
8.12.2009 12:42pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
I'd like to consider whether it's fair to use the Obama girls in this way, but I can't get past the fact that the girl in the ad is saying:

"President Obama's daughters are getting healthy school lunches. Why don't I?"

Evidently this is not a question directed at the girl's parents, who in a less sophisticated time were thought to have been tasked with the responsibility of feeding their own offspring.

When, will somebody tell me, did we get to the point in this country that the concept of parents providing food to their children is simply unthinkable? When did it happen that the government took over feeding kids? If the girl doesn't want the inedible glop offered by her school, what on Earth is preventing her from packing her lunch? If poor, does her family not get food stamps?
8.12.2009 1:02pm
DangerMouse:
In other words, you don't have a principle you'll admit to that doesn't change with the partisan winds.

I have already said I'm in favor of kiddie MAD. That's my principle. Don't attack my kids and I won't attack yours. However, since that has been violated, then the attack is on.

Why is that so hard to understand?
8.12.2009 1:10pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
geo,

If she had not brought Trig with her for the speech, the howls from the left would simply have changed direction to "Oh my! She must be ashamed of her Down syndrome baby. What a hypocrite."

Hint: When your condition is hypothetical, your argument is straw.

I love watching the left contort themselves into virtual Mobius strip-like pretzels to explain why they didn't raise any objections whatsoever over the previous eight years to the despicable behavior of their ideological comrades, both on the internet and in the MSM.

Why are you playing identity politics? Hypocrites are people, not groups. Is your own behavior consistent? Do you attack Obama in terms you chalked up to Bush Derangement Syndrome over the previous eight years?

Now that there is the slightest hint of some of it coming back at them, they go nuts with the "hypocrite" label, and say that we can't stoop to the levels they themselves did without bringing ourselves down to their own sleazy level.

If you know of an individual who changed his principles to suit the partisan mood, show us. Otherwise you're just bloviating.
8.12.2009 1:16pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
DangerMouse:

I have already said I'm in favor of kiddie MAD. That's my principle. Don't attack my kids and I won't attack yours. However, since that has been violated, then the attack is on.

Why is that so hard to understand?

You seem to have a hard time admitting the justification works both ways.
8.12.2009 1:19pm
Anatid:

Don't attack my kids and I won't attack yours. However, since that has been violated, then the attack is on.


Actually, no, if you attack my kids then I'll attack you. This has nothing to do with your kids, and the last thing I'm going to do is stoop to your level and hurt anyone else who's innocent in the name of petty revenge.

See how easy it is to not escalate a situation?


... Although apparently I'm part of a mindless, uniform horde. This is almost as hilarious as hearing about the pink mafia or the international conspiracy of Jewish bankers.
8.12.2009 1:22pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Danger Mouse, let me put it more specifically.

I have already said I'm in favor of kiddie MAD. That's my principle. Don't attack my kids and I won't attack yours. However, since that has been violated, then the attack is on.

So I should assume that following the savage attacks on Chelsea Clinton, you contend that anything said about Palin's kids was justified. Right?
8.12.2009 1:30pm
DangerMouse:
So I should assume that following the savage attacks on Chelsea Clinton, you contend that anything said about Palin's kids was justified. Right?

Again, whether it's "justified or not", it happened. The Bush kids were also attacked too. You don't seem to understand that principles here are really outside of the equation. It doesn't matter whether I approve of the attacks on Chelsea Clinton, Jenna and Barbara Bush, or the Palin kids. I'm saying that a policy of mutually assured destruction on kids is probably the best way to solve this issue, because obviously principled forbearance doesn't.

