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Monday, August 25, 2008

Michelle and Barack Obama as national mom and dad

Let's just stipulate that Barack and Michelle Obama have adorable daughters.

I expected Michelle Obama's speech to be thoroughly homogenized and pasteurized and reassuring. Was it? I don't know, although the part I saw was bland. I fell asleep, and only woke up near the end, when Barack Obama "joined" his family via a teleconferencing hookup from Kansas City. The opinions I have about her, I confess, are already fairly well set, and they're based on her less scripted or unscripted statements, which I tend to believe are more sincere and revelatory of her character and mindset.

Afterwards, the CNN pundits were going into the DTs. It had nothing to do with the content of Michelle Obama's speech. It was that the whole first night of the convention, they say, permitted the anti-Bush vitriol levels in their bloodstreams to drop dangerously. "There has hardly been any 'throw the bums out' tonight, what's wrong?" they demand. Well, duh. Teddy's too sick to do that tonight, and that would have been exactly contrary to the goals the campaign had for Michelle's speech. I don't think the campaign strategists would have been upset by people nodding off tonight.

Juan Williams on Fox said Michelle's speech was a great moment for the black community. I take him at his word, and I have no confidence in my own opinion on that. He also effused about what a great example this whole- and functional-family image presented for the black community. It's hard to disagree with that observation, either, and I don't. The shocking percentage of children, and especially black children, who are born out of wedlock and have no relationship with their fathers in America is an issue on which Williams has spoken out eloquently before, as has Barack Obama on occasion.

Bill Cosby has gained a great deal of notoriety on this subject; he's been an examplar of paternal responsibility for several decades now, not only as the fictional Cliff Huxtable but in his own real life. One may legitimately wish for more such conspicuous examples, and not just for blacks. (I mutter angrily to myself at convenience store checkout lines, skimming the headlines from the latest tabloids about which starlet has just borne which star's bastard child, as if that's admirable.) But is "Good Dad" an important qualification to be POTUS?

As far as I know, Jimmy Carter was a good father — taking time off from his supervision of the White House tennis court schedules to seek policy advice from his daughter Amy regarding the national malaise, if one credits his speeches. But he was the worst president in the second half of the 20th Century, a national disaster and disgrace. His successor, Ronald Reagan, was in my judgment among the best presidents of American history, but his record as a father was a more mixed one.

As the Dems' VPOTUS nominee said of the Dems' POTUS nominee: "Storybook, man." Good images, for political and other purposes. No surprises. But in terms of what she sees as her husband's role if he's elected, and how she perceives her own relationship to her country, Michelle Obama still frightens me. And I'm perfectly content for Barack Obama to continue being a good example to dads, black or otherwise, as the junior senator from Illinois.

Posted by Beldar at 10:37 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) David Blue made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 8:55:41 AM | Permalink

"But is "Good Dad" an important qualification to be POTUS?"

I think it should be.

That does not mean everybody who has the qualification will do well, and everyone who lacks it will do badly. But it's the sort of thing that should be taken into account if you care about character at all.

I do not see how voters and supporters can be so confident of their power over a man that they act as if it's a matter of indifference whether his character inclines to keeping faith or to treachery.

How can you be so vain that you think that someone who can't be counted on by his own flesh and blood would never let you, lovable you, down? Yet people with little political power to enforce their high expectations act as if they supposed exactly that.

Do oaths mean something, or do they mean nothing? If they mean nothing, what's this nonsense about an oath of office? If they mean something, then the fact that a man has broken his marriage vows means something.

Do you think how John Edwards has treated his own flesh and blood, and his loyal wife, has nothing to do with his fitness for the top office? If so, I don't agree.

Mitt Romney has had a lot of abrupt and convenient changes of opinions. Someone for whom some of his new positions are important might be forgiven for wondering whether they could trust him. In that context, I think it matters that he has a magnificent family, and it's his first as a man and his last. That means there is such a person as someone who can count on Mitt Romney. You, the ordinary voter, may not be that person. But the idea on him keeping his word is not ridiculous, because his family life shows he has the capacity to behave in a trustworthy way. That may not be much. But it's more than someone has who, say, threw over his first wife.

It's just as legitimate for people who are wondering whether they can count on Barack Obama despite his many sudden and convenient changes of stance to reflect that he too stands solidly by at least some people. You may not be the kind of people he stands by. (I hope you aren't. The kinds of people he befriends through the years - terrorists, a racketeer and preachers of race hate - are an awful reflection on his character.) But he does have a proven capacity to be loyal.

(2) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 10:55:05 AM | Permalink

Barack's "proven capacity to be loyal" is to be loyal to his own self interest.

Look he has some horrible friends and acquaintances. But he stands by them--until their flaws start to threaten him. Hark back to the decision to throw Jeremiah Wright under the bus. I would never have let that gentleman get on the bus in the first place--but Barack did and let him ride for 20 years.

But when Wright called Barack "just a politician saying what politicians say", then Barack decided it was about him. He'd been "disrespected" so the Good Reverend was thrown under the bus.

I agree that being a good father and husband is one indicator of character in a person--and I'll concede that Barack appears to be such.

So does George Bush--but the Left gives him no points for that.

Clinton--not so much. He couldn't keep his pants on

Papa Bush--probably a good father--certainly his children were successful--but there's an unproved rumor that he once cheated on Barbara. [A one time cheater is infinitely preferrable to Clinton's repeated infidelities.]

Reagan--there was a divorce in his past.

Carter--a doofus, but a good father insofar as anybody can tell.

Ford--there may have been an early divorce.

Nixon--reviled by many, but not divorced and a good father.

LBJ--he screwed around some--he had vast carnal appetites. As Lady Bird noted LBJ loved the whole world, and half of the people in the world are women.

