I’m starting to think that a nice paradigm for evaluating the behavior of the candidates for President and Vice President might be what I’m going to call the what-if-it-were-my-kid test: how would I react if I learned that my own kid were behaving the same way? Let’s try this one out:

Imagine that I get a call from my daughter’s elementary school principal, asking me to come down to deal with an issue they’re having with her. I get to her school and learn that every day for the past two weeks, she’s been spending all of recess throwing a kickball at one of her classmates’ heads. I ask her to explain herself, and she says, “Well, I asked Jane to play jacks with me, and she said no, so it’s her fault!” I’m pretty sure I know how I’d react to this attempted justification — with a stern rebuke, followed by a calm discussion of how Jane is perfectly within her right to choose what she wants to do without my daughter beaning her with an inflatable ball.

Or how about this:

For an entire semester, my kid tells me he’s doing his math homework and is sailing along in class. Every night, we go over the work he has to do, and he assures me that he’s all set with math. Then his report card gets sent home, and he has a big F in math; I set up a conference with the teacher, learn that my son only turned in a handful of his homework assignments, and am handed a sheaf of (failing) quizzes he took in class. I ask my son about it, and he swears he did all his homework and did fine on his quizzes, even when presented with the evidence to the contrary. Again, I’m pretty sure there’s only one real response to this: a stern rebuke (this time accompanied by some tangible punishment), followed by an (attempted) calm discussion about lying, trust, and consequences.

Now, why are these the two examples that pop to mind? Well, the first nicely parallels John McCain saying that he’s only running a negative campaign because Barack Obama won’t do town-hall meetings with him; you can even hear him utter this amazing logical leap here, while at at the Service Nation forum (he repeated it again the next morning on The View). The whole thing feels amazing similar to a kid claiming she’s braining classmates because they won’t play jacks with her, and it feels right to treat it with the same amount of approbation.

The second what-if-it-were-my-kid scenario is a reasonable approximation of the outright lies that continue, even today, to be repeated by both McCain and his VP candidate, Sarah Palin. From their claims on their own records to their claims on Obama’s, their campaign is now firmly based in repeating claims that are known to be false in every way one can measure truth. And I’m not being hyperbolic by saying that their lies continue even today — this morning, Palin again repeated that she was against the Bridge to Nowhere (a line that she conveniently omitted from her stump speech for the few days she was actually in Alaska, speaking to the folks who damn well know better), and spokesman Tucker Bounds repeated the lie about Obama raising taxes on the middle class, a lie so egregious that even Fox News dragged him to the woodshed the minute the words left his mouth. And again, when thinking about it through the prism of my own kid doing the repeated lying, my response is simple — the bar for trusting any claims at this point from the GOP candidates is much, much higher.

I’m really liking this new paradigm.

(Oh, and Tom Toles rocks.)