Obama’s Father’s Day

Eugene Robinson has a brief but excellent piece on TruthDig about Obama’s speech for Father’s Day. Fatherhood is, of course, a major theme for Obama, who’s own black father was absent. If you haven’t already read Dreams from My Father, I highly recommend it.

When anyone runs for office, the question of motivation immediately and inevitably (as it should) rises to the surface. Is Obama talking about black men and responsibility because he cares, or to appeal to the white voter base that’s wondering just how black he is? Robinson wonders too:

Is Obama speaking to African-Americans, or is he really trying to reach those whites who believe that most of black America’s problems are self-inflicted? I’m paid to be skeptical, but I think something much deeper than political calculation is involved here. One revelation that comes with spending time with politicians is that they actually have core beliefs. To cite one example, John Edwards may be a multimillionaire but I can’t doubt his sincerity when he talks about poverty. I’ve seen him volunteer in a soup kitchen without first summoning the television cameras. He grew up poor, and the experience has never left him.

One can care about an issue and also use it for political advantage. This is what we as voters actually want–for candidates to spend time talking about issues that happen to be both important to us and meaningful to them. I like this man more and more.

Obama grew up without his black father. It doesn’t take a psychologist to discern the impact this absence had. He has explained it himself in his books, at considerable length. He talked about it Friday in the fatherhood speech, saying that his mother—struggling to raise two children as a single parent—at times needed to rely on food stamps to make it through the month. He also spoke with admiration of his wife Michelle’s father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis yet supported his family by going to work every day at a water filtration plant, “even when he had to rely on a walker to get him there.”

And Obama also pointed out some economic undercurrents I hadn’t really though about:

There’s nothing startling about Obama’s analysis of the macroeconomic forces that contribute to the problem of absent black fathers. Blue-collar jobs that once paid well and offered security, such as his father-in-law’s job at the plant, have largely disappeared. “In the last six years, over 300,000 black males have lost jobs in the manufacturing sector,” Obama said. The forces of globalization are inexorable. Inner-city schools don’t prepare students to compete in today’s economy.

In general I like globalization because I see it bringing jobs to the poor in the developing world. I understand that there’s an effect on blue-collar workers in the United States, but I tend to see protectionism as a short-sighted and inefficient solution. We have to get those workers better jobs, not set up artificial barriers to their jobs going to more cost-effective, equally-needy overseas workers. But I’m certainly torn by the affect the current situation has. Notably, Obama recently had a minor political gaff that served to bring the outsourcing issue back onto the table for the Democratic candidates. And what does Obama–former overseas resident (Indonesia) that he is–say?

“While it’s not possible to stop globalization in its tracks, what we can do is make sure we have a government that’s looking out for our workers,” Obama said. “We can do more to create a government that’s creating quality jobs here in America, and we can do more to create a government that’s helping workers who lose their jobs.” In Newton, Obama spoke before about 300 people and promised to increase federal grants and job training programs to communities dealing with job losses.

I’m down with that.


2 Responses to Obama’s Father’s Day

  1. RWD says:

    I think Senator Obama has had many more than one “political gaff” in his days of campaigning and consistently passing the blame to his staff or some other entity does not cut it in my book. He is campaigning to be President. In that job the “Buck Stops Here”. He does not show it now, how will he do it if elected.

    He needs more time in the Senate. He needs better handlers. I have often wondered if his campaign manager/advisor/political consultant or whatever David Axelrod is actually working for another candidate but pretending to work in Obam’s behalf!

    Robinson has seen John Edwards volunteer at a soup kitchen without calling in the television cameras. Does this mean that Eugene Robinson hangs out in soup kitchens? What was he doing there to see Edwards slinging hash? That comment alone bring question to his entire article.

    I regularly read Eugene Robinson’s columns in the city paper as they are carried by that newspaper syndicate I guess (although I can’t imagine why). Almost every story he writes is loaded with negativity, whether it is directed against The President or our country. He never passes up a chance to bring up an issue and twist racial overtones into it when not necessary. I hope he is not Obama’s press spokesperson because if he is, I fear another “political gaff” has been made.


  2. globalizati says:

    Sounds like it might be some of Obama’s staff that needs more experience. The buck may stop with the president, but even Truman had some lousy staffers at times.

    I think the less time someone has in Washington the better. Why would I want someone who had spent 20 years as a Senator, racking up other loyalties than to the voters? Seems silly to think he needs more experience when experienced politicians are just what I often dislike. Obama is fresh, young, optimistic, visionary–exactly what we need in a leader.

    I don’t think Robinson is in any way affiliated with the campaign (did you read the article?) I’m not familiar with Robinson, but it sounds like his columns contain about the same amount of negativity as your comments and your blog. If you’re right-wing, do you even think Obama would be good if he’d been in the Senate 20 years?

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