Kids Will Be Kids, Media Will Be Media
Debra J. Saunders
6/6/2001 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
No wonder the public hates the media. Of course, it's a story when the 19-year-old twin daughters of the president are caught trying to procure margaritas and then charged with breaking Texas' alcohol laws. It's just too bad we can't report the facts without manufacturing all sorts of "bigger picture" angles that only make us look cheesy.
First, there's the "how the media are covering the story" angle. It's as if a newspaper were saying: Other papers ran the story first. (In the era when reporters didn't have to apologize for getting a good story, this was known as a "scoop.")
There's a variation for TV-talk shows: "Should the media cover the story?"
Then, because most of us in the media broke alcohol laws as minors, we have to explain how the twins' drinking is different. (Duh, our dads weren't the president.)
So, there's the "but I was never arrested" angle. There's the "not once but twice" angle. This comes from journalists who are shocked that, having been cited for being a minor in possession of alcohol on April 27, Jenna Bush nonetheless tried to buy a drink in a restaurant with someone else's I.D. in May. It makes them -- reluctantly, they insist -- question her judgment.
There's the "she should know a president's daughter can't do that" angle. I agree, but there is another side to that angle: She should know that partisan Democrats will stoop to humiliating a teen-ager to embarrass her Republican father. As the Houston Chronicle reported, a local official admitted this may be the first time a restaurant has considered underage drinking worthy of a 911 call. Then Chuy's restaurant called the Austin American-Statesman. Go to Chuys.com, watch the five flashing margaritas, and contemplate that.
There's the "Bush signed the Texas three-strikes-teen-drinking law" angle. (As if there would be no story if he had not signed that law.) As well as the "she had better not get special treatment" angle. (No worry there; Jenna and Barbara Bush are getting special treatment -- the specially harsh kind.)
There's the "Jenna's drinking problem" angle. "She appears to have a problem," the Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel pronounced on CNBC's "Hardball." Which segues to the "Daddy made Jenna an alcoholic" angle. As in Fiona Morgan's piece for Salon.com: "And her father's admitted problems with alcohol have fueled speculation that Jenna might have inherited alcoholism."
Both fall under the "bad parenting" angle. The twins' "recklessness in the first months of their father's presidency," Salon's Joan Walsh writes, "suggests their parents screwed up by downplaying and even denying President Bush's own drinking problem."
Last year, police found British Prime Minister Tony Blair's then 16-year-old son Euan "drunk and incapable" in London's Leicester Square. Does this make Blair a bad father? And don't even mention the Kennedy kids.
Of course, President and Laura Bush need to talk with the girls. Say that they're old enough to vote or buy a shotgun, that even before they turned 18 they were old enough to get an abortion, but that the laws Bush readily swore to uphold make it unlawful for them to buy a beer. Explain that the long knives are out and they had better shape up, or expect the worst from all us high-minded hand-wringing journalists.