Puppets and politics have lots of connections, from puppet states to the always-influential protest puppets. But a more important question is still unanswered: which politicians are most comfortable with actual puppets? And what would their ideal puppet policies be?
Unfortunately, politicians aren't universally forced to appear with puppets, but a surprisingly large number have posed with our puppet friends. Should the puppet vote increase in the future, these rankings will be crucial. Here they are, ranked from the Reagan era to the present day:
5) Hillary Clinton looks like she can't believe she's within 50 feet of a puppet
Puppet comfort level: 0.2 out of 10
Analysis: When the former first family visited a production of Avenue Q in 2003, Hillary Clinton did not look comfortable. Despite getting to meet the puppet Kate Monster, an inspiring kindergarten teaching assistant in the play, Clinton looks like she may later have her staff attack both puppet and puppeteer. In fact, she looks like being near a puppet caused her physical pain (she may have an undiagnosed allergy to felt, though disclosure forms have indicated nothing of the kind).
How she'd shift puppet policy: All the puppets will be destroyed, and the puppeteers will have to get real jobs. Emails from puppets will be deleted immediately.
4) Ronald Reagan's meeting with Puppet Reagan makes him feel strange
Puppet comfort level: 4.2 out of 10
Analysis: In some ways, it's surprising that "the Great Communicator" felt so uncomfortable with this puppet in 1987. The mood was light when chief of staff Howard Baker showed President Reagan the boxing Puppet Reagan, but the President appears hesitant to truly engage.
The question is why. The most likely answer: the jar of jellybeans on the desk in the lower left corner, which Reagan is probably more interested in. He may be wondering, "Why doesn't Puppet Reagan notice those jellybeans?" or, "How can I gracefully transition this conversation to those jellybeans?"
Unfortunately, it's unclear whether Reagan and Puppet Reagan ever did share the candy.
How he'd shift puppet policy: The puppets will get jellybeans — but little else.
3) Michelle Obama is faking her puppet comfort
Puppet Comfort Level: 6.5 out of 10
Analysis: Let's be clear: Michelle Obama is very comfortable with puppets, easily surpassing Ronald Reagan and Hillary Clinton. However, her many appearances on Sesame Street and with other puppets prompt a serious question: is she truly invested in the puppets, or is she just trying to entertain kids? This photo, from a 2013 summit with Elmo in the State Dining Room, illustrates the problem.
Michelle has a heightened, kid-friendly approach when acting with puppets. While that behavior suits the various causes she promotes, it doesn't establish better human/puppet relations. Based on these pictures, it's difficult to believe the first lady would bare her soul to a puppet or engage with one in a high-level policy discussion. There's a bit of irony in her puppet interactions, but puppets don't want a performance — they want to be treated with respect.
How she'd shift puppet policy: The puppets will be mascots and court jesters, but never enter the inner circle.
2) George W. Bush looks willing to consult puppets on statecraft
Puppet comfort level: 8.8 out of 10
Analysis: At a 2004 White House Christmas reception, George Bush looked willing to discuss serious issues of national policy with a puppet. He looked into the puppet's eyes and saw its puppet soul.
Of course, we would never assume Bush revealed any classified information to the puppet — he probably focused on more arcane policy matters or inside-the-beltway gossip. But his candor with the puppet shows an impressive willingness to trust the intellect of puppets and connect with them.
Thanks to the continuing Bush influence in national politics, we may see a puppet president someday soon.
How he'd shift puppet policy: Puppets will be allowed to have high-level security clearances. Some puppets will secure key Cabinet positions.
1) Bill Clinton is a puppet's best friend
Puppet comfort level: 10.0 out of 10
Analysis: Bill Clinton's time with the Avenue Q stars in 2003 was a lot different from Hillary's. Here, he's seen bonding with Trekkie Monster, a fun-loving, pornography-obsessed puppet in the play.
So many things give President Clinton his perfect-10 puppet comfort level. He lacks Michelle Obama's tongue-in-cheek approach and George W. Bush's intellectual detachment — Clinton is all in. He looks like he's about to invite Trekkie Monster on a worldwide jaunt on Ron Burkle's jet.
It wasn't a one-time phenomenon, either: Clinton bonded with Kate Monster, as well.
Clinton is, and always will be, the puppet king.
How he'd shift puppet policy: Puppets will sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. Puppets will fly on Air Force One. Puppets will dine on great vegan food. Puppets will speak at CGI conferences. Puppets will hobnob with George Clooney at Lake Como. Puppets will do it all.