In praise of a president who offered America eight dignified years free of sex scandals

Model dad.
Model dad.
Image: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
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A friend posted on Facebook this mock note from her daughter:

Dr. Mr. Trump,

I heard you on the news yesterday saying that you wanted to grab a woman’s pussy. I am ten years old so I don’t know that word yet but it seems pretty important since all the news channels are covering it and it is on the cover of all the newspapers that they sell on my way to the playground. My mom says you can tell me what that word means.

Thank you!

Older parents will of course recall the pressure of conducting presidential-themed sex ed talks with their children during former US president Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. His scandal required explanations for all measure of tawdry things, from blow jobs to the proper use of cigars to why Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress would be considered evidence if it was worn so long ago.

It all serves as a bold reminder that the Obama White House has been a paragon of decency for dinner-table talk for eight long years.

As president, Barack Obama has sparked debate over issues of substance: Is Obamacare the best direction for healthcare in the US? Why did he draw a red line with Syria and cross it? Why can’t the US government stop gun violence?

As a father and husband, his actions in public have communicated themes of dignity and respect, perhaps best summed up in his essay for Glamour magazine about feminism, in which he talked about his relationship with his two daughters and opined, ”It’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”

He has shown sensitivity, refusing, for example, to speak at his older daughter’s graduation so as not to steal the limelight. He has shown humor, whether donning a tiara with Girl Scouts or dancing with a 106-year-old woman in the Oval Office. And he has shown humility, whether apologizing, as he did in the Glamour essay, for dumping so much of the parenting burden on his wife or noting, as he was quoted by Timothy Egan writing in the New York Times, as saying: “…[A]s we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things—not even a president does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control over how we treat one another.”

It all shows how seriously he has taken his role of orator in chief. He chooses his words carefully. And arguably he had to, knowing that as America’s first black president, he would be held to an impossibly high standard.

One of the popular critiques of Obama is his aloofness. He has not been criticized for being insulting, or denigrating, or demeaning, neither to others nor to the office he holds. He has not been abusive, or crass. He’s right that we have control over how we treat each other. Unfortunately not all of us choose to deploy it.