In Internet age, risk of embarrassment is high
Photos of politicians' kids' bad behavior are posted on various sites.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A six-pack -- think beer, not abs -- hangs around the waist of a Senate leader's college-age son in one photo. In another, the too-young daughter of a House candidate drinks alcohol. A Senate hopeful's daughter shares an embrace and kiss with a woman in a third photo.
"Buy one, get one free," was how Bill Clinton summarized his campaign when he first ran for president in 1992, speaking of himself and wife, Hillary, as sort of a package deal.
In politics, though, it's really more like "buy one, get the whole family" -- warts and all.
"It's been a double-edged sword for history," says author Robert P. Watson. "Family members can be a big asset for a campaign and family members can be a big liability for a campaign."
Photos of newsmakers' children doing unthinkable things aren't new. What is new is that these photos showed up on the Internet, which feeds an audience far broader than the candidate's local newspaper. The photos also highlight the role -- positive or negative -- of the Internet in modern politics.
The pictures originally were posted on the social networking Web sites Facebook and MySpace, according to the gossip site Wonkette, which got the snapshots and put them on its own site.
The networking sites, popular with teens, do more than just help them keep in4
touch. The sites act like electronic versions of the dreaded supermarket tabloid, spreading teen embarrassment farther, faster.
Imagine if MySpace were around when George W. Bush was "young and stupid" and Bill Clinton partied without inhaling. Some of tomorrow's leaders are building portfolios today that may haunt them down the road. Instead of being outed by the paparazzi, these kids seem happy to expose their own exploits on the Web for themselves -- even when Dad is running for office.
In the photos, Jonathan Frist, the middle son of retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, wears a belt that holds six cans of beer.
Julia Corker, the daughter of Republican Senate hopeful Bob Corker of Tennessee, is hugging and kissing a woman.
Andrea Ellsworth, the 19-year-old daughter of Brad Ellsworth, sheriff of Vanderburgh County, Ind., is drinking beer. A supporter of Ellsworth's opponent, Republican Rep. John Hostettler, alerted the local press to the pictures after the sheriff announced his campaign in February.
Two children of Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., appeared in similar photos.
Briana Bilbray, 19, holds a Corona beer in one shot. In another, she sits on the floor beside an open cooler, with beer bottles lined up nearby. Separately, brother Patrick, 21, appears sleepy-eyed, flashing a thumbs-up and sporting a cap that says "Town Drunk."
Little harm done
None of the behavior seems to have hurt their parents' political aspirations.
Frist already had decided to retire at year's end. Corker, winner of Tennessee's Republican Senate primary, hopes to succeed Frist. Ellsworth was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Bush relied on his extensive family ties during both presidential campaigns. His wife, brothers and sister, famous parents, his daughters and at least one nephew all campaigned for him.
"For better or for worse, kin are part of the story," Watson said.
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