One of the easiest tasks a President has is issuing proclamations on holidays, especially those for Fathers and Mothers Days. After all, how can anyone screw up a short, easy homage to the concept of parenthood? Perhaps by turning a simple “Dads are good” message into a pompous and condescending series of tips on being a dad, as Ira Stoll discovered on Fathers Day:
President Obama interrupted my Father’s Day with an e-mail announcing the launch of “The President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative” and an associated Web site, Fatherhood.gov, which honestly I could have mistaken for an elaborate prank undertaken by some libertarian group trying to make the point that the next thing you know, Big Government and President Obama are going to try to insert themselves into the father-son or father-daughter relationship. Except that, sure enough, at the bottom of the Web site is language announcing, “This is an official U.S. Government Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.”
So I ignored my children for a few minutes of Father’s Day and did what the president asked which was to check out the Web site, and especially the government’s “Tips for Parents.” They were infuriating.
So what were the tips that annoyed Ira? Some of them were merely trite and condescending, such as muting commercials during sporting events to discuss the plays and find out “what’s going on in your lives.” Why not just turn off the television altogether, Ira wonders? Would it only take two minutes to have a heart-to-heart discussion? Sounds like someone at the White House watched too many “reach out and touch someone” commercials over the years.
Others, however, were transparent attempts not to improve parenting but to push Barack Obama’s agenda:
Another tip: “Buy compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs, which last about 5 years and use less energy. Switching just one standard bulb to a CFL can help you reduce your electricity bill by as much as 75 cents per month.” I used to believe in this idea. Then, after putting CFL bulbs all over the house, I found that they don’t last five years. They may last a couple of years. There are four of the expired ones sitting on my desk because they are full of mercury and there is no safe way to dispose of them in New York City other than remembering to drop them off at a Home Depot or Ikea. The whole thing strikes me as a racket for the light-bulb companies to charge five times as much for a light bulb. And if the government is going to hector fathers to use these lightbulbs, the least the government could do is to provide proper disposal facilities for them.
Another government tip for fathers: “Instead of buying bottled water, use a water filter on your tap and keep a pitcher of filtered water in your refrigerator to fill a reusable bottle.” In my city, the government is in charge of making sure my water is safe. Now it’s telling me I need to filter the water it’s selling to me? If you really want to be “green,” as the parenting tips are supposed to be, skip the filter — it just makes more trash, and it takes energy to manufacture and deliver. Do we really need the executive branch of the federal government, without any mandate from Congress, siding in favor of the water-filter industry and against the bottled-water industry?
No more than we need it to instruct dads on how to mute television commercials and to suggest “fantasy voyages” as replacement vacations:
“Take a virtual vacation with your children. Decide on a ‘destination’ then borrow a library book that features facts and photos of your dream locale. Prepare a meal based on the native cuisine and enjoy it together while you watch a documentary about the country or a movie that takes place there. Let these fantasy voyages be your passport to lasting family memories.” The assumption seems to be that the dream destination is outside America, unless by “native cuisine” the government means corn and venison.
Actually, the assumption is that dads can make “lasting family memories” out of bull sessions in the living room, with everyone closing their eyes and dreaming of “native cuisine.” I can just imagine the dialog at future family reunions. “Hey, remember the time Dad made us sit on the couch, think of Paris, and had us visualize eating snails? Good times, good times!”
We used to accuse Obama of wanting to create a nanny-state government. Instead, it looks more like a Daddy-state government … and mostly fantasy.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!