Politics is a touchy business.
There was a time when a kiss and a big hug was de rigour for a politician. Pressing the flesh is a vital part of a campaign.
Politicians shake hands, they hug, and there is the ultimate political gesture kissing a baby.
Now with the attacks on touchy feely Joe Biden coming under attack will that old time honored campaign ritual of baby kissing go by the wayside, as out of touch as a rotary phone?
Lets not throw the baby kissing out with the bathwater.
The politician and the bald-headed baby were made for each other.
A baby’s first kiss from a politician is always remembered and mine in 1955 was no exception.
That year my parents believed that as a four-month old it was time for me to be introduced to “The American Way” at an Independence Day campaign rally in my suburban Long Island town.
July Fourth was Nassau County’s official political campaign kickoff.
The heat seemed to have little effect on the swarm of soggy, seersucker-suited town clerk, and district court judge candidates who were buzzing around the rally. Their well-honed eyes were darting amongst the crowd for a shapely leg to admire and a baby to kiss.
Displaying high-beam campaign poster smiles, the politicians, along with their adoring Vic Tanney-toned wives, shook hands while handing out ambiguous promises as easily as they gave out promotional emery boards and plastic rain bonnets with their names printed on them.
Nothing said the America Way of Life more than that age-old kiss from a politician and it didn’t take long before some VFW hat-wearing, county comptroller wannabee’s radar had me in his sights.
Mopping his brow, and peeling off his jacket, the well-upholstered Sicilian-American with a melting pot belly waddled over towards us. Clumsily clutching a hot dog in one hand, the juices trickled down his chin as he bent over to kiss me on the top of my head with his garlicky breath.
With a greasy hand, he presented Mom with a wink and a green plastic comb emblazoned with his name on it hoping to win her vote. The tangy residue of French’s yellow mustard and the sandpaper sensation of the heavy stubble on his chin lingered on my forehead longer than his name lingered with my parents.
But when a balding gentleman with a sharp nasal voice and unruly eyebrows chose my own bald little head to kiss, Mom was ecstatic.
Despite the heat, the charismatic Republican N.Y. State Attorney General, Jacob Javits, was crisp and cheerful in a chocolate brown suit and purple-hued tie.
“That should be good for a few dozen votes when he runs for the Senate next year,” my father said.
There was talk of the affable Attorney General running for N.Y. Senator next year which explained why Javits was out in full force helping local campaigns in our small suburban town.
The Jews claimed Jack Javits as one of their own.
A son of Jewish immigrants, a boychik born in a tenement on the Lower East Side of N.Y.C. helped explain why he was the first and only Republican my Roosevelt-nik -Democrat mother ever voted for. The fact that he had run against F.D.R. Jr. in last year’s Attorney General election made the choice even more agonizing for her but the Jewish card trumped everything.
As the compact Javits bent down to kiss me, his breath fruity from a constant consumption of cough-suppressing, cherry flavored cough drops, a skinny young photographer from The Long Island Press snapped his Graflex Speed Graphic and captured the moment forever.
Along with my vaccination records, the now brittle yellowing paper is tucked into my baby book where it remains to this day.
Lets hope the baby kissing tradition remains too.