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Fathers Of Our Country — Obama And Romney Are Great Dads, But What About Their Predecessors?

This article is more than 7 years old.
President Theodore Roosevelt poses for a photograph with his wife Edith and his children, Ethel, Theodore Jr., Kermit, Archibald, and Quentin, at his Oyster Bay, Long Island home in 1907. (AP)
President Theodore Roosevelt poses for a photograph with his wife Edith and his children, Ethel, Theodore Jr., Kermit, Archibald, and Quentin, at his Oyster Bay, Long Island home in 1907. (AP)

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have shortcomings as leaders but, in the spirit of Father’s Day, let’s honor them as outstanding family men. They are true role models in being supportive and loving to their kids.

It’s true that we don’t know what the candidates are really like at home. Obama is likely to act differently with his two young daughters than Romney with his five grown sons. But that doesn’t stop us from imagining them as dedicated dads.

Of course, we see them through the lens of contemporary values. We want fathers to be very involved in child-rearing, regardless of career pressures. For example, we were alarmed recently by the news that British Prime Minister David Cameron accidentally left his 8-year-old daughter in a pub. It reinforced criticism that he was too fond of relaxing — “chillaxing,” he calls it. Apparently it was just a mix-up about who’d drive, but how many men must have told their wives, “At least I’ve never left our kid in a bar!”

So, let’s appreciate that we have got two good fathers vying to be father of the country. (Or is that politically incorrect on two counts? 1.) We shouldn’t be gender-specific about electing a parent of the country, even though the nominees are male, and 2.) we don’t want a president to be a parent figure; the job is to preside, not treat us like children.)

Let’s be honest, our presidents have not always been great role models for parenting. That’s understandable. They lived by different values, in different times. Indeed, most of them lived before television, so they didn’t have to project a family-friendly image.

What would we think of past presidents if we viewed them through today’s standards? Let's imagine if pundits were teleported back in time, and sent us reports on the presidents...

Arianna Huffington: “Some claim George Washington is ‘First in war — first in peace — and first in the hearts of his countrymen,’ but he’s also first to powder his hair anytime he goes out on the town. He’s not really a good father figure. He was a militarist and refused to negotiate with England. And what does it tell our kids that he lied about chopping down a cherry tree? Why would any normal person kill a fruit-bearing tree? That is not a responsible environmental message to send impressionable children."

Chris Matthews: “I’m sorry to say this, but John Adams is a typical conservative rich white guy. He’s dour and out of touch with the young people who want a more happenin’ republic. Washington was a father figure but Adams is more of a doting husband figure. I heard he writes love letters all the time to his wife, Abigail. But his kids don’t get many letters from him. John Quincy? Don’t be surprised if the kid feels neglected and ends up running for office himself, to prove something to his dad.”

Maureen Dowd: “I’m as wowed as anyone that Tom Jefferson is so accomplished – learning five languages, founding the University of Virginia, writing the Declaration of Independence, doing that Louisiana Purchase, inventor, scientist.. OK, we get it — he’s an over-achiever. But did he really have to build a mansion at his Monticello plantation? Would it kill the guy to spend more time with his kids instead?”

Rachel Maddow: “He’s affectionately known as “Old Hickory” but Andrew Jackson is a poster boy for bad behavior. He has fought in duels and created the spoils system for his macho pals. He’s a terrible father figure; he’s more like your crazy uncle."

James Carville: “I’ll lay it out for you, bald and simple — Theodore Roosevelt is a menace to society. The man could wrestle a polecat while singin’ the national anthem, but he ain’t a role model for civilized children. Think about his motto, ‘Walk softly and carry a big stick.’ That’s like somethin’ in ‘West Side Story.’ Them are fightin’ words."

Happy Father’s Day to President Obama, Governor Romney... and you and yours.

This program aired on June 15, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Todd Domke Twitter Republican Political Analyst
Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst for WBUR.

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