JFK--a liberal icon--but if it walked, he hit on it. Stewardesses, secretaries, women smuggled into the White House--he hit it. A faithful husband and father? Forget it.

So David Blue, I don't agree with your thesis.

(3) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 3:44:07 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: What is it about Michelle Obama that disturbs you? For me it's this:

"She's terrific," added Michael Riordan, who was president of the hospital in March 2005, when Michelle Obama was promoted to vice president for external affairs and had her annual salary increased from $121,910 to $316,962."

That's just over two and half times what she used to make, and it happened three months after Barack was sworn into office. A year later, the University of hciago got a million dollar earmark from Barack for a new pavilion.

Financial corruption is the worst sin, in my vewi. When Billyboy was in the trough, it was Hillary who was constantly grabbing for more and more no matter how dubious e.g. Whitewater, Rose Law Firm, contracts for IT TAKES A VILLAGE. Michelle seems cut right out of that cloth. That she can identify herself with those of us who worry about where the money to fix the roof or the kids's education with a straight face is unsettling. Look for Michelle to be at the center of numerous Travelgate style scandals if The One wins.

For David and Michael: I think you are both wrong. To my mind, being a good husband/father has no correlation with being a good President. There are enough examples on either side to prove or disprove either side of the contention. Michael, some of the examples you give horrify me. Nixon, a good father? Nononononono. Don't believe me? Why did he let his daughter Julie run around the countryside making numerous speeches defending him, speeches he knew were untrue and would embarrass her badly when the truth came out? Similarly, his parading the loving letters she wrote him in his autobiography RN is embarrassing. Finally, he let Haig tell his family that he had decided to resign. If this is being a good father, than all I can say is, the standard has changed considerably.

I've never heard that Ford was "early divorced." Perhaps you mean he married a divorcee. Or perhaps you have confused it with persistent rumor that Kennedy was married young, secretly annulled, and the records destroyed. Preposterous.

Sexual fidelity is the sole measure for being a good husband or father? I must disagree, vigorously.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(4) Donna B. made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 5:47:28 PM | Permalink

Sexual fidelity as the sole measure of being a good husband or father? Not nearly enough.

Back in the day of JFK, a good husband put his wife on a pedestal and did not expect his lady to satisfy all his carnal lusts. She was a lady, after all!

(I'm not excusing him, I just know the type. My father was one.)

But JFK was a good father for the short time he got to be one. My father is still a good father. Frankly, I think they were good husbands too. My mother certainly did, even after she divorced him.

I know that seems strange to some, but marital relationships are not black and white. They are complicated and varying shades of grey.

There are mistakes made on both sides, and possibly Carol McCain's greatest marital mistake was not informing John McCain about her accident.

Justified as she was in not wanting to worry him, she also left her condition upon his return to be a complete surprise. That's much more difficult to deal with.

I'm not blaming either of them. Her accident, his POW time, and the sheer amount of time they were apart changed them both. In retrospect, I think a divorce was inevitable.

That doesn't mean John McCain wasn't a good husband or father.

What irritates me to no end is that we look for, no... we practically demand perfection in all areas of their lives from our politicians.

No wonder we're so often disappointed.

(5) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 8:18:49 PM | Permalink

Gregory Koster, I'll agree with you on the point that sexual fidelity has bupkus little to do with a person's ability to perform as POTUS.

I have no idea whether Barack Obama has or has not been faithful to Michelle Obama; I mean after all John Edwards presented himself as a wonderful husband to Elizabeth and she helped him perpetuate that fraud. The "nice family next door" Potemkin Village exhibition by the Obamas on Monday night may or may not be true.

But if you've had kids (I've got two daughters now in their mid to late 30's) you'll realize that being a good father is more about what's in the eyes of your children than in the eyes of the rest of the world. (Which is why I'll take issue with your revulsion at Richard Milhous Nixon--who certainly wasn't one of my favorite people in the world.)
If you're "there" when your child thinks you need to be "there" then, in the kid's eyes--you're a good dad. And mostly that means you need to be around because you never know when the kid is going to think that they need their Dad. They don't make appointments.

But I agree with you that being a good father--one way or another--has damn little to do with one's ability to be a good President. It does reflect in part on one's character, so it's a marker--but not a determining factor.

(6) Milhouse made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 8:53:25 PM | Permalink

Michael J Myers, why are you listing a rumour about Bush senior, a fantasy about Ford, and Reagan's divorce as stains on their character? Taking them in order, the Bush thing is only a rumour; if it's not true then it's got nothing to do with him. This is the first time I've ever heard it suggested that Ford was divorced, and not even you suggest any more details that should make us think any less of him for it. The mere fact of divorce is morally neutral; it's a pity when a marriage no longer works, but it happens.

Reagan was divorced, but so what? How is that a bad thing? There is no reason in the world to suppose that he was ever unfaithful to Jane Wyman while they were married, or that he ever wronged her in any way. She dumped him; why should that cause even the slightest smudge on his character? He didn't even meet Nancy until after the divorce, so there was certainly nothing going on there.

(7) David Blue made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 9:59:38 PM | Permalink

Michael J. Myers: "So does George Bush--but the Left gives him no points for that."

They don't, but I do.

I'm just trying to play it straight down the line, without regard for what party someone is in or whether I approve of the policies they pursue.

Here's a reasonable test of character. Who passes it? Who fails? Who gets the extra points only available for great parents who never divorce no matter whose fault the divorce was? Who fails disgracefully?

It's not the only test of course.

(8) Mckenna made the following comment | Aug 30, 2008 11:43:00 AM | Permalink

Some of you takke the hollier tah thow stance Do you suffer from amnesia or are you just looking the other way to the maritl and social atrocities committed in droves by your failthful conservative senators, congressmen etc. from solicitation for sex at the air port etc

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