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Who's talking about Sasha, Malia? It's dad, again

President Obama isn't just another dad shooting the breeze about his kids' antics. He's the President, and he brings up his daughters to explain his thinking on all sorts of combustible issues.

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First lady Michelle Obama frequently brings up her daughters while talking about her campaign against childhood obesity. She often tells about how the girls were starting to get off-track before the family's pediatrician gave her a wake-up call.

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On a recent four-state tour to promote her "Let's Move" campaign, Mrs. Obama blended stories about her own family with policy pronouncements, offering tips on how she gets her girls to eat healthy snacks and use good manners at the dinner table. She probably got a lot of knowing nods from parents after she related that her daughters aren't all that interested in the White House garden "because anything I do they're not interested in."

Douglas Wead, a former aide to President George H.W. Bush who has written a book about presidential families, said it's no surprise, and no coincidence, that the Obamas want to showcase "a marriage that functions well and a relationship with children that functions well."

"Everything is calculated at that level," he said, adding that he doesn't blame the Obamas for "showing off a little."

But Wead said it can be risky for a president to invoke his children when debating weighty policy matters.

"Jimmy Carter got his hand slapped when he did that," Wead reminded.

In his 1980 re-election campaign, Carter brought up his 13-year-old daughter, Amy, during a presidential debate.

"I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was," Carter said. "She said she thought nuclear weaponry – and the control of nuclear arms. This is a formidable force."

Carter's rival, Republican Ronald Reagan, mocked the answer at a later campaign rally, saying: "I remember when Patty and Ron were little kids, we used to talk about nuclear power."

Obama's on safer footing when he jokes about his daughters to puncture the formality of an event and put people at ease.

When the president visited a Master Lock factory in Milwaukee last month to discuss American manufacturing, he got a laugh from the workers when he told them: "As I was looking at some of the really industrial-size locks, I was thinking about the fact that I am a father of two girls who are soon going to be in high school and that it might come in handy to have these super locks. For now, I'm just counting on the fact that when they go to school there are men with guns with them."

In a similar vein, he told a National Prayer Breakfast last year that he has prayed, "Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys. Lord, let her skirt get longer as she travels to that place."

The crowd loved it.

But you can imagine Malia groaning, and saying "Oh, Dad."

The Monitor's Weekly News Quiz for March 16-23, 2012

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