Jonah Goldberg

Hillary Clinton's entire approach to public policy, from her earliest days as a "children's rights advocate," has been grounded in the idea that political differences need to be put aside for the sake of The Children. In 1996 she proclaimed, "As adults we have to start thinking and believing that there isn't really any such thing as someone else's child. ... For that reason, we cannot permit discussions of children and families to be subverted by political or ideological debate."

But here's the thing: There really is such a thing as somebody else's child. I don't want to live in a country where there's no such thing as somebody else's child, because that means there's no such thing as my child. And the fact is, my child is mine and nobody else's (save, of course, for her mother). Almost as important, I don't want to live in a country where I am a "subversive" simply by offering political or ideological debate against this vision.

Of course, Clinton wasn't being entirely literal. But this approach is still pernicious. Like Edelman, Clinton seeks to silence disagreement by casting dissenters as "anti-child." And if you've read "It Takes a Village," you know that she thinks "children's issues" pretty much covers everything. Indeed, she thinks all children, rich and poor alike, are facing a "crisis" demanding government intervention from the day kids are born.

This sort of thing has real-world consequences. For example, Hillary Clinton's pet project in 1993, before she tackled health-care reform, was to "rationalize" child immunization by having the government "manage" the vaccination industry. The program was a disaster, chasing industry from research and development in children's vaccines. Perhaps if Clinton didn't see her critics as ogres, or if her critics weren't afraid of seeming like ogres, mistakes might have been avoided.

One of the tragic consequences of Bill Clinton's success in the 1990s is that Republicans decided to mimic it. This is where "compassionate conservatism" and the No Child Left Behind Act come from. (The NCLB phrase is a CDF slogan.)

Children are hugely important. But they shouldn't be a Trojan horse for policies you can't sell fair and square. If saying so makes me anti-child, so be it.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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