Politicians and Kissing Babies
Let’s say you are the proud momma or poppa of a bouncing bundle of joy. You make sure you keep things germ free for the little tyke, you keep his clean as possible, him or her as clean as possible. Yes, possible because let’s face it, Jr can drool buckets and throw up an entire bottle of formula in a moment’s notice. But overall we love our babies and do what we can to keep them safe and happy. So then why do we hand them over to insincere, twofaced, strangers, also known as politicians, for a kiss?A baby hater?
Well it was not baby haters who started the whole, hand the baby to the politician and see if he/she would kiss the adorable tyke. The first documented instance of this weird practice was documented in the book, “Presidential Campaigns” by Paul F Boller. It was during Andrew Jackson’s campaign for the presidency. He had visited a town where a momma handed up her dirty faced baby to him to hold. His response was:
“Here is a beautiful specimen of young American childhood,” said Jackson obligingly. “Note the brightness of that eye, the great strength of those limbs, and the sweetness of those lips.” Then he handed the baby to his friend John Eaton.
“Kiss him Eaton,” he cried, and walked away.”
Life Magazine says in its July 4th 1960 issue:
“There is only one excuse for baby kissing: it works. The aim, whether the pol is a machine-backed hack or a machine-bucking amateur, is to win the votes.”
It happened so much that articles were ran in Newspapers about the practice. The Los Angeles Herald wrote (1906):
“CLEVELAND, O., Sept. 26.— “Let the politician kiss,” said Health Officer Friedrich today, discussing the hygienic side of the baby kissing question. “The transfer of germs is a possibility, of course, but so is my death If I take a ride on a street car.”
On the other side of the world though the practice was looked upon with humor and perhaps a little perplexion. David Shears a British observer of American politics wrote in 1961:
“While blintz-eating and other epicurean forms of electioneering may swing the odd vote here and there, I very much doubt if baby-kissing cuts any political ice whatever. In this respect I agree with Mr. Arthur Levitt, the Democratic organization candidate for Mayor of New York, who sternly refused to kiss babies when he toured the Rockaways during the primary campaign. I refuse to believe this reserve had anything to do with his defeat. He was merely exercising every man’s right to draw the line. I suppose baby-kissing is meant to appeal to the women’s vote, but every woman knows it’s pretty hard to kiss a baby unless you’re holding it, and it’s quite risky enough holding your own baby, let alone somebody else’s.””
“A mellower and wiser” Richard Nixon told LIFE in 1968, “I won’t wear a silly hat, or kiss a lady or a baby. I won’t ski down a hill or do any stunting like that—I’d look like a jerk.”
One would think with today’s germ paranoia, with the whole disinfecting everything for baby that handing your tyke over to a complete stranger (and who is stranger than a politician?) would be a complete no-no. Alas, it is a more common practice today than I thought.
According to The Mail Online (2012):
“The baby-hugging photo opportunity is an age-old test for any politician and can sometimes define an entire campaign.” After examining recent photos from the campaign trail, “a body language and behaviour expert,” finds President Barack Obama to be “fatally ill-at-ease” while holding an infant. “Close-up wide smiles like his can often be seen as a form of feigned attack by a baby who wouldn’t understand the skills of political masking and might just see bared teeth,” she explains. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, wins points for his “more of a grandfatherly pose,” which “creates a rather stronger suggestion of paternalism and confidence.” However, he too betrays his true feelings as “he hands the kid back like a grenade with the pin out.”
Perhaps we shall see politicians kissing babies in this years campaigning. Personally I would not child to a complete stranger even if I do agree with their politics. Would you?