January 22, 2020

Superwhitehouse-atmospheric-theatricalidocious

Posted on 22. Jan, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

It’s getting confusing. I thought I had to buy a ticket to see a movie or take in a show to be entertained. That’s all changed. Somebody should have told me all I needed to do was watch our President sign Executive Orders!

Today’s example of the gun control Executive Order signing ceremony took me back to the time when I won a coloring contest sponsored by our local TV station in Milwaukee. Us kids (we always called ourselves that) were avid fans of a futuristic space show headed up by a spaceman called, Captain Jet.

One day in 1953, the Captain (CJ) actually picked my drawing on air as one of the top three winners and I was invited to appear on the following week’s show to pick up my prize.

When the happy day came, I wasn’t nervous.  After all I knew I wasn’t going to be shot into space to rendezvous with ole CJ on a far-off galaxy. I was just going into a TV studio and on a set that looked like it was designed by my grade school classmates.

We were all carefully positioned next to CJ before the cameras started rolling and I got the first question. After asking me my name, he wanted to know where my father worked. Not remembering, I politely excused myself, walked off the spaceship set and headed towards my mother who sat off-stage by the whirring TV camera.

I didn’t see Captain Jet’s face, but I do remember what he said when I got back on board the good ship cardboard. He looked into the camera and said, “Well kids, it’s a good thing our ship hadn’t left the Earth’s orbit yet or we’d have lost this little fella.” Talk about suspension of disbelief! (We called it imagination back then.)

Children have been in TV audiences since the late 40s. Remember Howdy Doody, the Buster Brown Show and then Captain Kangaroo? But this using children as window dressing phenomenon is new to me.

It’s one thing to host kids for the White House Easter Egg Hunt or the Whitehouse Christmas Tree lighting, but I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember if the likes of Ike, LBJ or Nixon surrounded themselves with moppets on the podium for bill-signings. Don’t think so.

Children have been used as props by politicians throughout the ages, but usually referred to in speeches in absentia. I didn’t think that I’d live to see the day that the Whitehouse would be holding casting calls for little urchins to show up at bill-signings. Remember the cute little boy in the vest by the President’s desk when Mr. Obama signed the healthcare bill? Precious.

Today, the Whitehouse Office of Theatricality had assembled four well-dressed and well-behaved youngsters to frame the President as he signed 23 Executive Orders designed to stave off vicious crime perpetrated by gun-wielding crazies.

The scene looked bizarre as if the invitations had gotten mixed up, and instead of being at PS 41 for the annual spelling bee, the kids found themselves standing in for criminals and law-breakers who were supposed to be shackled to their chairs while the Commander in Chief talked about murder and mayhem.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think that children should be used as scenery for Presidents or any other elected officials. If this is the new normal than I’m just going to insist that the President bring in a bevy of barnyard animals, bales of alfalfa and bushels of rutabagas to future farm bill signings.

As long as he’s at it, he could bring back Mr. Greenjeans to hold the signing pens while the theme song from Green Acres plays in the background. Somehow, the atmospherics of that scene appeal to the old farm boy in me. Now that’s what I call a real signing ceremony.

- Editor

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