USA Today's 'Helpful Advice' to Obama: Drive a Boat Through Mash Potato-Filled White House

Two weeks ago, ABC's Good Morning America featured kids who offered up silly liberal platitudes for President Barack Obama (“I want you to make people stop littering because our Earth is dying”) , but in retrospect they seem downright insightful compared to the collection of letters from children showcased in Wednesday's USA Today -- which embarrassed itself with a headline that characterized the writers as providing “helpful advice” to the new President. Reporter Greg Toppo, in the “Life” section article plugging a new book, 'Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country,' promised “it contains dozens of frank, heartfelt letters to Barack Obama, offering the new President congratulations, praise, reading lists and reams of helpful, bullet-pointed advice.”

Amongst the letters with that “helpful” advice listed next to Toppo's story, this from a 6-year-old:
I would fill the White House with chocolate and gravy (but not together) and mashed potatoes or maybe fill it with root beer. I'd drive through the White House on a boat. We'd make the floor out of mashed potatoes and the house would be filled with mashed potatoes.…I'd have a couch made out of pudding that you could eat with a giant spoon. And I'd have a pizza carpet.
A 9-year-old urged help for the nation of Hawaii, “If I were President, I would help all nations, even Hawaii,” while a 10-year-old reasoned: “If you could lower gas prices, it would be good so people could not waste their money. Or if they waste all their money, they should have more chances before they become homeless.”

One of the “reams of helpful, bullet-pointed advice” had these six items from a 12-year-old:
1. Stop the use of oil in cars.
2. Clean up the ocean.
3. Help animals that are endangered.
4. Help immigrants get better jobs.
5. Give money to schools.
6. Fire the governor of California.
The headline over the online version of the article: “Kids shower Obama with 'Running the Country' advice

But in the actual newspaper, and as accurately reflected in the posted “print edition” of the February 4 paper:
Audacious undertaking
Kids shower Obama with helpful advice in 'Running the Country'
The January 21 NewsBusters item by Scott Whitlock, “ABC's GMA Touts Kids to Obama: Stop the Wars! Save the Earth!” recounted:
Good Morning America on Wednesday featured video messages from young children to Barack Obama. GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo asserted that the kids, ranging in age from seven to 17, had "strong opinion[s]." Yet, every single one of these youths spouted the type of liberal propaganda usually reserved for people like Keith Olbermann and not one conservative voice was featured. One young boy sputtered: "Stop the wars. And because more people die. And it's just, they don't want to die. They just die. But they don't want to die."

Another child, who couldn't have been older than seven, bizarrely informed: "All this time, I've been alive, I've been having white presidents. And I think now, it's, this is my chance to have a black president." One boy incorrectly wondered: "And how come people who earn millions of dollars pay less taxes than us middle-class people?" A regulation-minded girl pleaded: "I want you to make people stop littering because our Earth is dying." Of course, this pleased liberal weatherman Sam Champion, who sat next to Cuomo. After the segment, he approved: "You heard global warming and trees and recycling. That's great. That's great."
From the top of Toppo's February 4 USA Today article:
Scratch beneath the surface of children's cheerful exteriors these days and you'll find what's really on their minds: poverty, homelessness, war and global warming, but also cats, dogs, hand sanitizer and cafeteria food.

How do we know? They've unburdened themselves to the 44th president.

A new book with perhaps the best title of 2009 —Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country ($12, McSweeney's Books) — arrives in stores this week. Conceived on election night and benefiting a national non-profit, it contains dozens of frank, heartfelt letters to Barack Obama, offering the new president congratulations, praise, reading lists and reams of helpful, bullet-pointed advice. It also offers a moving snapshot of children's lives in the waning days of 2008.

The book began as a writing exercise. On Nov. 4, Jory John, programs director at 826 Valencia, the San Francisco branch of the non-profit 826 tutoring and writing centers, watched a spontaneous Obama victory party in the street outside the center's Mission District headquarters. The next day he thought he'd tap into children's excitement. Several of his students were in the crowd....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center