Is Obama the New Bush?

Washington, DC–Barack Obama delivered a major address on family policy at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago on Father”s Day.

In his speech, Obama honored fatherhood, but denigrated fathers. To his credit, he said, “Of all the rocks upon which to build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.’

He then noted the appalling amount of fatherlessness, including the fact that “half of all black children live in single-parent households…’ He also noted the devastating effects of fatherlessness: five-fold increase in poverty and crime, nine-fold increase in school drop-out, and twenty-fold increase in incarceration.

Then Obama reverted to the usual simplistic analysis of the causes of fatherlessness: “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.’ He went on, “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception.’

Forgive the digression, but what is truth, and what is half-truth? If we say that some immigrants commit murder (true), but neglect to mention that Americans also commit murder, have we told the truth about immigrants, or about murder? If we write that some Jews cheat on taxes (true), but neglect to mention that other Americans also cheat on taxes, have we told the truth about taxes, or about Jews?

In my view, by laying the blame for fatherlessness solely at the feet of fathers, Obama did not tell the whole truth. Don”t mothers share some of the blame? Don”t some mothers have unprotected sex with people they would never dream of living with as a partner? Don”t most pregnant single women choose single motherhood over adoption? Don”t some mothers reject shared parenting, take out false restraining orders, interfere with fathers” access to their children, or move far away?

Worse, Obama did not bother to talk about the irresponsibility of some fathers–he was content to denigrate all fathers in familiar stereotypes, such as, “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception.’ Also, “It”s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don”t just sit in the house and watch ‘SportsCenter” all weekend long.’

Although it was a Fathers Day speech, the only actual fathers who were honored were Michelle Obama”s father, and Obama himself (with some self-deprecating humility thrown in).

In contrast, mothers were set on a pedestal. They are raising the kids by themselves, dropping them off at school, working two shifts, making dinner, paying the bills, fixing the house, etc. “So many of these women are doing a heroic job…’  True enough, but in many cases, they have chosen single parenthood, and in many cases, they have actively excluded the father. 

The truth is, both sexes are responsible for fatherlessness, together with archaic traditions of the family courts. But we did not hear that from Obama.

In summary, Obama”s analysis of the problem is exactly the same as President Bush”s: fatherlessness is a problem that has been caused solely by irresponsible fathers who need to be improved through government programs.

Obama”s specific proposals to address our “national epidemic of absentee fathers’ are found in a bill he and Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) introduced on June 29, 2007, called the Responsible Fatherhood Act. Glenn Sacks described it in some detail in a newspaper column written shortly thereafter. Glenn describes it as a carrot and stick approach in which “the carrot is too small and the stick is already too big.’

There are numerous provisions. Basically, they increase government funding of child support enforcement, and fine-tune the flow of child support payments among the father, the government and the mother. As Glenn pointed out, the bill mentions “child support’ 65 times, but does not mention “custody,’ “visitation,’ “parenting time,’ or “access denial’ even once. It is hard to see how such a bill will address our “national epidemic of absentee fathers’  — once again, it is just about the money.

Obama is the new Bush.

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