"Who are your Milk Carton Politicians?” asked the political website Hot Air on August 16, 2009—a reference to the milk carton photos of missing children. New York City experienced the well-known missing child case of Etan Patz in 1979; in 1984-85, the faces of missing children were put on the milk cartons sold in many American cities.
By at least 1990, politicians put their political opponents’ faces on milk cartons when these opponents went “missing” on a debate or on an issue. The image of “milk carton politicians” was known well before the term “milk carton politician” was first used.
Television Tropes and Idioms
Face On A Milk Carton
In the United States during the mid-1980s, there was a practice of putting the faces of children who had gone missing (and were presumably kidnapped or abducted) on a milk carton, in an attempt to get neighbors of the person who had abducted the child to notice and report him or her.
Wikipedia: Etan Patz
Etan Kalil Patz (October 9, 1972 – unknown; legally dead 2001) was a six-year-old child who disappeared in lower Manhattan on May 25, 1979. At the time, news coverage of Patz’s disappearance was made into a media circus in the New York City area. He is arguably the most famous missing child of New York City. His disappearance helped spark the missing children’s movement, including new legislation, new awareness, and various methods for tracking down missing children, such as the milk carton campaigns of the mid eighties.
Google News Archive
30 November 1984, Toledo (OH) Blade, pg. 14, cols. 5-6:
Chicago Milk Cartons To Carry
Pictures of Missing Children
18 January 1985, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Milk Cartons to Come With an Appeal for Lost Children” by Glenn Burkins, San Diego County edition, metro secition, pg. 1:
Frank Najor estimated that he will pay $20,000 a year to print the pictures on the 120,000 milk containers distributed daily by his company. In addition, the company will offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of any of the children whose pictures appear on the cartons.
New York (NY) Times
Conflicitng Accounts of Words in Congress
Special to The New York Times
Published: Saturday, October 20, 1990
“There is a face that is going to be appearing on the grocery shelves if he dows not get back to Washington pretty soon,” Representative Bob Wise, Democrat of West Virginia, said during a recent House speech. He held up a milk carton emblazoned with a photograph of President Bush. “Come Home, President Bush. Call a toll-free number. We will pick you up. Get to the summit meeting where you belong.”
Google News Archive
5 August 1992, Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “LaRocco: Milk carton photo ‘insensitive,’” pg. B3, col. 2:
LEWISTON—U.S. Rep. Larry LaRocco, D-Idaho, said it was insensitive of Coeur d’Alene tax activist Ron Rankin to put his picture on a milk carton.
8 September 1992, Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette, “Missing candidate Joe Early turns up on milk carton”:
ATTLEBORO - U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Early opted to skip a debate yesterday for 3rd District congressional candidates, but his face made an appearance - on a milk carton brandished by a Democratic opponent.
Martin F. Healey, a former prosecutor from Southboro, held up a carton with a caricature of the nine-term congressman under the word “Missing.”
21 October 1994, Washington (DC) Post, “The politician’s pick-up line” by William F. Powers, pg. C1:
The bumper of today’s lead car is covered with Republican stickers, including one that says: “HAPPINESS IS CLINTON’S FACE ON A MILK CARTON.”
New York (NY) Times
Mayoral Ambitions And Sharp Elbows; Councilwoman Spars Way Into a Position of Influence
By WINNIE HU
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2004
The invitation for a private luncheon with Councilwoman Eva S. Moskowitz in November was sent to a select group of high-powered women, including business executives, philanthropists and writers. While not a fund-raiser, it was nevertheless a forum for the councilwoman’s political ambitions.
Others, though, said Ms. Moskowitz has been so busy making a name for herself that she has neglected the district’s needs. Michael D. Cohen, a lawyer who ran against her in November, had a campaign advertisement picturing Ms. Moskowitz on the side of a milk carton with the message, ‘’Have you seen me?’’
15 October 2004, Tallahassee (FL) Democrat, “Big battle in a big district; State Senate District 3” by Bill Cotterell:
“I even put his face on a milk carton in one mailout,” she told an interviewer.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
State races: But wait, there’s more!
By Daniel C. Vock, Stateline.org Staff Writer
The New York Post mocked Hevesi for his evasiveness with an illustration showing the comptroller’s face on a milk carton. Hevesi eventually debated Callagher and talked to Post reporters.
2 November 2006, Bakersfield (CA) Californian, “I’ll be back (to Bakersfield)” by Steven Mayer, pg. B1:
When Gray Davis was governor, he visited the valley so infrequently a regional newspaper cartoonist drew a cartoon of Davis’ face on a milk carton.
Who are your Milk Carton Politicians?
posted at 2:26 pm on August 16, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Earlier today, I noted that New Hampshire’s media had taken notice that their Congressional delegation had gone missing during the August recess, rather than hold town-hall meetings to face their constituents about the health-care reform package. I joked that they had put Paul Hodes, Carol Shea-Porter, and Jean Shaheen on milk cartons, a reference to the admirable effort of milk producers to help find missing children. Green Room contributor Patrick Ishmael at AIP’s blog noted that Missourians needed to put a picture of Ike Skelton on a few milk cartons, too:
It seems to me that we need to start a list of Milk Carton Politicians — members of the House and Senate who go MIA when they should be meeting with their constituents to hear their concerns over the health-care overhaul, cap-and-trade, the failure of the stimulus package, and the exploding federal deficit. Who else belongs on a milk carton?
The Barton Bulletin
The Milk Carton Politicians
August 16, 2009
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, August 16, 2009 • Permalink