Read My Lips

Article excerpt

A cheeky look at America's love-hate relationship with a campaign trail cliché

1833 President Andrew Jackson is approached by a "poor bareheaded woman with a little baby ,"whom h e declares "a fine specimen of American childhood." He reportedly hands the baby to his former secretary of war and suggests, "Eaton, kiss him?"

1886 Babyhood magazine reports on widespread political baby-kissing. Even "Davy Crockett boasted that he had kissed every baby in his district." Bucking the trend, Grover Cleveland "has shown his habitual firmness in declining the invitations of fond parents to kiss their offspring."

1890s Elizabeth Cady Stanton says baby-kissing violates children's rights and promotes poor hygiene. She praises President Benjamin Harrison after he "quickly refrained" from kissing a tot offered to him.

1903 Rumors swirl that President Theodore Roosevelt "had been making a practice of kissing babies indiscriminately" on the campaign trail.

1906 "Let the politician kiss," apublichealth official in Ohio declares, dismissing concerns about spreading germs.

1920 The Nation reports that Democrat James Cox "is the only Presidential candidate who has been able to kiss other people's babies as if he enjoy ed it. This has made him well-nigh invulnerable with women voters, one of whom was heard to remark last night: 'Surely a man who kisses babies the way he does could never break theheart of theworld.'"

1950 UFE spells out th e rules for baby-kissing in the photo-op era: "Good politico should never let baby - or anything else - get between his face and the camera. …