Democratic Convention 2016

No President Should Be 'Shaping' the Lives of Children for Four or Eight Years

Some political figures unsurprisingly think that politicians should be considered role models.


Michelle Obama
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

First Lady Michelle Obama was granted the task last night of making Hillary Clinton seem like a human being other people should aspire to emulate and not a lifelong politician who for some reason is less able to conceal her mercenary maneuvering than her peers.

Part of Obama's speech was about the role of parents and parenting, and in particular, being good role models, suggesting that Clinton is such a person.  The speech was also heavy on the idolization of the politician as substitute parent and very creepily the idea that the president is and should be shaping who your children are:

With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. And let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as President and First Lady, because we know that our words and actions matter not just to our girls, but to children across this country — kids who tell us, "I saw you on TV, I wrote a report on you for school." Kids like the little black boy who looked up at my husband, his eyes wide with hope, and he wondered, "Is my hair like yours?"

And make no mistake about it, this November, when we go to the polls, that is what we're deciding — not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, this election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives. And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be President of the United States, and that is our friend, Hillary Clinton.

Who can forget the time Obama half-joked/half-lectured Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas because she ate an Egg McMuffin at McDonald's, even though such a breakfast is healthy enough when you're an extremely active young athlete.

Obama no doubt thinks she's being a "role model" by pushing her healthy food and activity agenda, but there is a lot of evidence out there that the government doesn't know what the heck it's talking about when it lectures Americans on food. Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin frequently notes how terrible the government's analysis is on issues related to nutrition (read his takedown on the Food and Drug Administration's unscientific meddling in the salt content of products here). Obama herself as our nation's nutrition nanny back in 2013 pushed forward the discredited idea that Americans need to be drinking more water to improve health.

Likewise, the government's attitude toward child-rearing, as Reason contributor Lenore Skenazy regularly highlights, is to fill parents with a constant fear that risks to children's safety are much higher than they actually are. When government officials decide that they play a role in shaping the lives of children, it seems to end up wanting to replace the judgment of adults (and also expand government regulation of goods and services).

One doesn't have to believe that Clinton is exactly as amoral and self-serving as Donald Trump (she is, though) in order to be repulsed at the idea that we should be viewing the president or public officials in general as role models. Clinton's ideas for raising children properly have involved attacking pop culture and calling for government-endorsed censorship. No American should be looking to the president to shape children's lives (that's what parents are for), and certainly nobody should be looking for a dreadful scold like Clinton for that sort of guidance.