Using children to do your dirty work is a sure sign you're being disingenuous.
As a reporter covering a city council in New York one night, I watched as a group of kids marched into the council chambers, followed by a handful of adults prodding them along with smiles and words of encouragement.
The adults, part of a local climate change action group, wanted the city's parks declared smoke-free zones, and they were using the kids to make their point. For the next hour, the kids presented their case with all the logic and scientific rigor of a person arguing the merits of Airborne. It wasn't their fault. They were only doing what the adults told them to do.
The council members could do nothing but nod, praise the kids for being so industrious, and fast-track a resolution banning smoking in city parks.
You can't say no to kids.
Credit where credit was due -- the adults behind the whole charade knew exactly what they were doing, and knew they'd be shot down pretty quickly if they'd tried to make the appeal themselves. But kids? What kind of heartless person would say no to kids?
Renowned climate scientist James Hansen, he of the decades of dubious disaster predictions, has adopted a similar strategy. Under the banner of his Our Children's Trust, he's rounded up 21 kids with climate-related sob stories, signing them on as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and the U.S. government.
Hansen and his group of young do-gooders argue that Obama and federal environmental agencies have robbed the children of a clean earth through inaction on climate change.
The irony here is that Obama's already issued an executive order with hard deadlines on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and replacing pollution-heavy power sources with renewable energy. It represents the most drastic action to curb climate change by any president in history. The U.S. Supreme Court moved to block the executive order in February, and the effort remains in limbo, though not for lack of trying on Obama's part.
But back to the kids. One of them, 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, has been a climate change activist since he was 6 years old. Or, more accurately, his parents have been putting him up to appearing at climate change conferences and repeating their talking points since he was 6 years old.
A video, posted to Twitter by CNN's John Sutter, shows the pint-sized Xiuhtezcatl at a climate change conference in 2005, speaking incomprehensibly into a microphone while a woman -- presumably his mother -- looks on proudly, nodding as he speaks.
"I am giving thanks to all the elements, the water, the fire, the earth, the air," Xiuhtezcatl said. "Giving thanks to them to give us life, to give us energy, to give us strength ... Most kids don't even know the Earth is sacred! That's because they spend most of their time in front of the TV, in front of video games!"
Are you going to tell me a 6-year-old came up with that half-baked nonsense that wouldn't even pass muster at a hippie commune where the buildings are made of granola? Solution to climate change: give thanks to the water and air!
But hey, why stop there? Advocates for welcoming Syrians to the U.S. should comb the refugee camps for the cutest Syrian babies and toddlers, then march them into congress and ask each legislator, "Look at him! Look at Mohammed's cute little face! Are you going to say no to him?"
The next time an MLB team wants taxpayers to foot the bill for a brand new stadium where they can buy $16 hot dogs, the franchise should hand pick the most adorable kids from that city's Little League and use their faces for a billboard campaign.
"Little Jimmy loves to watch the Rays play, but Tropicana Field is ugly and has a dome. Tell your councilman to vote yes on the proposed $1 billion ballpark. You wouldn't say no to little Jimmy, would you?"
Just in case it isn't abundantly clear by this point, it's the adults who are reprehensible for using kids to make their points. The kids are blameless. No one expects a 6-year-old to understand climate science, and kids left to their own devices are not going to dream up plans to storm a city council with cuteness and impose their will.
Behind every one of these efforts are calculating adults like Hansen, using the kids as props to elicit an emotional reaction. Lawmaking on emotion is never a good thing, as proven by the flurry of ill-advised post-9/11 legislation like the Patriot Act.
If the judge hearing Hansen's case wants the lawsuit to be decided on its merits, and not an emotional reaction to children, he should send Hansen packing and tell him not to come back until he's ditched the kids.