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September 04, 2012

How Will the GOP Turn Obama's Dad-ness into a Liability?


There's no point in avoiding it anymore.  The presidential campaign is on, in all its twisted, perverse splendor.  I thought I wasn't going to get completely wrapped up in it this time; but really, once I saw Clint Eastwood berating a chair at the Republican National Convention, I knew that there was no turning back.  Now it's pretty much all I can think about.

The Democrats will have their turn starting later today at the convention in Charlotte, and I'm sure some hi-jinx and cringe-inducing stagecraft is in the offing from their side as well.

But meanwhile I've been reading and seeing and hearing a theme in the reporting on President Obama that, frankly, I find quite touching.  Maybe I'm a sap who is blinded by my own lefty political leanings and relatively recent entry into fatherhood, but when the President responds to criticism that he's bad at "schmoozing" by explaining that he'd rather spend his evenings and weekends with his family than with lobbyists and donors, I get a little misty.

This piece in the New Yorker looks at some of the reasons that Republicans are eating Obama's lunch when it comes to squeezing campaign money out of billionaires.  The author, Jane Mayer, speculates that part of it is due to the President's discomfort with the influence of the super-rich in political campaigns, especially since it's become virtually unfettered since the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, to which Obama has expressed opposition from day one.  It would look bad for him to go after all the money that was freed up by that decision now.

But, as Mayer explains, the President claims that, really, he simply wants to be home for dinner and to help his daughters with their school work.

My second thought, after the sentimental swooning passed, was: how is the Romney camp going to turn this against Obama? 

Even if Obama is using his super-dad cred to avoid saying that he doesn't want to spend any more time with sleazy politicos and influence-peddlers than he has to, how can his opponents find fault with his statements?  If it's a calculated move to increase his likeability factor, it's ingenious.  

Then I read this piece on CNN.com, along with a video teaser for an upcoming  interview with the President.  The angle on this was a bit different, focusing less on the criticism of Obama's fund-raising acumen, and more on what his opponents say is his lack of willingness to reach across the aisle.  In other words, he's not schmoozing enough with his political foes, i.e., consensus building, because he wants to spend more time with his family.

And sure enough, several commenters on the CNN.com article accuse him of not making the sacrifices that come with being the Leader of the Free World.  If members of our Armed Forces are expected to miss out on family time, shouldn't the Commander in Chief be willing to do the same?

I have to admit, had G.W. Bush said he couldn't make it to a war briefing because Jenna had a mid-term and he needed to read flash-cards with her, I would not have been sympathetic.

But, on the other hand, the schmoozing Obama is avoiding seems to be of the glad-handing, back-room-deal sort that all politicians, especially conservatives, claim to loathe.

What do you think about Obama playing the dad-card when pressed about his disinterest in schmoozing?  Is he an inspiration to parents, or is he shirking his responsibilities to his party and/or his country?



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