Memo to Marian Wright Edelman: Don’t Sue Dubya!

U.S. News’ “Washington Whispers” column reports this week that the Children’s Defense Fund “is considering legal action if Bush doesn’t drop” his use of the phrase “Leave no child behind,” the official theme of the Republican convention’s opening night. “Leave no child behind” has been CDF’s registered trademark since 1994. President and founder Marian Wright Edelman sounded a slightly more conciliatory note in a New York Times op-ed published July 29 (the day U.S. News’ “Whispers” column hit the Web):

If plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, I am more than happy to be flattered that the theme of the Republican National Convention’s opening night on Monday is “Leave No Child Behind”–the four words that constitute the Children’s Defense Fund’s trademark. … “Leave No Child Behind” should be more than the theme for an evening at a convention or even a trademark for an organization.

Apparently, though, CDF is still mulling that lawsuit. Susanne Martinez, senior vice president for policy at CDF, confirmed to Chatterbox: “We’ve asked them both [the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee] to stop using the trademark phrase. … We’ve asked them to cease and desist.” CDF, she said, is now conferring with its lawyers. Chatterbox finds this stance absurd. CDF is a nonprofit organization, and in order to maintain its tax exemption it’s supposed to be nonpartisan. The spirit of this prohibition is violated by Washington think tanks all the time, of course–most glaringly by the American Enterprise Institute’s recent Hillary Clinton hatefest. But for CDF to claim trademark infringement by the Republicans would rather starkly call into question whether CDF was in business to help children or to screw Republicans. Even granting that Bush and the Republicans are only pretending to appropriate CDF’s activist agenda, it’s hard to see how CDF can have the right to tell politicians what phrases they may or may not use. (Chatterbox doesn’t remember hearing cries of copyright infringement in 1984 when Walter Mondale appropriated “Where’s the Beef?”) Chatterbox strongly suspects the Republicans would be able to demonstrate that CDF has never minded particularly when Democrats have appropriated CDF’s slogan. (Martinez says, “We don’t know of any Democrats that have used the phrase,” but Chatterbox will bet she hasn’t looked very hard.)

A more creative way for CDF to protest would be to generate derogatory anagrams for “Leave no child behind” and to suggest that these reveal the Republicans’ (though not, of course, CDF’s) true meaning. Availing himself of the Anagram Genius Server, Chatterbox has done just that. Here are some of the better selections:

Oh Hell! Bind deviance
Oh! Vile and idle bench.
Oh! Chained, vile blend.
Oh! Evil bled nice hand
Hello! Vice and behind.
Oh! Leech bland divine.