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Lisa Belkin


The President As Parent

Posted: 05/09/2012 6:13 pm

The President was talking about his daughters again. When explaining to ABC's Robin Roberts why he has decided to finally come out in unequivocal favor of gay marriage, he noted that Malia and Sasha have friends who are being raised by same sex parents.

"It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated different," he said. "It doesn't make sense to them and frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."

Obama often brings up his perspective as a father when explaining his thoughts and actions. Critics see hypocrisy in his insistence that the girls are off limits except when he decides otherwise. Opponents see a chance to make some fun. After he quoted Malia saying "Daddy, have you plugged the hole yet?" at a press conference after the Gulf oil spill, for instance, late night comedians had a field day (just as they had years earlier when Jimmy Carter said during a presidential debate that then 13-year-old Amy felt nuclear power was a most important issue in the campaign).

What some call politics and pandering, however, I call just plain parenting.

Of course he thinks about his children at pivotal policy moments -- don't you? Don't you wonder how you are going to explain terrorism to your second grader? And worry about whether the Supreme Court will say you can't keep your young adult child on your health insurance? And hear "debt crisis" and "global warming" and think of your grandchildren?

Like Obama, my children magnify and inform and give meaning to everything I do. And if I had the power to transform the debate on same sex marriage in this country, I'm pretty sure I would be thinking of my sons as I did so, and the ways in which this might transform their world.

I know I thought of them when I heard Obama's words today. My sons have parents who were allowed to marry. Shouldn't everyone's?

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  • March 2012

    <br>On <a href="" target="_hplink">his decision to call Sandra Fluke</a> after Rush Limbaugh disparaged her for advocating insurance coverage for birth control. </br> <br>"I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way, and I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're good citizens." </br> <br>(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)</br>

  • March 2012

    <br>After <a href=" " target="_hplink">the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin</a> by a "neighborhood watch" officer in Florida: </br> <br>"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."</br>

  • January 2012

    <br>When <a href=" " target="_hplink">an American aid worker was rescued from Somali pirates</a> by Navy SEALs, Obama thought aloud about what the worker's father must have gone through, worrying about her: </br> <br>"I cannot imagine what he went through -- given Malia and Sasha -- and for him to be able to stay strong." </br> <br>(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)</br>

  • December 2011

    <br>On the government's decision to keep the Plan B morning-after pill available only to those 17 or older, rather than allowing it to be openly sold on drugstore shelves: </br> <br>"As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine ... I think most parents would probably feel the same way."</br> <br>(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)</br>

  • May 2010

    <br>On <a href="" target="_hplink">his frustration</a> over the Gulf oil spill: </br> <br>"When I woke up this morning and I'm shaving," he said, "Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?'" I think everybody understands that, when we are fouling the Earth like this. It has concrete implications not just for this generation but for future generations."</br> <br>(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)</br>

  • February 2011

    <br>And on an indirectly related note h<a href="" target="_hplink">e prayed about his daughter</a> at a National Prayer Breakfast: </br> <br>"Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys. Lord, let her skirt get longer as she travels to that place." </br> <br>(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)</br>


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