‘Sesame Street’ Follies

Why Mitt Romney Hates Kids

Romney may have disrespected kids, but they are not interested in his dominant campaign theme, jobs—and they don’t vote, says Michael Moynihan.

It has been an exceptionally good week for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, with his previously listless presidential campaign electrified following an impressive debate performance and the subsequent flurry of encouraging poll numbers. Indeed, a new Pew survey puts Romney 4 percentage points ahead of the president, while a Reuters/Ipsos declares the race a dead heat. But the Obama administration is on the counteroffensive, with a withering new campaign ad suggesting that Romney kowtows to vultures of Wall Street while showing contempt for cuddly creatures of Sesame Street.

Which forces us to address this subterranean—but significant—question plaguing those undecided voters: does Mitt Romney hate children and other cute things? 

The evidence is incomplete but compelling. How could one forget the wanton cruelty of strapping an adorable Irish setter, imprisoned in a dog carrier, to the roof of the Romney station wagon during a family trip to Canada? (An incident that precipitated a cri de coeur from former 1980s pop stars Devo, who reemerged with the pungent song, Don’t Roof Me Bro.) When asked by debate moderator Jim Lehrer to delineate which government programs would be on the chopping block during a Romney administration, the Republican candidate identified both Obamacare and the free-spending, tote-bag brigades at PBS.

While claiming that he was a rather big fan of Big Bird, Romney nevertheless told PBS employee Lehrer that neither he nor the giant bird was worthy of a government handout. (An unsolicited tip for Mitt: if you underscore your conservative bona fides by promising to defund public television, do so by targeting one of the network’s least beloved characters, like Kenneth Branagh.)

One might think that by nudging American children to defect from socialist Sesame Street to, say, free-market Dora the Explorer, Romney would perhaps be willing to spend 30 minutes with the nonsubsidized network Nickelodeon to answer questions about what concerns the pre-voting crowd, a ritual to which almost all candidates submit. But the campaign declined, making Romney only the second candidate in the network’s history to dodge questions posed by middle-school children. Former NBC News correspondent Linda Ellerbee, who now delivers the news on Nickelodeon, told The Washington Post that “by answering kids’ questions directly, candidates show respect for kids.”

Mitt Romney disrespected kids. And so the war on cute things continues apace.

So why did Mitt, fresh off of last Wednesday’s triumph, dodge the invitation to debate a bunch of clever school children? When one looks at the issues plaguing the Nickelodeon constituency—as listed on the network’s website—we find the following, listed in order of importance, which might offer a few clues: 

  1. Same-sex marriage
  2. Education
  3. Health care
  4. Taxes
  5. Immigration
  6. Iran
  7. Energy
  8. Jobs

Unsurprisingly America’s children—who leech off of their parents and tend toward extreme laziness—are least interested in Romney’s dominant campaign theme: jobs. But more important, why pander to a bunch of people who can’t vote for you anyway? 

All of this extended silly season did, in one way, provide a rather easy opportunity for the Romney camp to mock Obama and the campaign’s Sesame Street ad. Speaking to a crowd in Iowa, and to big cheers from the gathered faithful, Romney declared, “You have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird. I actually think we need to have a president who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs.” 

And to top it off, Big Bird himself, through his surrogates at the Children’s Television Workshop, asked Obama to pull the ad, highlighting that it is “a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns.” 

Advantage Romney.