Column: “Will somebody please think of the children?” or “The Kids are Alright, we hope.”

By Andrew Mason

Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., appeared on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos opposite Illinois Democrat, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, debating the fallout of Foleygate. Putnam asserted that when people go to the ballot box this November they’re going to be talking about the economy, not this sex scandal. Wishful thinking to be sure, but Putnam need only look at the importance of values issues in the Lonestar state to see what people really care about.

An award-winning elementary art teacher has been forced out of her job after she took her 89 fifth graders to the Dallas Museum of Art where they were allegedly exposed to nude sculptures. A few parents complained that their children had come into contact with such an indecent display on an educational field trip. This trip was made with full administrative approval and all the parents signed permission slips.

In another Texas town, Alton Verm, father of tenth-grader Diana Verm has started a campaign to get the classic novel “Fahrenheit 451” banned from the school’s library. This is after his daughter requested and received an alternate reading assignment for her English class. His complaints about the book included the basics like profanity and violence but when asked what the most serious reason was he responded, “With God’s name in vain being in there, that’s the number one reason . there’s no reason for it being read.”

It would be too easy for me to mock these parents. That a parent would assume their son or daughter had never seen nudity before a trip to the art museum is only slightly less preposterous than a parent’s crusade for banning a book about burning books. The irony that the book incident occurred during National Banned Books Week practically drops its pants and presents itself.

What no one can criticize these misguided parents of is not caring about their children first and foremost. After all, the prerogative of parents to protect their children from whatever they define as damaging is one of the most important issues to many Americans, regardless of political party.

So many Republicans should take pause when a new CBS news poll shows that 79 percent of the population says GOP leaders were more concerned with politics than the well-being of the teenage pages. Big deal, you might be thinking, it’s just those darn Democrats. This is their doing. But delving deeper into the poll you find that 61 percent of Republicans feel this way too. So what went wrong?

Clearly, harboring a sick individual like Mark Foley didn’t help them much. Nothing screams family values like some one-handed typing. But most people are still worried about Iraq too. We can’t forget that there are 145,000 American children being shot at hundreds of times a day.

Children have been endangered by three school shootings in the past two weeks. My old high school in Jacksonville, Ill., was almost the victim of a real bombing if it had not been for brave children there going to authorities. But when a gunman can walk into an Amish school house and kill five helpless little girls in cold blood, you can bet that every parent fears for their child’s safety no matter where they are or who they voted for.

For too many Americans it seems that we are endangering our children. Unending wars, massive national debt, school violence, abuse, neglect and countless other concerns that keep parents awake at night are what America is talking about this week. Unfortunately for the GOP, Foley’s follies have only put an exclamation point on this whole debate. Because of this scandal people have begun to question whether our children would be safe even in the mere presence of our elected officials.

Children today face all kinds of dangers, whether they’re real or imagined. But when they can come from a United States Congressman, those Texas families’ protective actions suddenly don’t look that outrageous.