News - Adventures in babysitting

The Clintons have come for your children

There's an old joke about The New York Times — one that was old when the term "politically correct" was new.

Newspaper headlines, in the joke, are reporting the end of the world. The Wall Street Journal spotlights the stock market's final tally. A tabloid blares simply, "We're Gone." And then there's the punch(head)line, from the Times: "World to End Today: Women and Minorities Hardest Hit."

Times columnist Bob Herbert inadvertently rewrote this tired crack recently when he cheered efforts to create a federal task force to investigate what he described, with a straight face, as "the disproportionate and potentially devastating effect" chemical and biological terrorism might have on children.

"In gassed America: children hardest hit." It wasn't Herbert's headline, but it should have been. He reported that children are at greater risk because most chemical and biological agents "settle close to the ground, right in the 'breathing zone' of children." ("Breathing zone?" Good grief.)

Leading the charge to protect kids from chemical and biological attack, Herbert noted, is none other than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Big surprise, huh? With the Clintons, it is always about "the children." They've made two careers talking and emoting and tearing up over "the children." "The children" have been the Clintons' first line of attack and last line of defense. She got her start with the wacko-left Children's Defense Fund. He wriggled off the hook of impeachment with those sad, hound-dog eyes, welling up over "the children." And now, here we are, enduring yet another phony Clinton crusade for "the children" — a transparent bid to defrost Hillary's ice-queen image.

Of course, we should be concerned about the threat of chemical and biological terrorism, given the evil cunning of our enemies. But we shouldn't begin by focusing on a single demographic, no matter how well it might play with Hillary's soccer-mom supporters.

Fact is, all Americans — young, old and in-between — are at risk of chemical and biological attack, and all deserve to be defended. We didn't design air raid or fallout plans around children a generation ago, and we shouldn't start formulating homeland defense plans around them now.

Besides, I remember the last time the Clintons got mixed up with kids and terrorism. Two years ago, they had a chance to stand up for children who lost their parents to terrorism. But the Clintons didn't stand up; they rolled over.

On Sept. 10, 1999, over the strong objections of local, state and federal law enforcement, President Clinton freed 11 Puerto Rican terrorists from prison in a slick and sleazy bid to appeal to Hispanic voters and bolster his wife's fledgling senate campaign. The terrorists were members of FALN, an outfit that killed six people and wounded more than 70 others in 130 bombings between 1974 and 1983. One Manhattan bombing killed a police officer and blinded his partner. Another claimed the life of a New Jersey businessman with two small sons.

And, now, just two years after the Clintons tried to trade terrorists for votes, Hillary wants to lecture the rest of us about terrorism and kids. Some nerve.

Instead of embarking on a cynical, ultimately impossible drive to separate the fate of children and adults in the event of gas attacks, Washington should take a different approach to protect America's kids. My suggestion? Revise military recruitment policies in the interests of children.

Existing regulations forbid the recruitment of single parents with custody of children, but unscrupulous recruiters can and do circumvent the rules by suggesting that single parents cede custody to relatives. In an extended conflict, this nefarious practice, discouraged as it is by military brass, would make the Pentagon — and the rest of us — complicit in the needless creation of war orphans.

The New York Times recently profiled one fresh recruit, a single mother of two, who was only now realizing she might have to risk her life to do her duty. The recruit said she had joined up to secure steady work, decent wages and job skills. In peacetime, she had not considered what might happen to her kids if she were called to war or, worse, did not return.

Washington should take additional steps — including new penalties for recruiters — to keep such life-and-death decisions out of the hands of single parents unable or unwilling to consider their kids' best interests. Now more than ever, that would be something worth doing.

Luke Boggs is no Hillary fan, but he loves The New York Times in spite of itself.??

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