A tradition of American politics is that the children of politicians are off limits to the media.
You may remember that the Washington Post memorably came out swinging a year ago when Elizabeth Lauten, then-communications director for a GOP congressman, dared to make some very mild criticisms of the Obama daughters.
But this week, as Jim Geraghty describes it, "that same Washington Post posted a cartoon depicting Ted Cruz’s daughters – aged five and seven – as trained monkeys."
The cartoon, by Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes, depicted the Republican presidential candidate as an organ grinder and his little girls as monkeys on a leash. The cartoon was occasioned by an actually rather witty ad that featured the candidate and his wife Heidi reading pretend Christmas books with such titles as "How ObamaCare Stole Christmas" and "Auditing St. Nick" to the daughters. Telnaes said that this made the little girls "fair game." What really made the girls "fair game:" Dad is a Republican.
The cartoon has since been removed from the newspaper's website and editorial page editor Fred Hiatt has issued a tepid statement:
Editor’s note from Fred Hiatt: It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.
Most decent people do not understand why an adult cartoonist for a major daily newspaper would do this. It is amazing that Hiatt publicly says that he understands something so obviously despicable. I can assure you Telnaes would not have treated the children of a Democratic candidate this way. The incident harkens back to the time fashion writer Robin Givhan wrote a column on the clothes of Chief Justice John Roberts' children:
There they were — John, Jane, Josie and Jack — standing with the president and before the entire country. The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues — like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers.
There was tow-headed Jack — having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother — enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother’s skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes.
Don't miss Mollie Hemingway's "Ten Stupidest Things about the Post Cartoon Portraying Cruz Children as Monkeys." Mollie takes note of Telnaes' pre-emptive tweet ("Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don't start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well."):
Again, I believe this was many, many hours before the cartoon was noticed by anyone — perhaps before it was even published — so the defensiveness on display was probably some vestigial conscience showing up. She was also quoted by CNN as saying she thought that the kids were, and I quote, “fair game” because of the ad that showed them being cute and funny. Since all politicians put their kids (and grandkids!) in ads, and this was just a particularly effective featuring of the same, this makes you wonder just how ideologically blinded Telnaes might be.
Mollie also condenses a series of tweets on the subject by Gabriel Malor:
The core problem here is that Ann Telnaes has no moral foundation. She knows there are rules, but she doesn’t know *why* there are rules. So Telnaes simply thought she could reason her way to an exception to the rule: kids are off limits. But her reasoning — Cruz did it, so they’re fair game — does not actually address the reason for the rule. The reason, in case you were wondering, why kids are off limits is because they lack culpability AND the capacity to respond. That Cruz cast his children in a good light does not mean that Telnaes is relieved of the rule protecting them from being cast negatively. Telnaes doesn’t understand this bc, again, she doesn’t know *why* we have the rule, only that there is one. She lacks a moral foundation.
It seems pointless to go on about how this is a new low–it is of course, but so many things are nowadays.
Still, five and seven year olds as "fair game" for a Pulitzer Prize winner. . . .