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Obama Family Values

From The Scrapbook

Mar 5, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 24 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook was a little surprised to learn, in the Washington Post last week, that the Obama reelection apparatus is featuring imagery of the entire First Family—Barack, -Michelle, Malia, Sasha—in its forthcoming advertising campaigns. “In the months to come,” writes the Post reporter, “political strategists expect to see the first family used as a political asset.” The Post then goes on to quote the ubiqui-tous Democratic pollster Celinda Lake: “The value of the family is enormous. The more you know this family and the more you think of Barack Obama in these terms, the harder it is to vilify him.”

Photo of the Obama Family

Barack Obama and his political assets


To which The Scrapbook responds: Oh, really?

You see, what surprises The Scrapbook is not the apparent fact that the Obamas are a nice, close-knit family, or that Malia, 13, and 10-year-old Sasha are appealing young girls. What surprises The Scrapbook is that, up until the re-election campaign of Barack Obama, news organizations such as the Washington Post have been exceedingly protective of Democratic presidential families, especially children, and highly critical of any comment made about, any attention whatsoever paid to, presidential offspring. 

Unless, of course, the children were the offspring of Republican presidents. This contemporary trend began with the election of Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was 12 years old when her father entered the White House. The senior Clintons did not want hostile attention paid to their pre-adolescent daughter—a reasonable, and understandable, concern—but this soon devolved into a blanket protectiveness about Chelsea Clinton who, at age 32, still enjoys a kind of all-encompassing immunity in the media. 

This struck The Scrapbook with especial force two years ago when, at the height of the Great Recession, venture-capitalist Chelsea was married in a lavish, multimillion-dollar ceremony at a plush Hudson River estate to the investment-banker son of an ex-Democratic congressman recently sprung from prison. The Scrapbook can only imagine how the press would have treated this spectacle had it involved, say, one of the daughters of George W. Bush. 

The fact is, of course, that presidential children of all ages have been fodder for the press and, Chelsea Clinton notwithstanding, there is no particular evidence that this did them lasting harm. The rambunctious young sons of Theodore Roosevelt were closely chronicled in their time, and their older sister Alice was covered like modern royalty. There was no blackout on reporting the speeding tickets and early marital woes of Franklin Roosevelt’s offspring, and the hostile Washington Post review of Margaret Truman’s singing debut is the stuff of legend. The Kennedys were hardly averse to publicizing photographs of Caroline and John Jr. cavorting in the Oval Office. And of course 13-year-old Amy -Carter had concerns about “nuclear weaponry and the control of nuclear arms,” which her father relayed to the nation during his debate with Ronald Reagan in October 1980. 

So The Scrapbook welcomes the two Obama girls to the world of electioneering, and is interested to learn that Sasha and Malia are regarded by the experts as “political assets.” Our only quibble is with the hypocrisy of the press—no piety, please, about tender sensibilities or family privacy—and we take rigorous exception to Celinda Lake’s assertion that the more you know about the Obamas “the harder it is to vilify” Barack. The Scrapbook thought exactly the same thing about Jenna and Barbara Bush, but that didn’t stop the -Celinda Lakes of the world from vilifying their father.

Adieu, ‘Mademoiselle’

Perhaps you heard the big news from France last week. No, not the ongoing legal travails of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was questioned by police about involvement with a prostitution ring in the northern French city of Lille. (His lawyer, by the way, has defended the former head of the IMF with Gallic flair; Strauss-Kahn, said the attorney, might not have known the professional status of the guests at his soirées: “Guess what? At these sorts of parties, one is not necessarily wearing clothes; and I defy you to try to distinguish a prostitute who is naked from a worldly woman who is naked.”)

But we digress. The big news was the victory of French feminists in getting their government to remove the distinction between married (Madame) and unmarried (Mademoiselle) females on official paperwork, of which there is no shortage in bureaucracy-besotted France. Henceforth, all females will be officially designated Madame.

This magazine’s correspondent in Paris, Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, entered a dissent in a column for the London Daily Telegraph. Writes -Mademoiselle Moutet:

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