Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

For Candidates, Every Vegetable is a Landmine

NPR's Scott Simon reflects on the indignities inflicted on presidential candidates.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Every now and then I have to pause to appreciate some of the indignities that we inflict on presidential candidates. This year, several debate moderators have asked candidates to raise their hands to show if they favor a certain policy. Would you order an attack on Osama bin Laden if you knew there would be civilian casualties? Raise you hand. It was an actual order.

Now, a real president would get to ask, at least, a few questions, like how good is the intelligence, and how many casualties. But candidates don't want to look indecisive, so they sneak shy peeks of each other, like first graders being asked if they have to go to the bathroom before raising a hand. What will the so-called moderator demand that candidates do next? Stand on one foot and cluck like a chicken?

Senator Barack Obama was recently portrayed as insincere for saying that he never planned to run for president because he wrote an essay in kindergarten titled "I Want to Become President." First, how many kindergarten students write essays? I couldn't write the word cat in kindergarten. If I had been able to write an essay, it would have been to just say, duh.

No doubt, an opponent was trying to suggest, which may be fair, that someone who was president of the Harvard Law Review probably at least pondered being president. And why not? But campaigns start too early anyway. Kindergarten should be a place where you can pick your nose, throw up your lunch, and trying your mother's high heels without worrying that, years later, you'll have to explain all that on "Meet the Press."

And just last week, candidates were asked to cite their least favorite vegetable. Is this a campaign for president of the United States or the third-grade class? Governor Huckabee was bold enough to declare that he does not like carrots. Whoah, carrots have fans, farmers and carrot growers associations. Bugs Bunny might do an attack ad saying, hey, doc, they'll have to pry my carrot out of my paws. Mr. Huckabee might have to give a major speech to reassure voters that while he personally prohibits carrots from his plate, he respects the rights of all carrot-loving Americans.

I supposed a really politic answer would be the skirret, a root vegetable with an inedible woody core that is not commercially grown in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or any other early primary state. But why should someone who has to come up with policies about Iran, energy independence, or tax reform have to spend even the five minutes that I just did studying up on a vegetable that can be safely demonized? If you agree, raise your hand, or we'll just have to take your word on that.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small