Kiddie Campaigns

November 01, 2000 3 min read

The men who would be president have spent so much time in classrooms that you would think they were running for school board. Though these visits are scripted by teams of aides, there have been more than a few memorable moments when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

From The Mouths Of Babies
George W. Bush made quite an impression on kindergartners during an August visit to Harrison Primary School in Peoria, Illinois. “Mr. Bush would be a good president because he does good stuff, sometimes,” said one. Members of the local school board, meanwhile, were upset that Bush did not invite them to an education forum. “There’s such a thing as being included, and there’s such a thing as being excluded,” huffed board President Rhonda Hunt. “Yes, Governor Bush came to town and talked about giving school districts local control, but we were excluded.”

Pillow Talk
Al Gore has slept at the home of a teacher the night before each of his all-day school visits. During an appearance last spring, the vice president declared, “I’m going to spend the night with a public school teacher in Michigan tonight.” According to the Washington Post, a woman in the front row of the crowd “caught Gore’s eye, pointed at herself, and seductively mouthed the proposition: ‘Me?’ ” Gore quickly clarified his remark, but the Post noted his repeated overnight stays with teachers and teased, “The man’s a veritable Wilt Chamberlain on the campaign trail.”

Next Week’s Lesson: Capital Punishment
Before Bush’s August visit to Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky, teacher Wayne Childress discussed abortion, gun control, welfare, and other issues with his students. Said Childress: “I asked my kids if they were liberals or conservatives, and I didn’t get much response until a student raised his hand and admitted that he didn’t know the difference between liberals and conservatives.”

Political Rhetoric Meets Eduspeak
In March, an Al Gore visit to L’Anse Creuse Middle School North in Macomb, Michigan, featured a weird exchange in a 6th grade drama class. Students were doing an improvisation exercise and asked Gore to take the role of a father scolding his daughter for bad grades. The catch? He had to speak in gibberish. Gore agreed and acted out the role with relish, saying, according to the official Associated Press transcript: “Wa-woo-ubb-wuh, wuh-bub.” Gore spokesman Chris Lehane later joked: “We’re getting ready for our debates with Bush.”

‘I Knew Something Was Up’
Bush’s May visit to Carl Hankey Elementary in Mission Viejo, California, was a closely guarded secret. But school officials’ efforts to spruce up the school gave it away. “I knew something was up because I’d seen a lot of district people over here cleaning the school and painting, replacing glass,” said one mother.

Dan Quayle, Where Are You?
The pressure on the Avondale Elementary 1st graders one day last April was intense: Photographers, television news crews, and newspaper reporters had packed their Columbus, Ohio, classroom to watch the vice president observe a spelling lesson. With the eyes of the nation upon them, the kids—and their teacher—struggled to spell “sincerely” and eventually settled on “sincerly.” Said teacher Stacie Magill, “I guess I was a little nervous.”

Real Funny, Kid
During an August visit to Tussing Elementary in Pickerington, Ohio, GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, talked up the importance of reading. The couple seemed to have made a hit with 6-year-old Alex Mason, who bragged to them that he was a good reader. But without warning, the boy recanted his comment. “It was a joke,” he said. “I’m not going to learn to read. I’m not that good of a reader.

Diet Coke And Irish Spring?
Those who host Gore overnight often go to great lengths to make him feel at home. Lewiston, Maine, teachers Don Jalbert and Susan Iadevaia-Jalbert reportedly stocked up on Diet Coke—the VP’s favorite drink—purchased new bath towels, and bought special soap with a “manly scent.” Another teacher, Claudia Amboyer, of Macomb, Michigan, declined to take a reporter’s phone call to talk about the vice president’s upcoming visit. She was too busy vacuuming and dusting, explained her husband.

Drew Lindsay
SOURCES: Peoria Journal Star, Washington Post, Associated Press, National Public Radio, New York Times, Plain Dealer.