It's interesting to see how things evolve regarding kids. Jenna and Barbara Bush spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Yet at the time, there was still the general thinking that they were off limits as kids, notwithstanding the media treatment they had for their college drinking. Palin brings her family on stage, however, and that's enough to make the left go nuclear. It seems that the left lowered the bar for Palin. Now they have to pay the price. Personally, I would've kept the bar where it was. But under the new rules we live by, the rules for radicals, you either have to adapt or die.
8.12.2009 1:47pm
Anatid:
If you're going to forgive the media attention paid to the Bush girls for drinking - their own actions, not their parents' - then understand that Bristol Palin came under fire for similar reasons. Even moreso because her mother's abstinence-only campaign may have directly contributed to her poor decision and its outcome.
8.12.2009 2:03pm
ShelbyC:
Of course, "attacks" on kids have nothing to do with the issue in the OP.
8.12.2009 2:17pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
DangerMouse:

You don't seem to understand that principles here are really outside of the equation.

No, you're conflating norms and strategies. Whether tit-for-tat is strategically desirable is one question. Whether it's right is another. Both matter.

Your strategy assures an endless race to the bottom, whoever fires the first shot. Fortunately, since I disagree tit-for-tat is always the best strategy, I'm not as resigned as you are to its inevitability. The Democrats didn't impeach Bush and they didn't go all Swiftboat on McCain. I think they understood that voters wouldn't take kindly to either. What Republicans haven't figured out yet is that Karl Rove tactics stopped being brilliant when they stopped winning elections.
8.12.2009 2:33pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
It doesn't matter whether I approve of the attacks on Chelsea Clinton, Jenna and Barbara Bush, or the Palin kids.

It actually matters a lot, Danger. You see, you want to attack the left on this issue, but you refuse to remove the log out of your own side's eye before going after the speck in the left's.

That's why I say, for hypocrisy charges to have any validity, you must first take a position on the underlying issue and praise the opposition or criticize your own side consistent with that position. THEN you can go ahead and charge hypocrisy. Because without that admission, the hypocrisy charge is just a fancy way of changing the subject and lacking the courage to say something that harm's one own side.
8.12.2009 2:49pm
Kenvee:
I don't think that politicians' kids are ever "fair game" to attack. No one should've insulted Chelsea Clinton's looks, no one should've dragged Bristol Palin into everything -- it applies to both sides, leave the kids alone.

But I don't see how this poster remotely attacks the kids. It doesn't have their picture, it doesn't even mention them by name, it doesn't say that they've been doing anything wrong. It's a standard attack against a politician. "You want special privileges for YOUR family that you don't want to apply to the rest of us." It's attacking the politician's priorities, not the politician's family.
8.12.2009 3:15pm
wfjag:

which feature Jasmine Messiah, a vegetarian who attends a Miami-Dade County public school that, she says, offers no vegetarian or vegan lunch options."

Somewhat off thread, but maybe someone knows the facts -- is the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine contending that the kid can't get a salad for lunch, or, is it saying that every school's lunch room should have to also serve a full vegan meal, for free? (Since I just wrote a $50 check to cover the costs of my kid's school lunchs -- for a few weeks -- I'm not real sympathetic to paying for someone else's choice. Unlike being allergic to peanuts or being lactos intolerant, it's a choice issue and not a health issue).

Every school lunch program I've seen has fruits and salads that the kids can eat, and usually something like cheese pizza, too. So, the kids don't have to go hungary, even if they don't want to eat meat. But, it seems like what is being sought here is to require the cost (and waste) of serving a full vegan menu because some kids choose to be vegans. In those cases, I think salads, fruit and cheese pizza is sufficient choice, and if the kids want something else, they (and their parents) should be reminded of the lunch box option.

So, am I misunderstanding the facts?
8.12.2009 3:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
geo:

Apparently for them, the mere mention of the fact that she had a less than perfect child would have been "injecting" the kid into the campaign, making Trig fair game.


Except that Palin went far beyond a "mere mention." As Leo pointed out, you're discussing a hypothetical world, not the real world.

Lots of politicians put their kids in the spotlight to some extent, but Palin took this to an extreme. Example: she set up a press photo session for Trig when he was three days old. This photo session quickly led to the predictable headlines that impressed her pro-life base. Can you think of a more egregious example of a politician using their kid as a prop? I can't.

Palin went out of her way to make sure the press gave her kids lots of attention, and that's why the press (and others) gave her kids lots of attention. It's the natural and inevitable result of the way she used her kids as props, incessantly. No one should be surprised at the outcome, and no one should complain about the outcome.

