‘And a little child shall lead them’

By Ellen Ratner

I have traveled the world over to know this one truth: There is no force of nature as powerful as the joy of a child. Children have the gift of being able to laugh and play through war, economic despair, natural disaster, disease and hunger. Their magical power to transform their environment has been recorded for thousands of years. As Isaiah 11:6 prophesied, “… and a little child shall lead them.”

This week reminded us of the transformative nature a child can have, even in the midst of the most bitter and contentious presidential campaign in recent memory. This campaign season has been anything but fun. The future of the Supreme Court, the future of U.S. security policy, the future of our retirements, health care, education and big business are all up for grabs. Perhaps these trying times demand serious candidates. But I’ve been covering the campaign for the past 12 months and I’m about ready to kill myself with the seriousness of both men.

Just as I was starting to dread the final quarter of Campaign 2004, something magnificent sparked off at the end of the Fourth of July weekend. The Democratic ticket spontaneously declared independence from negativity and chronic seriousness. Two bright stars graced the presidential campaign trail and ignited a fire of joy – not anger – in the hearts of the Democratic ticket. Jack and Emma Claire Edwards have been on the planet less than 10 years combined, yet they have had the effect of a giant sparkler being waved like a magic wand into the heart of the newly minted Kerry-Edwards ticket.

No wonder President George W. Bush is not in a joking mood. The Democratic presidential ticket just got a shot of charisma that not even Karl Rove in his wildest political fantasies could dream up.

I have said at least 100 times that Americans vote for the people they would like to see in their living rooms for the next four years. Al Gore’s stiff, smarty-pants debate performance killed him in 2000. No one wants a smarty-pants in their living room.

George W. Bush is no exception. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, Reds, Purples are saying the same thing: They can’t stand to hear George W. Bush open his mouth these days. “Nothing new. The same thing. Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla. He’s angry.” George W.’s adopted Texas drawl is wearing thin on the American ear drums. The blockbuster success of “Fahrenheit 9-11” (to include theaters near military installations) is evidence that America is tired of drinking at the trough of spin by Bush and Company.

Even John Kerry seems to transform under the spell of Jack and Emma Claire. Within a week, the dynamic duo (Jack and Emma Clarie that is) have transformed a dry, repetitious, restrained, practiced, stiff John F. Kerry into an energetic, smiling, joking, dotting grandfather-like engaging candidate. Until last week, only a crowd of Vietnam Vets could move Kerry out of his shell. Times have changed. People are starting to actually like Kerry.

The Edwards duo not only instills a sense of youth, fun and hope, but they also remind us of our responsibility to our children. The future of America is not about us, it’s about them.

There is a great clip in “Fahrenheit 9-11” where President Bush addresses a group of donors at a black-tie event. He says, “There are the haves and the have mores. Some call you wealthy, I call you my base.” Well, the president’s so-called “base” has driven his policy initiatives, which include wild deficit spending, tax cuts for “the have mores,” and enormous corporate entitlement programs that replenish the troughs of the pharmaceutical industry. He financed these giveaways, in part, by cutting after-school programs. He is bankrupting the future of our children. Jack and Emma Claire remind us that we can do better by our children and we must.

This does not bode well for Bush and Company. During the primaries, Republican insiders told me they feared Edwards the most. They figured Kerry’s negative charisma factor was no match for the swaggering, ever upbeat G.W. Bush. Now they’ve got the worst of all possible worlds on their hands, Edwards times three, plus a new commander in chief who actually fought in a uniform vs. modeled one. I think it’s time someone see if they can pull John-John and Caroline’s old swing set out of moth balls. It’s going to be needed this coming spring.