The Obamas have said repeatedly, quite rightly, that their daughters, Malia and Sasha, are "off limits" to the press. And yet, they choose, at random, which members of the media may ask them to go into private detail about the lives of these two girls.
On December 26, 2012, ABC's Nightline featured a Barbara Walters interview with the Obamas, in which President Obama, in an apparent attempt at humor, said one of the main reasons he had run for president was to have men with guns around his daughters at all times. A ironic comment for a man skeptical of others packing heat to protect loved ones.
But what I found truly bothersome about this interview was the willingness--even eagerness--of the Obamas to thrust their daughters' personal lives into the spotlight when it suits them. Of course, they do this, as they do everything: intentionally, in an effort to show what great parents they are--down to earth, dealing with the same challenges all of us parents of teenagers face. But what makes them great parents is protecting their children from prying eyes despite their existence in a virtual fishbowl. When the Obamas decide to put very personal aspects of their children's lives--dating, lying, monitoring their choices, etc.--on display for whatever reasons, well, I question their judgment. And I certainly feel for the girls.
During the interview, in another awkward attempt at jocularity, the president said the girls are "not very good at lying." (I may be wrong, but Michelle didn't look too comfy with that line.) He said Malia can date now that she's a teenager. . . . And Michelle proclaimed that her daughter would never know when she might come in and check her phone, and who she's talking to and about what.
Now, I'm not condemning the content of what they said from a general parenting standpoint--though personally I think 13 is a wee-bit young to begin dating--but I am saying the Obama's should stick with a very wise, compassionate approach of keeping the girls' lives private. Talk in generalities, but for heaven's sake, we don't need to know what kind of rules these children live under, nor whether they occasionally slip up and fib, or talk to boys on the phone. That is a recipe for a challenging adolescence. And it's hypocritical, to boot.
This has been the modus operandi for the Obamas, though. They talk about the girls when it suits them politically. The president invoked them during the Sandra Fluke episode. And when doing an about face by endorsing gay marriage. And when endorsing sex education that included information about abortion, saying, "I don't want [my daughters] punished with a baby." The notion is that Americans will be more sympathetic when he invokes his girls. Maybe so. But that doesn't make it beneficial to the girls.
Look, I know some will say this is a conservative's attempt to attack Obama at every turn, even in an area on which he's almost universally acclaimed. But his willingness to use his daughters, and it's impact on them, has concerned me for some time. I even pointed it out in my book on Obama. I'm coming at this as the mother of teenagers. I know how they feel when I mention them in public. For the most part, hey'd rather I not.