That’s my 5-year-old boy, Ari, at the polls on New Hampshire Primary voting day.
He had the honor of marking my ballot and feeding it into the machine, although I retained my right to pick my favorite candidate (Clue: Does not rhyme with Shmavel).
With all this global media attention unexpectedly focused on my baby girl, a casual observer might conclude that Ari has been replaced by a younger, more media-savvy sibling. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My 5-year-old boy demonstrates an extraordinary grasp on politics (he recently asked why Tom Tancredo quit his bid for president before the NH results, asking: “That doesn’t make any sense. Aren’t you always supposed to try your best?”).
But he is a 5-year-old boy and is tough to keep still during three hour forums on social security benefits and tax reform.
Here was a precious opportunity to combine a romp in the snow with an “ambush” of New Hampshire Primary winner John McCain. If you’re curious, yes that is a Dino Flintstone doll in the picture with the guys.
The media response to my “Baby Primary” photo essay for Slate Magazine has been overwhelming and astounding. Floating amidst a tidal wave of positive support, have been a few morons who have questioned my parenting skills and have accused me of “exploitation” of the baby. All I can say is that I would have been absolutely thrilled if my parents had thrust me into the arms of a grumpy LBJ or Richard Nixon.
Oh, there is one more ridiculous accusation I would like to address — Wow, this is becoming just like real politics!
I did not “steal” this idea from “some guy in Iowa.” Yes, there are lots of parents who have taken pictures of their children with politicians. I suspect the kissing babies thing goes at least as far as Teddy Roosevelt (can a presidential historian help me out here?)
I started my photography on Labor Day 2007, and really in 2003 if you count my son’s political pictures as part of the project. Mike McNarney and his wife Lauren Roth started photographing Baby William in Iowa in December. And in fact, they managed to wrap up everything (plus a Chelsea Clinton bonus) in just a week!
I’m somewhat jealous they captured the elusive Fred Thompson, the only candidate who I couldn’t nab because of his anti-Granite State attitudes (can we call it anti-Granitism?).
I met Mike and Lauren over the phone and we wholeheartedly support each other’s projects. Aside from gender, the only real difference between my photos and theirs is that mine feature the baby in the arms of the candidates. Baby William is always in the hands of his mother or father, with the notable exception of cuddly Bill Clinton.
Babies are unpredictable and force the candidate to respond outside the usual stiff cardboard pose. Personally, I don’t think it reflects poorly if a guy holds a baby like a football. Because that’s how I was before I became a father!
In any case, neither Mike nor I invented the baby photo-op. Nor did we invent the camera.
I encourage every parent who shares our fun-spirited sensibilities to take your children to a campaign event or two!