CLOSE
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Why Do Politicians Kiss Babies?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When a politician hits the campaign trail, it’s expected that he or she will press a plethora of palms and embrace a lot of infants. The handshaking makes sense, but the baby-kissing tradition is often an awkward, germy situation for everyone involved. So why does anyone do it?

It turns out there’s precedent for smooching chubby cheeks that goes back to Andrew Jackson, and maybe further. According to a story printed in 1887, Jackson, aware that baby-handling was part of the deal, eagerly grabbed a dirty-faced infant from his mother during an 1833 tour of New Jersey, declaring the tot “a fine specimen of American childhood.” Then he thrust the baby into the face of his Secretary of War, General John Eaton, and said, “Eaton, kiss him.” The secretary pretended to do so, everyone laughed, and the mother had a great story to tell her friends and family. Although there are several anachronisms in this story—the most obvious being that John Eaton had resigned from the position of Secretary of War two years prior—there have been several stories of politicians kissing babies since, including Abraham Lincoln.

Today, politicians believe that showing a softer side can help them win more votes; at the very least, they may sway the doting parent. In return, in a best case scenario, mom or dad can say their child met the future President of the United States. Worst case, it’s a photo op with a famous politician. Not a bad addition to the baby book.

Not everyone thinks baby-kissing is such a great tactic, however. After Benjamin Harrison politely declined to bestow a smooch on one in 1889, suffragist/activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton praised him, and quoted the editor of the New York Tribune, who wrote, “The parent who always expects the baby to be kissed, and the person who feels bound to kiss every baby that comes within reach are equally foolish and obnoxious characters. Children have a right to their kisses as well as older folks. They should not be made the prey of every officiously amiable person in their circle.”

Nonetheless, the tradition continued, even though some politicians expressed distaste for it. Richard Nixon refused to do it, worrying that such stunts would make him "look like a jerk." Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate, disliked the practice, even once telling The New York Times, "As a mother, my instinctive reaction is how do you give your baby to someone who's a total stranger to kiss, especially with so many colds going around? And especially when the woman is wearing lipstick? I mean, I find that amazing that someone would do that.’’ But she did it to keep the masses happy.

On the flip side, 1968 Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey defended his affection for children as genuine, stating that being around youngsters after long hours of glad-handing adults left him feeling “refreshed.”

Modern-day candidates are split: Bernie Sanders preferred to avoid baby-kissing, Hillary Clinton does it, and Donald Trump has, too. At the end of the day, as long as politicians think puckering up to a tot will help move the needle, the puzzling practice isn't going away.

[h/t Mother Jones]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
fun
No One Can Figure Out This Second Grade Math Problem
iStock
iStock

Angie Werner got a lot more than she bargained for on January 24, when she sat down to help her 8-year-old daughter, Ayla, with her math homework. As Pop Sugar reports, the confusion began when they got to the following word problem:

“There are 49 dogs signed up to compete in the dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete. How many small dogs are signed up to compete?”

Many people misread the problem and thought it was a trick question: if there are 36 more small dogs and the question is how many small dogs are competing, then maybe the answer is 36?

Wrong!

Frustrated by the confusing problem, Angie took to a private Facebook group to ask fellow moms to weigh in on the question, which led to even more confusion, including whether medium-sized dogs should somehow be accounted for. (No, they shouldn’t.) Another mom chimed in with an answer that she thought settled the debate:

"Y'all. A mom above figured it out. We were all wrong. If there is a total of 49 dogs and 36 of them are small dogs then there are 13 large dogs. That means 36 small dogs subtracted by 13 large dogs then there are 23 more small dogs than large dogs. 36-13=23. BOOM!!! WOW! Anyone saying there's half and medium dogs tho just no!"

It was a nice try, but incorrect. A few others came up with 42.5 dogs as the answer, with one woman explaining her method as follows: "49-36=13. 13/2=6.5. 36+6.5=42.5. That's how I did it in my head. Is that the right way to do it? Lol I haven't done math like this since I was in school!"

Though commenters understandably took issue with the .5 part of the answer—an 8-year-old is expected to calculate for a half-dog? What kind of dog show is this?—when Ayla’s teacher heard about the growing debate, she chimed in to confirm that 42.5 is indeed the answer, but that the blame in the confusion rested with the school. "The district worded it wrong,” said Angie. “The answer would be 42.5, though, if done at an age appropriate grade."

Want to try another internet-baffling riddle?


Here's the answer.

[h/t: Pop Sugar]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Open Einstein
arrow
fun
You Can Now Print 3D Replicas of Einstein's Childhood Toys
Open Einstein
Open Einstein

For children, playtime is an essential part of cognitive development. Now, you can give them toys that befit their genius: 3D replicas of the ones that Albert Einstein himself played with.

The LEGO Foundation, Unilever, and IKEA have launched Open Einstein, a site where you can download a 3D printing kit that allows you to make exact replicas of the wooden blocks the Nobel Prize-winning physicist played with during his childhood in Germany. "Play empowers children to create and learn for the rest of their lives," the site declares. "It is a fundamental right for all children."

The 3D printing kit provides designs for 36 toy blocks of various sizes and shapes. Einstein's wooden boxes of blocks, made by the German company Anker-Steinbaukasten, are currently held by a collector named Seth Kaller. (According to his website, you can buy them if you have $160,000 on hand.)

A dark image labeled 'Open Einstein' with wooden blocks in the background
Open Einstein

The 3D printing kit contains model instructions for only a fraction of the 160 blocks in the original set, which Einstein reportedly used throughout his childhood to erect complex structures at home. He wasn't the only famous fan of the toys: Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and other notable creatives played with the same blocks.

If you're looking for a particularly erudite toy to nurture your child's mind, blocks—whether Einstein-related or not—are a pretty good choice. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that playing with blocks can enhance problem-solving skills, fine-tune motor skills, and boost creativity.

Your child may never come up with world-changing scientific theories, but if nothing else, hopefully the set will impart some of the genius's sense of creativity. Or at least his delightful playfulness.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios