Out of the mouths of babes - nothing would be nice

Posted: May 27, 2002 12:00 AM
Let me begin by saying I love children, especially my own. This does not mean, however, that I enjoy debating national or global issues with children, except occasionally with my own, preferably after they've begun paying taxes. Indeed, when it comes to children and Serious Matters, I defer to the wisdom of my parents' generation, most of whom believed that children should be seen, briefly, and heard only to say, "Yes, sir; yes, ma'am; please and thank you." Never "Du-ude," which, owing to my co-tenancy with a 17-year-old, I'm beginning to think is my real name, much the way dogs begin to think they're all named "No, dammit!" My aversion to child wisdom began during the Carter administration when then-President Jimmy "Fidel" Carter asked his daughter, Amy, her thoughts about nuclear (pron. nukear) war, or something like that. A smart kid, Amy gave nukes the thumbs down. And, phew, America was safe. Decades of peace and prosperity ensued during which almost no adults felt inclined to seek the wisdom of babes. Then came Sept. 11 and suddenly children are back. A few days ago, a 7- year-old girl made the pages of The New York Times and NBC's Weekend Today with her commentary (albeit implied) about what President Bush should have known about 9-11 and when. Apparently, the girl (who shall remain unnamed out of respect for her innocence) wrote a letter that went in part as follows: "Dear President Bush: 'Did you know 9-11 was going to happen? If you did, why didn't you stop bin Laden? We forgive you if you did.'" Puleez. I feel positively irradiated from overexposure to specialness. Can you die from this stuff? Now things start to get prickly for curmudgeonly commentators because the little girl in question lost her father on 9-11. He was a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial services firm with offices in one of the World Trade Center towers. She reportedly wrote the letter
three months ago (get it?), but her mother only recently mentioned it to a New York Times reporter when called about her thoughts regarding Bush's alleged foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks. Voila: A pretty little girl had it right. Adults -specifically presidents -are dumber 'n Texas tacos. In the May 17 Times, the reporter wrote: "(Little Girl) is more straightforward and prescient than most people twice, or even 10 times her age, which is 7. Here is the letter she wrote in February to President Bush." When the child and her mother appeared on NBC, the mother was commendably circumspect in answering implication-loaded questions. Did she think Bush knew? No, replied the mother. Bush may have known generally that something was about to happen, but she didn't believe he knew specifically what was coming. Make that a double phew. What's bothersome from the line of questioning on the "Today" show, as noted by Media Research Center analyst Ken Shepherd (www.mrc.org), is the implied suggestion that (sigh, alas, ahem) Bush really did know something. After all, even this little girl knew, instinctively, that he knew something. Ergo, it must be true. It's easy to believe that Little Girl misses her Daddy and might think to write a letter to the president. It's less easy to believe that she imagined three months ago that the president might have known in advance of the terrorist attacks and failed to stop Osama bin Laden. It's almost impossible to believe that three months later, just when (mostly) Democratic moral outrage is peaking over when Bush knew exactly what, this little love letter should slip into the hands of a New York Times reporter. If someone set Little Girl up -or helped to orchestrate these events just a little bit -we forgive him/her. Maybe. But some recompense is owed a public weary of manipulation and exhausted by conspiracy theories. Herewith, I propose a resolution for our times: "Whereas children are by definition young, innocent, unknowing and deserving of protection, now, therefore be it resolved that adults will keep children safe from harm by sparing them adult agendas and, by the coattails of Grace, sparing real grown-ups the sagacity of minor offspring."