Thursday, June 07, 2001

The Bush girls

Should we give them a break?

        What this country needs is more children.

        Not in the sense that everybody who is fertile should have another one. Just in the sense that we ought to count the ones we already have. And not look for excuses to promote them to adulthood when we don't like their behavior.

        Jenna Bush, for instance.

        She's a kid. A non-adult. Not old enough to drink alcohol. Not even mature enough, apparently, to guess that when she shows up at a bar wearing a famous face and accompanied by the Secret Service she will be watched rather more closely than the other patrons.

Ugly whiff of delight

        What was this kid thinking? Well, apparently she was thinking like a kid. She's only 19 years old. But it looks as if some of my fellows in the media are using this as an opportunity to take off the gloves they donned so self-righteously during the Chelsea years. It's one thing to report the news, but there's an ugly whiff of delight, an aroma of glee.

        “JENNA AND TONIC” shrieked the dependably florid New York Post. “Jenna's latest jam” teased one network.“I feel like the Bush girls during happy hour,” Tony winner Nathan Lane joked. And Jay Leno: “The Bush twins are staggering in their father's footsteps.”

        The First Twins are old enough to vote and to serve in the armed forces. They are allowed to incinerate their lungs with tobacco. They just can't have a beer. Legally.

        Childhood has become a numbers game.

        Last month in Florida, Nathaniel Brazill, who at age 13 shot and killed his English teacher, was convicted of second-degree murder. He was tried as an adult. Which he is not. Just because he has done large, irreparable damage doesn't make him any older.

        A year ago, a car driven by a 16-year-old girl crashed in Delhi Township, killing two passengers. “Hill hopping,” kids call it. Prosecutors said the girl was so reckless she should face charges in adult court.

        Reckless? Reckless is the redundant adjective for juvenile. Arrogant. Careless. Immature. Nothing grown up about it. That's also the good news. They're young. If we work at it, we might still help them be better adults. If we don't throw them in the clink with 40-year-old axe murderers and rapists.

        Not that the Bush girls are going to be thrown in the clink. They'll be officially punished. Worse, they'll have to face their grandmother.

Grandly repressive

        Former First Lady Barbara Bush comes from a generation bold enough to call a child a child. The Greatest Generation was grandly repressive — enough to insist on curfews even during undergraduate years. They were confident enough to tell their children they had room to grow. And time.

        My dad used to lecture us for hours. For days. My brother and I would roll our eyes (behind his back, of course) and wish he'd just beat us instead.

        More than once during discussions of the shooting of Timothy Thomas, whose death sparked three days of rioting, I heard someone wondering why “these people” (code for black people) don't teach their children not to run from police officers.

        Presumably “those people” in the White House have told their children not to break the law, not to drink. But the Bush twins were caught trying to buy alcohol with fake IDs. And Timothy Thomas ran from a police officer.

        He was 19 years old.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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