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“Children Are Off Limits”: If Ted Cruz Is Going To Use His Daughters As Props, He Should Be Mocked For It

Ted Cruz, a leading presidential candidate, released a new Christmas-themed ad — a lighthearted riff on familiar themes, in which he tweaked words from a well-known holiday story to fit his campaign platform. He appeared as himself, alongside his wife and his two young daughters, who dutifully recited lines that had been scripted to further their father’s agenda.

What’s a satirist to do?

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Ann Telnaes decided not to focus on the candidate’s message, but the manner in which it was pitched — namely, the fact that Cruz used his children as mouthpieces for his campaign.

There wasn’t any mistaking her intent, either. The headline for the cartoon, which featured Cruz’s daughters as monkeys on a leash being controlled by a Santa-clad Cruz turning an organ grinder, laid it out: “Ted Cruz Uses His Kids As Political Props.” And she explained her feelings further, in a tweet:

Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don’t start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well. https://t.co/7hafBacOiK

— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 22, 2015

She also made her case in a note that ran alongside the cartoon in the Washington Post:

“[T]here is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician’s children are off-limits. … But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.”

Yet the cartoon was pulled.

The editor who pulled it, Fred Hiatt, said he didn’t agree with Telnaes and hadn’t viewed the cartoon before it was posted. Hiatt echoed Telnaes’s original disclaimer, saying in the editor’s note that has supplanted the cartoon on the Post’s site: “It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it.” However, he said that he did not agree with her that an exception to that practice was warranted in the case of Cruz and his daughters.

Jeff Danziger, a political cartoonist and acquaintance of Telnaes, sided with her. “I think she’s right,” Danziger said in an email. “If [Cruz] uses his daughters to get votes, he’s the one putting them on the stage.” (Danziger’s work appears in The National Memo.)

So assuming Cruz’s actions were deserving of editorial comment in cartoon form, would there have been a more appropriate way to go about it? Perhaps the problem was a lack of context. Readers didn’t necessarily need to be familiar with the ad that Telnaes was referencing, which had been released three days earlier, on Dec. 19, although of course that would have helped.

It’s possible there was a broader satirical target than simply Cruz and his daughters. After all, candidates’ family members have often appeared in campaign materials: Whether it’s pictures of Hillary Clinton holding her infant granddaughter, Charlotte, or the McCain, Palin, and Romney progenitors gamely posing for group photos, children and families humanize the candidates and drive home campaign messages by putting a memorable face on abstract talking points about “safety,” “family,” and “the future.”

But the degree to which Cruz has been using his children – and his dad, and his mom, and his aunt – is worth noting. Buzzfeed recently unearthed footage posted by Cruz’s campaign for Senate that was culled from 16-hour videos of him interacting with his family, but it’s clear from the videos that these aren’t surreptitiously filmed get-togethers or spontaneous hangouts. They play eerily as though Cruz had sat down with his mom and dad, prompting them to sing the praises of their wonderfully competent son.

Does anyone really think Telnaes was attacking Cruz’s children, rather than Cruz himself?

The cartoon’s depiction of the girls as monkeys was clearly an attempt to draw them in a stock role as a beggar’s pawns; it seems highly disingenuous to advance the argument that Telnaes was in any way criticizing the girls’ looks or character, which would, of course, be an ugly and reprehensible thing to do.

Telnaes criticized their father for using them in such a grossly crass way, trying to score political points by playing cute. And now, ironically — since the cartoon caricatured Cruz as a panhandler — by pulling the ad, the Washington Post has given the Texas senator a whole new excuse to ask for more money and more ammunition to use in his screeds about how the “mainstream,” “liberal” media treats him unfairly. Cruz is still grinding that organ, and getting his daughters to dance.

 

By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Children, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“African America Has Promises To Keep”: Sometimes, You Simply Have A Duty To Bear Witness

We are gathered here today not to argue about some policy prescription, nor to excoriate some public figure. No, we are gathered because sometimes, you have no choice, sometimes, you simply have a duty to bear witness.

A child was killed last week in Chicago. He was shot to death.

It is a measure of America that the statement is, of itself, unremarkable. Children are shot all the time in this country. But what makes this shooting stand out is that 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was targeted. Police say the child, who was black, was lured into an alley and shot multiple times.

According to them, the execution was part of an ongoing dispute between rival street gangs and was intended as retaliation against Tyshawn’s father, Pierre Stokes. They say Stokes, 25, is a gang member who has refused to cooperate with the investigation. Stokes, in turn, told the Chicago Tribune he doesn’t believe the killing had anything to do with him and that anybody who wanted to hurt him could do so easily enough without going after his son. “I’m not hard to find,” he said.

Twenty-one years ago, a 5-year-old black child named Eric Morse was dropped 14 stories to his death by a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old because he would not steal candy for them.

It is, however, the death of another black boy from Chicago that paints all this in shades of irony. In 1955, Mamie Till Mobley sent her 14-year-old only child, Emmett Till, down South to spend the summer. After he was lynched for supposedly flirting with a white woman, she recalled ruefully how she had warned him to be careful; told him Mississippi was dangerous for black children.

But six decades later, there are few places more dangerous for black children — for black people — than Chicago itself. In 2014, 411 people died there by murder or non-negligent manslaughter. New York City, with three times Chicago’s 2.7 million population, only recorded 333 such deaths. An overwhelming number of the victims were (as always) African-American.

Black lives matter, we say. Indeed, a lifetime ago, black people decided they mattered too much to sit helplessly by as they were poured out like water by hateful white men in places like Mississippi, Florida and Arkansas. So six million strong, they fled the South in a Great Migration, seeking “liberty and justice for all,” “all men are created equal,” “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and all the other promises that comprise America.

Chicago was one of their major destinations. It was the pot of gold at the end of the railroad tracks. It was the exhalation of hope heard as the bus doors sighed open.

But black people soon found that in Chicago — as in other cities — America’s promise offered them only mop buckets, chauffeur’s caps and ghettos teeming with vermin, the constricted parameters of their lives patrolled by police with batons and bankers with maps crisscrossed by red lines. Eventually, the parameters would also enforce themselves: miseducation, teen pregnancy and crime.

Small wonder, in that sludge of human malfunction, that someone became cold enough to target a little boy for execution. Or that a 25-year-old father now mourns a 9-year-old son.

And bearing witness feels like impotence, but like duty, too, a reminder that there are promises America still owes African America, and that African America also owes itself, promises life owes to life and that the price of the ongoing refusal to keep those promises is too often paid in children’s blood.

Five days after Tyshawn’s murder, a boy named J’Quantae Riles was shot to death shortly after visiting a Chicago barbershop. He was 14.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 11, 2015

November 12, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Childhood Deaths, Children | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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