Maybe it’s the talk about Rosemary Kennedy or the fact that I thought I saw Patti Davis walking out of a Starbucks this morning but I’ve had presidential offspring on my mind today. At least the ones that have been around in my lifetime. I have to say my all-time favorite First Kid was Amy Carter. She always seemed so refreshingly normal. My favorite Amy Carter moment was when a reporter asked her if she had any message for the children of America. She thought for a moment and gave this brilliant reply:
Remember in 1980, during his only debate with Reagan, when Jimmy Carter summed up an exchange on arms control by saying:
“I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was. She said the control of nuclear arms.”
Amy was only 13 at the time and Carter was endlessly ridiculed for getting policy advice from a grade-schooler. But who’s to say she wasn’t right? And what other child of a President got to be played by Lorraine Newman every week on “Saturday Night Live!”
Like her dad, Amy went on to have an even better post-White House life. She works for the Carter Center now on human rights issues and is married with a young child. I remember seeing Jimmy Carter tear up when talking about Amy’s wedding in 1996. She was barefoot at her ceremony—gotta love that kid!
My next favorite presidential spawn: Ron Reagan Jr. and his sister, Patti Davis. Who would’ve thunk it? The kids of such a couple coming out so great? Ron speaking at the Democratic Convention this summer was fantastic, as were his writings about Bush and how he tried to appropriate Reagan’s funeral for his own vile causes. (And Ron really was very good when he hosted "Saturday Night Live.") Patti now regrets a lot of her rebellious activities during her dad’s presidency but she still speaks her own mind and is the only Republican First Daughter I can think of who doesn’t seem like a Stepford Wife. I even admire Nancy Reagan these days for telling the Republicans where to stick it following their appalling stance on stem-cell research.
Of course Caroline and John Kennedy have always had a special place in my psyche, especially since my very first memory was watching Kennedy’s funeral on TV with my sobbing mother and seeing John-John (who was almost my exact age) waving good-bye to his dead father. John died just a month after my mother died in 1999. Never in a million years would I have imagined that their deaths would be that close. My mom’s boss when she died was Chris Kennedy, RFK’s look-alike son, and she used to always drag Leah into his office, interrupting important meetings, to show him Leah’s “Kennedy Irish” red hair! And when we had a hard time switching my mother to a better hospital when she was struggling with her cancer, William Kennedy Smith intervened, for which we will always be grateful.
My least favorite First Children? Anyone with the last name of Bush. (Do I really need to explain?) And the Ford kids strike me as particularly uninspiring. Remember when Susan Ford was caught having Secret Service men doing her homework? I really shouldn’t judge the Fords, I have no idea what they’re up to, and besides, who am I to judge any of these people? (Well, I think I'll hold onto my judgments of the Bush family for now...)
I do remember waking up early to watch Tricia Nixon Cox’s White House wedding on TV. What was I thinking? What were they thinking? And Julie Nixon Eisenhower deserves a door prize for getting two presidential families into her kids’ bloodlines.
Hmmm, I haven't even mentioned Chelsea Clinton. Born in 1980, she was the first presidential child that was young enough to be my own daughter. Yikes!
My favorite would-be/should-be First Children are Kristin Gore and Karenna Gore Schiff. So smart and articulate. The Bush twins should voluntarily give them their room at the White House.