White House Wag: Political Hot Air

“A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grown-up crimes. Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys. Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised his hand and asked a haunting question, “What do you think of me?” He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle: Is their hope for me? Do I have a chance? And, frankly, do you, a white man in a suit, really care about what happens to me?” — Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush speaking Thursday at the GOP Convention.

Fair enough, but Bush doesn’t appear to believe such compassion for young people who have lost their way extends to sparing teenagers from the death penalty. In June, the State of Texas executed Gary Graham, who was just 17 years old in 1981 when he allegedly murdered a man in a Houston supermarket parking lot in 1981. Despite please from human rights groups, Bush gave no indication of any qualms about putting to death a man who was not legally an adult when he committed his crime.

“Chelsea has her own life....I am a strong advocate for young people leading their own lives and certainly not being taken advantage of by people in the public arena.” — First Lady Hillary Clinton when asked by reporters Thursday why first daughter Chelsea Clinton was absent from the campaign trail after spending Wednesday stumping with her mother.

A baffling remark, in part because it’s not clear which “people” Mrs. Clinton is alluding to. One interpretation: she’s referring to her opponent, Rick Lazio, who frequently appears at campaign events with his daughters. (Although, if one were to make a list of young people who have been taken advantage of by people in the public arena, the first name that comes to mind isn’t Lazio.) In any event, this seems pretty far off-message given President Clinton’s frequent refrain that Democrats needn’t attack their opponents personally in order to win.

“The wait is finally over.....SUE!” — Banners hanging in the streets of Chicago during the recent American Trial Lawyers Association conference at which President Clinton spoke last Sunday.

At first glance, this appeared to be a unusually brazen call for litigation. But instead of shameless fawning over the trial lawyers, it turned out to be an advertising campaign for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. In May, the museum put on display the fossil specimen of a Tyrannosaurus Rex now known as Sue.

“Chelsea, that girl with the special smile. That’s you. Growing up in the spotlight is what you had to do. We’re all so proud of you.” — Composer and entertainer Marvin Hamlisch, delivering a musical tribute to the first daughter during a political fundraiser in Nantucket on Friday.

No analysis required, but you really have to hear Hamlisch sing it, medley-style, to get the full effect.

Josh Gerstein has covered the White House for ABCNEWS since 1997.

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