It's an official presidential Catch-22.
Parents who are politicians face an eternal struggle -- forging a proper path between possibly exploiting their children for votes versus completely shielding them from scrutiny.
Barack and Michelle Obama have always stressed that they want their daughters, Malia and Sasha, to have a normal childhood. Well, as normal as two girls can have living in the most famous house in Washington, enjoying vacations on Martha's Vineyard, and meeting celebs like teen heartthrob Justin Bieber
The two first daughters are seldom in the spotlight. Their school events are closed to the press. Reporters who travel with the president are placed in holding pens far away from the first daughters. The reporters seldom even catch a glimpse of the kids to know whether they are wearing J. Crew, funky kicks or trendy Silly Bandz, those rubber bracelets that kids in Malia and Sasha's age group adore.
With so much ado about privacy, why did Barack Obama decide to put two girls on the cover of his forthcoming children's book, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters?" The book, aimed at children age 3 and up, is tribute to 13 Americans, including artist Georgia O'Keeffe, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and George Washington.
According to Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet
, Malia and Sasha will be represented on the cover in an impressionistic image by children's illustrator Loren Long, who produced the art in the 40-page book.
The cover is viewed as hypocritical to some.
Washington Examiner's Bryon York wrote in a post titled "Obama's kids are so off-limits they're on the cover of his new book
," that Obama has both observed and ignored the daughters' off-limit rule. York recounts that in August 2009, a nutrition advocacy group placed posters in Washington featuring a young girl – not either Obama daughter. The caption read: "President Obama's daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don't I?" The White House soon called asking that the posters be taken down.
from the Tea Party to Glenn Beck, will likely have a field day with the new book, believing Obama has given them permission to discuss Sasha and Malia. They will rationalize: If Obama can do it, why can't we?
Obama often mentions his children in speeches. The latest time was on Tuesday in a back-to-school speech
in Philadelphia. Obama told middle school students at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, "Over the past few weeks, Michelle and I have been getting Sasha and Malia ready for school. And they're excited about it. I'll bet they had the same feelings that you do -- you're a little sad to see the summer go, but you're also excited about the possibilities of a new year."
When Bill Clinton was president, Scholastic published a book "Dear Chelsea: Letters from kids and what it's like to live in the White House." The 1994 paperback cover featured a picture of Chelsea wearing braces with her trademark flowing curly hair along with a picture of Socks the Cat. The editor, Judy Goldberg, asked children to write to Chelsea; excerpts from the 12,000 letters became a book that also featured facts about the White House and presidential history.
Perhaps the Obama girls should be trailblazers and write their own book. After all, they are the first black children to live in the White House. Sure, they didn't ask to live there, but they have a beautiful story to tell. Imagine how enlightening such a book could be for so many children. Like their father, they, too, could donate their royalties to charity. (Obama has said he will donate proceeds to a scholarship fund for military children with a parent who was killed or disabled.)
Parents know what's best for their children. The Obamas strive for normalcy in the most abnormal of worlds. It pays in this age of blogs and 24/7 media for the couple to keep tight control on the coverage of Malia and Sasha. One awkward move by the daughters and Obama's critics would manufacture a hateful controversy that would unfairly spin for days.
But it would be worth the gamble for the Obamas to loosen up just a tad on the press blackout cloaking Malia and Sasha. Malia and Sasha could be fantastic role models for other kids, showing them how to garden or feed the homeless. And they might just neutralize some of the harsh criticism facing Obama during midterm elections.