So what Palin did (and still does) to bring attention to her kids needs to be taken into account. What also needs to be taken into account is what Angus said:

It's wrong to attack Palin's or Obama's kids, but I think it is perfectly fair to attack parent/politicians for how they treat their kids, including if they use their kids to score political points in debates. The criticism, though, is of the politician only.


The attacks (for example) on Chelsea Clinton were truly personal attacks, directed at her. I've seen no such attacks against Palin's kids. I've seen attacks against Palin, where the subject matter involved her kids. Such attacks are perfectly fair, as Angus pointed out. An example is here. And that particular critic happens to be well-known as a pro-life conservative who voted for McCain.
8.12.2009 3:36pm
Dave N (mail):
I think a politician's kids (including the adult ones) have little to say about whether mom or dad runs for public office. I think it is OK for mom or dad to trot the kids out on stage, speak highly of them, mention them in speeches and even use them as props.

It is NOT OK for the kids to be thrust into the spotlight by anyone OTHER than mom or dad (and I add, grandpa or grandma). These people, children and adult alike, have the right to be out of the spotlight, unless, as adults, they choose otherwise.

This is true for the President's children, the Bush twins, Chelsea Clinton, and GHWB's kids not named George or Jeb.

Likewise, of Joe Biden's kids, the only one who is a fair target is Beau Biden, because he is a politician, too.

Michael Reagan is fair game.

I was thinking of this with the passing of Eunice Shriver. She had five kids. Two are in the public eye (her son Mark is the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and Maria is, well, Maria Shriver). They are fair targets. The other three, no.

It's not that hard.
8.12.2009 3:57pm
rick.felt:
I've seen no such attacks against Palin's kids. I've seen attacks against Palin, where the subject matter involved her kids. Such attacks are perfectly fair, as Angus pointed out.

...which is why these posters, which are not attacks against Obama's kids but against Obama, are fine.
8.12.2009 5:21pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

So what Palin did (and still does) to bring attention to her kids


The irony is that, if (can I cross my fingers, and say, when?) Obama's death panels start coming for the mentally challenged, the Palin most at risk will likely be Sarah.
8.12.2009 5:57pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

I've seen no such attacks against Palin's kids.


wasn't there a facebook post by some woman (sarah something, i think her name was) saying that some panels might think that trig was not of much value? i thought that woman's post was disgusting - who would do such a thing to a kid?
8.12.2009 6:45pm
ShelbyC:

Thomas Sowell has a great quote in his latest column:


I would rather see politicians hanged than see their children smeared.
8.12.2009 7:47pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
rick.felt:


I've seen no such attacks against Palin's kids. I've seen attacks against Palin, where the subject matter involved her kids. Such attacks are perfectly fair, as Angus pointed out.


...which is why these posters, which are not attacks against Obama's kids but against Obama, are fine.

By the way, I agree. I have no problem with these posters.
8.12.2009 8:22pm
Badness (mail):
Dave N. spoke.

Yes, this, and emphatically so. With the caveat that it is dangerous territory to use kids - they are the salt of political proppery.

Attacking a media figure's children, when the intent is to harm their parent(s), is the rhetorical equivalent of picking on the little kid in the playground because the bigger kids can hit back.
8.12.2009 8:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
which is why these posters, which are not attacks against Obama's kids but against Obama, are fine.


I don't have a strong negative reaction to the ad, but I'm influenced by what Metro rider said:

these are plastered at nearly every dc metro stop -- there is also such a striking resemblance of the girl in the ad to the Obama girls that three tourists were talking about "how cute the oldest Obama girl is on the poster" -- I had to politely inteject that the picture merely looked / resembled one of the Obama girls


Because the message is so visual, and it's "plastered" in the actual environment where the girls live, I think it could hurt them personally. Compare this to the following hypothetical scenario: the same point is conveyed, but only using words, let's say by talking heads on TV, or by bloggers. In that scenario, I would have much less concern about the girls being personally hurt or embarrassed.

