Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Scary Kind of Compassion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Scary Kind of Compassion

Article excerpt

It's early morning and I am surfing. The remote control in my hand is traveling swiftly across dozens of television channels. But the same wave is breaking on every network news show.

It's Phil Gramm on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN. Ever since the Texas senator decided to run for the White House with his "reliable friend" called "Ready Money," he's been on more channels than anyone but O.J. Simpson.

The Gramm who faces me across the bedroom this morning is hard to take before coffee. His appearances could be used as aversion therapy for someone trying to kick politics. Compared to Gramm, Dick Nixon seemed warm and cuddly. Then again, Nixon was elected president.

But it's not just the Gramm image that repeatedly splashes cold water onto my pillow. It's the message that comes crashing in. This is how it goes:

"I think the American people want less government, they want the right to keep their own money to invest in their own children . . . "

Click.

"I'm going to cut . . . so that families can invest more of their own money in their own children . . . "

Click.

"The real battle is . . . so that families can keep more of their own money to invest in their own children . . . "

Click.

Is it conceivable that the senator can sell his "I'm-the-most-conservative" candidacy as a pro-child campaign? Or does he have a better chance selling himself as Brad Pitt?

This pro-kid pitch is all the rage among the newly muscular right wing. Even the Contract With America is full of reassuring pieties about the little people in our homes. They are served up as conservative condiments meant to grace the empty school-lunch tray.

But chief among the pro-child lines is the one that Gramm expresses with such surf-pounding regularity. It's the idea that we can wholly privatize childhood. If only the government would disappear, families would have enough money to do right by their own kids. They don't say which families or whose kids.

Maybe a little surfing of the facts is in order before the country's memory is wiped out. …

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