Daddy’s girls an as­set to dot­ing dad

Obama dis­cusses daugh­ters on va­ri­ety of na­tional is­sues

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY NANCY BENAC

Barack Obama likes to talk about his kids. What par­ent doesn’t?

But Mr. Obama isn’t just an­other dad shoot­ing the breeze about his kids’ an­tics in last night’s soc­cer game. He’s the pres­i­dent, and he brings up his daugh­ters to ex­plain his think­ing on all sorts of com­bustible na­tional is­sues.

He’s cited Sasha and Malia, now 10 and 13, in dis­cussing ev­ery­thing from the res­cue of an Amer­i­can aid worker from So­mali pi­rates to the touchy sub­ject of public ac­cess to emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion. His daugh­ters also are prom­i­nent in a fam­ily photo be­ing used by his re-elec­tion cam­paign.

Most re­cently, Mr. Obama brought up his daugh­ters when asked about con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Rush Lim­baugh’s ref­er­ence to col­lege stu­dent San­dra Fluke as a “slut” af­ter she tes­ti­fied that birth con­trol should be cov­ered by in­sur­ance.

Mr. Obama said at a news con­fer­ence that he’d called Ms. Fluke af­ter Mr. Lim­baugh made his com­ments “be­cause 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.”

In­vok­ing his daugh­ters is a way for Mr. Obama to bring big is­sues down to hu­man scale, in a dis­arm­ing way. It also is a re­minder to Amer­i­cans of the pres­i­dent’s pho­to­genic fam­ily — a price­less po­lit­i­cal as­set in an elec­tion year.

The Oba­mas can be fiercely pro­tec­tive of their daugh­ters’ privacy in some ways — com­plain­ing if the girls are pho­tographed while out on their own, for ex­am­ple — but they’ve been more than will­ing to keep bring­ing them up in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. And to keep them in the minds of vot­ers as the gen­eral elec­tion ap­proaches.

A few months ago, Mr. Obama brought up the girls in talk­ing about 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.

“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,” Mr. Obama said. He went on to say the drug shouldn’t be avail­able for sale to young girls, “and I think most par­ents would prob­a­bly feel the same way.”

In Jan­uary, when an Amer­i­can aid worker was res­cued from So­mali pi­rates by Navy SEALS, Mr. Obama thought aloud about what her fa­ther had gone through, and about his own daugh­ters.

“I can­not imag­ine what he went through — given Malia and Sasha — and for him to be able to stay strong,” the pres­i­dent said.

First lady Michelle Obama, for her part, fre­quently brings up her daugh­ters while talk­ing about her cam­paign against child­hood obe­sity. She of­ten tells about how the girls were start­ing to get off-track be­fore the fam­ily’s pe­di­a­tri­cian gave her a wake-up call.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Obama holds hands with his daugh­ters, Malia (left) and Sasha, as they leave Sea Life Park, a ma­rine wildlife park, with fam­ily friends in Waimanalo, Hawaii, in De­cem­ber.

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