So that part is material to me. The message itself, in abstract, is fair, because it attacks Obama, not the girls. But turning it into a visual message that the girls (and/or their friends) are likely to see strikes me as unnecessary and somewhat tasteless.

Their likenesses have not been used in this poster.


As metro rider noticed, a casual observer might think otherwise.

I think an interesting point was raised by troll_dc2:

Suppose Planned Parenthood decides to use Sarah Palin's daughter in advertisements opposing abstinence-only sex education.


Let's say this hypothetical PP ad was designed in a way to not blame the kid, but rather to emphasize the importance of proper (i.e., not abstinence-only) sex education. Would you approve of that ad? I think such an ad would generous enormous outrage, but I'm not sure it's much different from the ad we're discussing in this thread.

And here's another variation: let's say the PP ad didn't use Bristol, but rather just someone who looked like Bristol. That brings the situation closer to the ad that's being discussed in this thread. To go even further, imagine that the ad didn't mention any Palin by name, but just referenced the Palins implicitly, or vaguely. I still think there would be lots of outrage.
8.12.2009 10:33pm
Dave N (mail):
Time has stopped. The Apocolypse is at hand. We should all be afraid:

I actually agree with every word in Jukeboxgrad's last posting.
8.12.2009 10:57pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

actually agree with every word in Jukeboxgrad's last posting.


Including the abstinence-only straw-woman fantasy?


Palin appears to disagree with McCain on sex education

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 06, 2008

Teen pregnancy
and sex education were thrust into the spotlight this week when Republican vice presidential nominee
Sarah Palin revealed that her 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant.

Palin's running mate, John McCain, and the GOP platform say children should be taught that abstinence until marriage is the only safe way to avoid pregnancy and disease. Palin's position is less clear.

In a widely quoted 2006 survey she answered during her gubernatorial campaign, Palin said she supported abstinence-until-marriage programs. But weeks later, she proclaimed herself "pro-contraception" and said condoms ought to be discussed in schools alongside abstinence.

"I'm pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues," she said during a debate in Juneau.
8.13.2009 12:03am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dave n

I actually agree with every word in Jukeboxgrad's last posting.


Oh c'mon, I think you know it's not the first time (although I'm too lazy right now to find links for the prior times). I think it has happened in both directions.

===============
bob:

Including the abstinence-only straw-woman fantasy?


The passage you cited indicates that Palin came down squarely on both sides of this issue. In that regard it's similar to her statements on creationism. Palin is the kind of person who takes clear positions and sticks to them, except for when she doesn't. How mavericky of her.

By the way, the full article you cited is here. Another helpful article is here.
8.13.2009 1:54am
Dave N (mail):
jukebox,

Such times are few and far between so it is worth noting when it does occur (and yes,I realize this isn't the first time we have agreed on something).
8.13.2009 3:11am
Dave N (mail):
Bob from Ohio,

I didn't think Jukebox's point had anything really to do with Sarah (or Bristol) Palin, per se. Rather, he was making what I thought was a decent point about how PP could create an ad many would find obnoxious by using Bristol Palin or her look-a-like.

In the context of Jukebox's example, Sarah Palin's actual views on contraception are just as irrelevant as President Obama's are on vegetarianism.
8.13.2009 3:16am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dave n:

Such times are few and far between so it is worth noting when it does occur


I agree with every word. I had my tongue in my cheek somewhat when I said "oh c'mon," and I didn't make that clear. So thanks for being a good sport.

In the context of Jukebox's example, Sarah Palin's actual views on contraception are just as irrelevant as President Obama's are on vegetarianism.


Again, I agree with every word. Thanks for explaining this so clearly. In the context of my example, I'm not necessarily asserting that PP's hypothetical ad is a correct, fair portrayal of Palin's views. I'm just constructing the hypo for the purpose of considering how people might respond to the use of Bristol in such an ad. (Of course the hypo wasn't really constructed by me; it was troll_dc2 who thought of it.)

