Barack Obama may make it to the Rose Garden, but he’ll still be an orchid. For all his attempts to act like a sturdy American perennial, he’s a genuine hothouse flower, and everything he is and does is cultivated.
He has been trying of late to show off his dad cred — both as a potentially strong dad for the country and as a good dad to his daughters.
His liberal supporters were stung when he tacked to the right on Iraq and government snooping. But the man who grew up without a father clearly felt the need to beef up his image as someone who could be a protective parent for America and Iraq.
The Republican game is hilariously transparent: if Obama doesn’t shift to more muscular postures, he’s not a patriot. If he does, he’s a flip-flopper.
Refining the Iraq stance was fine. Reconsidering the eavesdropping position was sketchy. But he definitely went one “re” too far when he appeared on all three morning shows and revisited his decision to allow his daughters to be interviewed on “Access Hollywood.”
Some of his closest political allies were appalled to see Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, formerly off limits, being interviewed, and the allies told Obama afterward that it was a mistake to open that door.
The girls were impossibly cute and charming and a tribute to the Obamas’ parenting. When Malia said she enjoyed decorating and was most excited about a possible move to the White House because she’d have a new bedroom to dress up, it made me want to see the Obama girls in the White House no matter who wins.
But the Illinois senator was very upset the night the interview aired and told aides it would never happen again. He felt he had hawked his own kids. He claimed he got caught up in the moment of a Fourth of July picnic in Butte, Mont., and a birthday celebration for Malia.
He may not have realized it while they were miking Malia and lighting the kids, but it clearly hit him midway through the interview. He looked frustrated when Sasha revealed that “my dad doesn’t like sweets” and that he preferred “minty gum” to bubble gum. She then began singsonging “Everybody should like ice cream” before pointing a finger at the person who doesn’t: “Except Daddy!”
As Margaret Carlson told Mike Barnicle on “Hardball,” in a segment called “Is Obama Too Cool?,” about whether he relates to average Americans, sometimes you just want to tell the guy, “Eat the doughnut.”
Whether Obama was irritated that he had slipped up and exposed his daughters or was annoyed that his kids were exposing more delicious details about his finicky, abstemious tastes, we’ll never know.
He got even more antsy after the family chat turned to “intimate” moments. Maria Menounos, whose questions were as bubbly as her Pantene shampoo commercials, asked Michelle, “What is the most recent romantic thing you’ve done for him?”
After saying that love is taking care of his kids, Michelle added: “I think it’s the little, you know, kisses. He likes to get attention. Just coming and sitting on his lap and telling him I’m proud of him.”
When Malia chimed in that it also made her feel good to see that affection, Michelle continued: “They like it when Mommy and Daddy hold hands and we hug.”
At that point, the candidate looked off camera and made a gesture of utter exasperation.
While it’s a good idea not to repeat the experience, it was overkill for Obama to rebuke himself and recant his decision on the morning shows — right in the midst of other repositioning that spurred a harsh reaction among many supporters.
Matt Lauer told Obama: “Some people said: ‘Well, wait a minute. It seems like the senator is trying to have it both ways.’ On one hand, you want to protect your private life. On the other hand, here you are sitting there with your two daughters and allowing them to answer questions.”
Obama chided himself in two tenses: “We wouldn’t do it again, and we won’t be doing it again.”
The bad news and the good news is that Obama can be opportunistic. He’s more pragmatic than dogmatic. He’s flexible and a bit of a situationalist. If Bill Clinton weren’t still sulking, he would appreciate Obama’s emulation of his style in ’92, taking a bit from the left and a bit from the right.
The self-pitying Bill and the self-flagellating Barack both need to take a cue from the Obama girls.
Asked by Ms. Menounos, “What could you guys do that Mommy and Daddy would get really mad at?” Malia and Sasha replied in unison: “Whining.”