The Slaughterhouse

Presidential Material

By From the November 2008 issue

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Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight
By Kathleen Krull
(Simon & Schuster, 40 pageS, $16.99)

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
By Nikki Grimes
(Simon & Schuster, 48 pageS, $16.99)

Reviewed by J. Peter Freire

PARENTS, YOU MAY be worried about all the time your 30-something kids spend “trying to figure it all out” while they live in your basement. Not to worry. Doing nothing appears to be the best way to become a Democratic Party front- runner. Just look at these two children’s books: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight.” They successfully communicate the ability of government to glorify do-nothings as heroes.

Reading these books is like reading a memoir by an alcoholic. At some point, you want to say, “Yes, but what did you actually do?” Young Hillary Rodham herself wanted to be an explorer in outer space, but was cruelly denied the chance to volunteer at NASA because “some paths were still closed to women, such as the job of astronaut.” And like any trailblazer, Hillary… uh…quit. But what a precocious tyke! She quit early on! Well, anyway, she did forge ahead by hitching her wagon to Bill Clinton and then winning a Senate seat on her husband’s name and her courageous willingness to look the other way.

The book doesn’t get into that, though. At least not in so many words. After all, it is written for the core liberal demographic: screaming eight-year-olds.

Instead, the author directs children’s attention to the fact that by eighth grade, Hillary was able to not only talk but also “argue about current stories in the news.” The accompanying illustration shows Hillary primly sitting in class with a clipboard and pencil, with a newspaper underneath. Based on this information alone, a recent poll at AmSpec headquarters shows that if we had known Hillary in eighth grade, a majority of us would have thrown rocks at her. One intern suggested throwing the clipboard itself. A second poll unanimously voted for the clipboard.

Barack Obama’s story takes a Matisse-meets-strips-of-watercolored-wallpaper approach to illustration. The cover resembles a portrait of Nelson Mandela next to a sand castle. This theme continues through the rest of the book. Apparently, Barack Obama friggin loves beaches. There, as a child, he contemplates racial tension or his parents’ divorce, a perfect reminder of what inspires Democratic politicians to wreak havoc with America’s own core values. In fact, the 2008 Democratic presidential plat form becomes much clearer when viewed through this lens. Foreign policy? “Guys, let’s just go to the beach.” Guns and religion? “Why would you bring those to a beach?” Housing crisis? “Wouldn’t it be cool if we lived in sand castles?” Then Obama goes to Africa, where he finds out that they kind of do.

“Before Barack chased his future, he visited his past, traveling to Kenya…” There, he got an idea of the kind of robust economics he should bring to the U.S. The campaign’s motto, I think, was “Kenya Dig It?” I’m not sure, though. Kids’ books are pretty hard to read.

Obama’s time abroad wasn’t all Africa-based. Obama went to Indonesia as a kid, too, so that he might discover really poor people and learn how not to become one of them. (Tip: Find a corrupt slum lord like Tony Rezko to get you a bargain on your property!) And in a way, this is why Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee for president: He passed the “traveled to Indonesia at an early age” litmus test. He also passed the “did you spend your early adulthood handing out pamphlets in an urban dwelling” litmus test, proving an early aptitude for handouts that would make him a star among the Democratic Party.

These books look patently ridiculous set next to Meghan McCain’s own book, My Dad, John McCain (Aladdin, 2008), which chronicles her father’s heroism in war. Opening each book and setting them next to the each other will provide a subtle contrast: Hillary Clinton smiling while she single-handedly runs health care into the ground, Obama glowing like a magical pixie, and John McCain sitting in a prison cell, alone and beaten. Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but McCain’s pretty old.

WHEN MOST 14-year-olds announce their intentions to become astronauts, parents smile politely but secretly wonder if it means the kids will move out earlier. When a kid sits on a beach to wonder what it all means, it’s called “California.” Democrats call both “presidential material.” But these two books show exactly the sort of self-absorbed dinkelspiel that makes personality-driven politics so messy to begin with.

So here’s my recommendation: this Christmas, give these books to the kid you like least.

J. Peter Freire is managing editor of The American Spectator.

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About the Author

J.P. Freire is a writer in Washington and a former editor at the Washington Examiner and The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter @jpfreire.