The answer you just gave is the answer I could have (and maybe should have) given Bob (although I probably would not have been as clear and concise as you). I thought about it. Instead I decided to point out that Palin's views on contraception are hazy, because I think that's an important point that Bob was obscuring. But the answer you gave has the virtue of being more relevant to this thread.
8.13.2009 8:00am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
There is absolutely no contradiction between recommending abstinence until marriage as the best way to avoid premarital pregnancy and venereal diseases, and teaching kids about condoms and other contraceptives. The idea that Palin "comes down squarely on both sides of this issue" is hogwash. She comes down somewhere in the middle of a broad spectrum of choices. Some people think kids shouldn't even be told about contraceptives: that's abstinence-only education, and those who say Palin supports it are liars or fools. Some think kids shouldn't even be encouraged to wait until marriage, or even until college, but should have plenty of healthy protected disease-free sex in high school: that's the opposite extreme. Palin supports a very sensible middle ground, encouraging pre-marital abstinence while providing the necessary information for those who reject it.
8.13.2009 4:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
weevil:

Some people think kids shouldn't even be told about contraceptives: that's abstinence-only education, and those who say Palin supports it are liars or fools.


This is what Palin said:

Q: Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

SP: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.


That's a statement in support of abstinence-only education. Did she later say something more, uh, nuanced? Yes. In other words, she was for
abstinence-only education before she was against it.

The liars are those who are pretending that she never said what she said. And that's what you seem to be doing.
8.14.2009 11:47am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
More dishonesty from JBG, based on a dishonest question involving a false dichotomy. What Palin made was a statement in favor of abstinence-until-marriage education (which does not say abstinence only) and against "explicit sex-education programs", whatever those are. I don't know about Alaska high schools, but 30 years ago San Francisco community colleges showed porno movies in their sex ed classes. If that's what she means by "explicit", then she may well be against that without being anywhere near an "abstinence only" position.

Her answer is ambiguous, and doesn't actually say whether she's in favor of school-based clinics or the distribution of contraceptives in school. Both the question and the answer also leave out some other issues, like teaching kids about contraceptives, which doesn't necessarily involve supplying them. We know from her other statements that she's in favor of that, and it is incompatible with abstinence-only education.

All this is a simple case of 'gotcha', taking an ambiguous off-the-cuff answer to a disingenuous and ambiguous question and interpreting it maliciously. The fact that your interpretation of what she meant contradicts clear statements she has made elsewhere should tell you that you are misinterpreting it. Instead you just assume that she's a hypocrite. I don't know whether you are incapable of understanding the various distinctions involved, or simply lying, but it's one or the other.
8.14.2009 1:53pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
an ambiguous off-the-cuff answer


"Off-the-cuff?" Really? In what sense was it "off-the-cuff?" She provided her answer in written form, in response to a written questionnaire. So it most definitely was not "off-the-cuff." Nevertheless, you admit her answer was (at best) "ambiguous." If she is clearly against abstinence-only education, then why did she give us an "ambiguous" answer, instead of simply saying that she's against abstinence-only education?

And the answer is not that she didn't have time to think about her answer. Because contrary to your false claim, she did have time to think about her answer.

a disingenuous and ambiguous question


If the question was "disingenuous and ambiguous," then why did she answer it? Who was holding a gun to her head compelling her to do so? And if the question was "disingenuous and ambiguous," why didn't she point that out in her answer? And if the question was "ambiguous," that's all the more reason for her to make sure that her answer is not ambiguous. So why did she provide an ambiguous answer?
8.15.2009 4:01am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Congratulations, you've caught me in an embarrassing error. I should have followed the link and seen that it was a written question, not an oral interview. Of course, my main point still stands.

I don't know why she answered the question the way she did, but it is in fact ambiguous and disingenuous. It sets up a false dichotomy, and uses highly ambiguous language. What are "explicit sex-education programs"? You don't know any better than I do, and I've given an example where sex-education classes used pornographic movies, which the vast majority of Americans would oppose for high school sex ed classes. Perhaps it just means "detailed and specific", but if so why not say so? The word "explicit" is a loaded one.

