The dust had barely settled on President Obama's March 6 public interjection of daughters Malia and Sasha into the Sandra Fluke "slutgate" controversy, when we learned of 13 year-old Malia's solo Spring Break in Mexico. The White House promptly demanded media censorship for the First Teenybopper, scolding them with the solemn Don't-Publicly-Mention-Our-Kids mantra:
From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.
Predictably, the major media news outlets bowed to White House wishes and scrubbed references to Malia's Mexico trip, presumably because it had no "vital news interest".
So, it's officially off-limits to question or discuss Obama's bizarre decision to send underage Malia on a solo Spring Break trip to Mexico in defiance, by the way, of his own State Department's stern Travel Warning. Yet one day earlier, on Monday, Michelle Obama went on the David Letterman show and publicly discussed their child-rearing philosophy of instilling "South Side Chicago" values in the girls. So what IS the media standard, then, on stories relating to the Obamas' child-rearing decisions? They're public matters on Mondays but off limits on Tuesdays?
The media was not always so obesiant about reporting on First Family daughters. In a 2001 editorial, USA Today set the tone and the ground rules for reporting on the Bush twins' partying:
These facts are news, and there's no reason for the media or the public to be red-faced in following the story. When Americans elect a president, they elect a first family.
Double standard? While Obama unhesitantly exploits his daughters when politically expedient, he becomes self-righteously protective when no political value is evident. But something is disingenuous and awry in the manner President Obama keeps inserting his 10 and 13 year-old daughters, Sasha and Malia, into the public discourse. Apparently, the first daughters are only photoworthy and newsworthy when they are they are with their parents or when they are useful gender props to exploit political issues.
When recently asked about “slutgate," Obama personalized the issue by mentioning his daughters by name. Also recently, when asked about the “morning after pill” – the abortifacient for date rape or unprotected sex – Obama again brought up his daughters. In 2008, when asked about abortion, Obama dragged his then 7 and 9 year-old daughters into the issue, complaining he didn’t want them “punished” with a baby.
And the media seem comfortable with the President publicly referencing his underage girls in national controversies (the same that charged Palin with using her baby as a prop simply by bringing him with her on the campaign trail). Recently the AP cooed and chortled over Obama’s sexual innuendos:
When the president visited a Master Lock factory in Milwaukee last month... he got a laugh from the workers when he told them: "As I was looking at some of the really industrial-size locks, I was thinking about the fact that I am a father of two girls who are soon going to be in high school and that it might come in handy to have these super locks."
In a similar vein, he told a National Prayer Breakfast last year that he has prayed, "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."
The crowd loved it.
The AP fawned over Obama’s use of his daughters as a “disarming” way “to bring big issues down to human scale” and “to remind Americans of the president’s photogenic family, a priceless political asset in an election year.”
Really? Publicly referencing his daughters in such a manner, to score political points and elicit snickers from guys, is “disarming?" Photos as a political asset is one thing, but this is different.
But no odd looks from the Make-Believe Media. Nothing about the dubious parenting choice of allowing a middle school girl to vacation alone in Mexico on Spring Break, or go to a dance with boys in a too-short skirt. The AP dotes on Obama without questioning the political desperation of a man who uses his own daughters as political props in improper contexts.
By contrast, if Sarah Palin holds her infant child anywhere on the campaign trail, leftwing blogs and comedians viciously attack her as a mother for using her children as stage props. Meanwhile, Obama gets photo ops and glowing praise for protecting his little girls from pregnancy and any consequences of sexual promiscuity, while sending his own 13-year-old out of the country with BFFs for a spring fling sans parents. Disengenous is hardly the word for the media's treatment of Palin and its blind eye for Obama.
I agree that a President’s daughters should be off limits to the press, but Obama shamelessly and repeatedly drags them into controversial issues. He invites public scrutiny of his little girls just for perceived gain in a political debate on “women’s issues." Personally, I do not WANT to know the President’s thoughts on his daughters’ immodest dress or how he views their prospects for using morning-after pills, or how they'd handle unplanned pregnancies. While the issues are certainly fair subjects for public debate, personal practices are p-r-i-v-a-t-e.
Most Americans agree with the “off limits” rule for a President’s children. It cheapens the dignity of the office and the First Family when the President disregards that rule to suit his political whims. If only the First Couple could abide by their own rule themselves.