Yes, of course, the Internet has democratized punditry beyond the rarefied spaces of news studios. Add this change to the rise of blogging and the collective mood-index service also known as Twitter, and my next statement has never been more true: Everyone is a critic.
So, why listen to the endless napalm-dropping nonsense of TV pundits, those endlessly chattering O'Reillys and Morning Joes and yawn yawn yawn, when you can tune-in to the ever-insightful political opinions of my two daughters, Athena (5), and Kallista (4)?
We sat down in a recent living-room chat, with Kelly Haramis, my co-host, Chicago improviser/writer, and wife, to discuss the Iowa Caucuses and the future of the GOP field. (We seem to have forgotten Jon Hunstman and Rick Perry ... but we're not the only ones.)
Me: I'm going to show you pictures on the computer of a group of people who want to run against Broccoli Obama (as we have always called the President), and you tell me what you think of these people.
Kallista (long pause): Meh....
Athena (taken aback): He's an old man.
Me: Yes, but do you think he would make a good president?
Athena: No. Because he looks like an old man.
Me: Let me find another picture (I find a slightly more flattering image).
Kallista: Still an old man. That guy does not look good.
Note from the back bedroom: My father, whose brain cancer inflected language issues I detail here, says of Gingrich, "He's two-assed!" (Translation: two-faced).
Athena: Another old man!
Kallista (giggling): I do not like the way he smiles. He looks silly...like an old man.
Kallista: I like her. Because she wears pretty (pearl) necklace. (Looks at several pictures) I like that she always wears pretty earrings.
Athena: Me too.
Me: Would she be a good President and maybe a good babysitter?
Me: What game would you play with her?
Me: So, you think she would be a good speller?
Athena (seeing a pattern): Old man!
Kallista (after looking a several pictures): I like his tie.
Athena: But he dresses the same in every picture!
Kelly: Does he look like anyone you know?
Kallista: He looks a little bit like the Prince from Sleeping Beauty...Prince Philip. That's the only prince I remember, or Prince Charming.
Kelly: What if we said, tonight, "Here's your babysitter, Mitt Romney?"
Kallista: I'd hide.
Athena: (offering counterpoint): But Kallista always hides from babysitters.
Me: What does his voice sound like?
Athena: (low, and holding her belly, perhaps remembering Christmas): "Hi, I'm Mitt Rom-ney." (panel-wide laughter)
Me: Here is someone who was running but has dropped out of the race.
Athena (incredulous): All of these are old men. They are like all old men.
Rick Santorum (wearing boxing gloves in staged photo)
Athena: Why does he wear boxing gloves?
Me: He wants to look like he's tough. Do you think he can beat up the other candidates?
Kallista: No, but I could. I could beat up Rick Santorum. (makes grunting sounds...then has brainstorm) I should be President...because I am the strongest!
Athena: Me too. I am the toughest.
Kallista: (singing, in passive-aggressive direct competition): I am toughest and strongest...
Kelly: Ok, ok, what rules would you make as President?
Kallista (assuming the libertarian position): Everyone can do whatever they want to. And everyone can eat whatever they want to.
Athena (pro regulation): And I would make a list of what everyone can and cannot do.
Me: Many people are dissatisfied with the current candidates, so let us speculate on some possible late entries.
Athena: No! He would say, "All monsters can do whatever they want to!"
Me:: Isn't that good?
Athena (revealing early conservative leanings): No, the people who aren't monsters would be lazy. Also, he's not real. (adding sensible afterthought) And...I am scared of him.
Kallista: And he's not a grownup.
Me: You said you were scared of Elmo. Were you scared of those other candidates?
Athena: Just Elmo.
Kallista: He only sings.
Me: He could sing everything he wants to tell us.
Kallista:: I don't like his songs.
Me (admittedly relieved): Wouldn't you scream and go crazy?
Kallista (running around house in mock-terror): AGGGGHHHH!
Athena (devilishly): He's coming tonight, Kallista! "Here's your babysitter, Justin Bieber!"
Athena: No. Because he'd make everything like a basketball game.
Kallista (pointing at his arm muscles): I don't like his bumps. I want to be the strongest. No, I don't want him to be President.
Me: Ok, but who else would make a good President?
Me: You told me you don't like Elmo.
Athena: I changed my mind. (I explain that she is flip-flopping. She responds enthusiastically.)
Kallista (selecting her dream Iowa Caucus slate): Sleeping Beauty, Princess Celestia (a pegasus/unicorn from "My Little Pony"), and Ariel.
Maleficent (the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty)
Athena (conflating candidate narratives): She'd say, "I'm a bad fairy and will give you a poison apple..."
Kallista: Too mean.
Athena: Jafar (villain from Aladdin) might make a good president. No. Elmo! Ok, I say any of these: Elmo, Dan the Ant (storybook character), or a spacecat (cat who adventures in outer space; also her last Halloween costume).
Me: Why Dan the Ant?
Athena (flip-flopping again): Because he's an ant. He would eat jelly. He would say, "Everybody, please eat jelly."
(We proceed to look at images of cats in space, in spacesuits, etc., for ten minutes).
Desperate, I quickly call up a picture of what I hope will be all the GOP candidates, and find -- without realizing it -- an image from the second Republican debate from June 13, 2011.
Athena and Kallista (united again, pointing to Bachmann): Her!
Me: How about someone aside from Michele Bachmann?
Kallista (dissatisfied): Um ... Justin Bieber?
Me: You need to choose from this picture. (They both point to someone I don't recognize at first...former candidate and youngish-looking Tim Pawlenty). Why?
Athena: He doesn't look as old as the others.
Exhausted, we turn from the GOP primary to the general election.
Me: Should Broccoli Obama remain president?
Athena (professional flip-flopper): Yes!
Kallista (self-proclaimed royalist/Tory): No. I like his smile ... but I still want Ariel or Sleeping Beauty. They would be much better.