If the Republican Party grows any softer, it will need to replace the grand old elephant with a new symbol: the Pillsbury Doughboy.
This week's GOP national convention in Philadelphia is a spectacle of sensitivity. A gala of giggly good feeling. A confab of can't-we-all-just-get-along compassion. Real conservatives should be reaching for their extra-strength Dramamine. The party leadership's liberal rhetoric is more nauseating than a boat ride in "The Perfect Storm."
Take Texas Gov. George W. Bush's pet phrase, "Leave no child behind." Take it, drive a stake through it, and bury it, please. The slogan was the convention's opening night theme, parroted and expanded upon by a rainbow-colored group hug of speakers:
"We must work together so that no child is left behind to ensure an America -- an America whose future is one of unlimited hope and boundless opportunities," declared Paul Harris, a black state legislator in Virginia.
Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell said: "Governor Bush's proposals for improving education and expanding health care are examples of his vow to 'leave no child behind' and ensure access to quality care for all Americans." "No child should be in a school that doesn't work. Every child deserves the chance to learn and succeed," urged Pilar Gomez, a Hispanic "parent-training coordinator" from Wisconsin.
"Every child should grow up in a permanent, loving family," pleaded Conna Craig of Boston, director and president of something called the Institute for Children.
"It takes a village to ensure no child is left behind," said First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to the cheering GOP crowd.
OK, I made that last one up, but "leave no child behind" represents the kind of silly slogan that the Hillary-wing of the Democratic Party loves. It's the thinking behind idiotic public-school policies such as social promotion -- passing children to the next grade even when they have not mastered the current year's academic work. The sad truth is, some children
should be left behind for their own good.
"Leave no child behind" doesn't just sound like Democratic pabulum. It is Democrat pabulum -- lifted word for word from the trademark phrase of Hillary Clinton's best friend, welfare state champion Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund.
Edelman and the First Lady launched a "Leave No Child Behind" movement last year "to make children part of our deepest cultural messages" and "to broaden the constituency for children." They stressed the always unobjectionable campaign for literacy to camouflage their true goals: gun control, universal health care, repeal of welfare reform, and an ever-expanding federal role in education.
Another loudmouthed left-winger, Jesse Jackson, invokes the "Leave no child behind" mantra to argue against school choice -- which Gov. Bush says he supports.
Coming from Nanny State do-gooders, this nonsensical sloganeering is standard fare. The Democrats are supposed to be the Mommy Party, ruled by emotion; Republicans, the Daddy Party, ruled by rationale. But in Philadelphia, the alleged advocates for stern fiscal discipline and responsible public policy are putting on an embarrassing cross-dressing display -- apron, high heels, hankies, and all -- in pursuit of the White House.
In claiming that her husband will make a "great president," Laura Bush didn't cite George W.'s ability to cut government down to size. She didn't give examples of his political courage or principled conservatism. Instead, Mrs. Bush praised her husband's $5 billion Reading First proposal. Calling for "more clubs and programs," Mrs. Bush described how "George and I always read to our girls -- Dr. Seuss' 'Hop on Pop'' was one of his favorites. George would lie on the floor, and the girls would literally hop on pop."
My husband reads "Hop on Pop" to our daughter, too. We all turn into human marshmallows when it comes to kids. But that's no excuse for conservatives to launch federal education spending sprees and other liberal child exploitation programs, no matter how well they test with soccer moms in focus groups. The presidential nominee of the Republican Party should stop impersonating Mrs. Clinton and start talking like a grown-up. The best way for government to exercise "compassionate conservatism" and help children get ahead is to leave their families' pocketbooks alone