Saturday, January 19, 2013

As President Obama took the stage to deliver his acceptance speech on the night of his reelection, his younger daughter nudged his arm. He bent down to listen to 11-year-old Sasha. “Behind you,” she mouthed. The president nodded and promptly turned to wave to the supporters at his back. Sasha beamed.

The same little Obama who plaintively blurted “Daddy, what city are you in?” at the big screen after her mother’s 2008 convention speech now was giving her father stage direction. The moment was blogged about instantly, viewed 3.2 million times on YouTube — just another indication of the nation’s fascination with this first family.

Americans view the Obamas in such packaged snippets yet feel like they are on a first-name basis. Look how tall Malia is! Why didn’t Michelle kiss Barack on the kiss cam? What does Barack tell Sasha about her jump shot?

During the 2012 campaign, the president and first lady talked about their daughters incessantly in interviews and talk-show hosts loved it. Most Americans loved it too, said Stephen Hess, a presidential historian at the Brookings Institution.

“History is going to remember what Barack Obama did or didn’t do as a president. But we who live through it are different. We see the cultural impact,” said Hess, who served on the White House staff during the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations and as an adviser to presidents Ford and Carter. “They have contributed in a very special way to our lives. They got to the White House at a moment when a lot of our lives were difficult, and we are fortunate to have a very optimistic family who knows how to smile, how to have fun.” Read more...

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