How about "school-based clinics"? No one is against those, the question is what goes on in them. I think it's safe to say that Palin likely supports most things that go on in them, while opposing other things that sometimes go on in them (e.g. abortion referrals without informing even non-abusive parents). The question is hopelessly ambiguous, and she doesn't bother to address that part of it, or the next one. (Maybe she didn't want to waste time on a stupid question, but didn't want to come out and tell them they were asking stupid questions.)

Finally, as I've already pointed out, one can be against "the distribution of contraceptives in schools" without being against teaching about them. Only the latter counts as "abstinence-only". We don't even know that she opposes the former, since she only specifically rejected "explicit" sex education.

Of course, my main point stands: "abstinence-until-marriage education" (telling students the truth: that premarital chastity, while difficult, is the only sure way of avoiding STDs and premarital pregnancy) is not the same thing as "abstinence only education" (refusing to tell students about any other methods of avoiding STDs and pregnancy). The only way you can call Palin a liar is by pretending that they are the same thing, and that makes you a liar. Complaining that she could have answered the question more clearly and in much more detail -- and it would have been nice if she had -- is utterly irrelevant to your original slander.
8.15.2009 10:15am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Maybe she didn't want to waste time on a stupid question, but didn't want to come out and tell them they were asking stupid questions.


Palin has always been good at blaming all her problems on someone else. That's essentially what you're doing, on her behalf. Is this the first time a politician has been asked a stupid question? I don't think so. If a politician isn't smart enough to know how to provide a non-stupid answer (which might mean no answer at all) to a stupid question, that means the politician is probably about as smart as the person who asked the question.

I think it's safe to say that Palin likely supports most things that go on in them, while opposing other things that sometimes go on in them


That's like saying it's "safe to say" that some people like vanilla and some people like chocolate. It's always "safe to say" something meaningless (if you don't mind being seen as someone who says meaningless things).

It's probably not "safe to say" anything clear and meaningful about her views on this subject, because when given a chance to express her views in a clear and meaningful way, she instead gave an ambiguous answer. Which is a pretty strong clue to an objective observer that no one really knows what she thinks about this issue, including herself, probably.

And why doesn't she know what she thinks about this issue? Because thinking clearly about issues is not her strength. That's why she says things like this:

Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh — it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.


I think the important thing to notice is that the clarity of her thinking when speaking off-the-cuff is essentially the same as the clarity of her thinking when she has plenty of time to think about her answer.

Complaining that she could have answered the question more clearly and in much more detail


It's always possible ("could have") to answer a question more clearly and in more detail. The problem here is that her answer failed to meet even a very low standard of clarity and detail. If she was really against abstinence-only education, she could have said so unambiguously. But she didn't. In my opinion, this is not just because she has a hard time thinking straight. It's also because she realizes her base includes people who do indeed support abstinence-only education, and she likes the idea of providing an answer that is sufficiently ambiguous that people in that group can hear her answer in a way that pleases them.
8.15.2009 11:40am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Let's see, this started when you said that "that Palin came down squarely on both sides of this issue", and now you complain that she refuses to come out squarely on either side of a divisive issue. Which means that you have now come down squarely on both sides of a question.
So are you a simple liar, or someone who has a hard time thinking straight? Hint: the two are not mutually exclusive.
8.15.2009 12:10pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
this started when you said that "that Palin came down squarely on both sides of this issue", and now you complain that she refuses to come out squarely on either side of a divisive issue. Which means that you have now come down squarely on both sides of a question.


No, that's not what it means at all. I think you're not familiar with the idiom I used ("came down squarely on both sides"). "Refuses to come out squarely on either side" is exactly what that expression means. It's a reference to someone who refuses to make up their mind. Often that person is a politician who is trying to be all things to all people.
8.16.2009 9:32am
simon leblanc (mail):
This is pure and simple exploitation of children and should be looked closely by prosecutors. To my knowledge, a minor has to get the authorisation of a parent to be in films, commercials, etc..etc... Here it is clearly a case of child exploitation, punishable by law.There should be criminal charges against them, criminal record...
8.16.2009 10:50am

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