Kids are upstaging their political parents — by acting like kids

Jun 7, 2024, 9:21 AM | Updated: Jun 11, 2024, 11:56 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — For one shining moment this week, the country’s ongoing political crises were swept away by the comedic power of one cherubic and wildly exuberant 6-year-old.

Rep. John Rose, R-Tenn., was giving an impassioned defense of former President Donald Trump when his young son Guy went into action. As C-Span recorded the moment, Guy mugged for the camera, stuck his tongue out, rolled his eyes and generally seemed to be having a blast. The nation reacted with a burst of pure bipartisan giddiness. Even Sen. Mitch McConnell’s press secretary joined in the fun.

Guy’s moment in the spotlight is the latest example of political kids upstaging their parents and bringing a moment of levity to the official workings of government. It’s also a solid case study on the sheer unifying power of humor.

“It reminds us that we’re all humans, we all have children. And maybe these things we’re fighting about aren’t all that important,” said Caleb Warren, co-director of the University of Colorado’s Humor Research Lab and a marketing professor at the University of Arizona. “And for him to be doing that during one of these hyperpolitical speeches, that’s what makes it special … If he was just making those faces in the classroom, it wouldn’t have been the same.”

That incongruity between behavior and environment is key, according to Tamara Sharifov, a licensed clinical social worker based in San Diego who uses humor in therapy sessions, mediation and conflict resolution. Sharifov recently spoke on a panel in Washington about the healing power of humor.

“Comedy allows a shift in perspective and a softening. It allows for an increase in empathy and a calmer environment,” she said. “It’s very healing. It breaks through rigidity.”

A day after his House antics, Guy was at it again, rolling on the White House lawn during the annual congressional picnic.

He now joins a long and proud line of political kids gaining attention for publicly acting like kids. Perhaps his purest spiritual predecessor is young Andrew Giuliani mugging his way through his father Rudy’s 1994 mayoral inauguration — a performance so iconic that it merited a Saturday Night Live parody.

“This is my Guy!!!,” Andrew Giuliani tweeted Tuesday, linking to the C-Span clip.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ irrepressible son Jack, then 4 years old, gained attention for his enthusiastic dancing during the 2005 ceremony when former President George W. Bush was introducing Roberts as a Supreme Court nominee. And an infamous Oval Office photo features the young son of a Secret Service agent face-planting into a couch as his parents chat in the background.

Sometimes the kiddie cuteness is slightly engineered — as when the White House made an event out of Take Our Kids to Work Day with kids acting as Secret Service agents and reporters.

And sometimes the attention isn’t always positive. In 2014, Sasha and Malia Obama acted very much like a pair of bored, eye-rolling teenagers as their father spoke during an admittedly boring Thanksgiving turkey pardoning press conference. A Republican congressional staffer publicly blasted the pair for their lack of decorum and quickly resigned under pressure.

As for the newest member of this elite club, young Guy Rose has already achieved a notable form of bipartisanship in these fractured times. Father and son appeared together on CNN and Fox News, and the youngster’s comedic confidence seemed to gain momentum over time.

When asked to describe his father’s job, Guy told Fox News his dad “does boring stuff.”

And when Rep. Rose started to give a very political answer about how interesting it is to meet and learn from his constituents, Guy — with a stage whisper and epic comedic timing — said, “He’s not telling the truth!”

Rep. Rose has taken all the fuss in good spirits — especially considering that he was in the middle of giving a fairly angry speech that basically nobody listened to.

“Guy has been a source of joy in our family since we brought him home from the hospital six years ago,” Rose told The Associated Press. “I certainly had no idea he was making those faces behind me while I was delivering remarks, but in hindsight, I’m glad he did. I think we all needed that laugh.”


Correction: This story was first published on June 7, 2024. It was updated on June 11, 2024, to correct that John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.

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Kids are upstaging their political parents — by acting like kids