Anna North on Barack Obama, scary dad:
Malia Obama turns thirteen next month, meaning our President will officially be the father of a teenager. He doesn’t seem too worried: of his girls, he says, “I have men with guns that surround them often.” And thus Obama joins the ranks of the Scary Dad.
According to AFP, Obama has said, “I’m not anticipating complete mayhem for the next four or five years, but I understand teenagehood is complicated.” In addition to the guys with guns, he says, “a great incentive for running for re-election is that it means they never get in the car with a boy who had a beer.” Also, if Malia does get a beau, “I might invite him over to the Oval Office, ask him for his GPA, find out what his intentions are in terms of career.” He added, “Malia, Sasha, if you’re watching this, I’m just joking.”
The Secret Service thing is the most striking, but I actually think it’s the car with a boy who had a beer bit that does the most to highlight the problems here. Obviously, all parents should be worried about their teenage children engaging in drunk driving. This would be an excellent reason for Barack Obama to step up his support for progressive transportation reform, aimed at shifting the United States away from near-exclusive reliance on auto-centric suburban development. Sprawling suburbs are often perceived as an ideal place for child rearing, but this is much less the case when the children in question are drunk and seventeen.
But instead of placing the very real drunk driving problem in the context of alcohol regulation and transportation policy, it’s located in a nebulous realm of sexual threat. Why is the drunk car driver a boy? Would it be better for Malia to get in a car driven by a drunk gal pal? To drive drunk herself? There’s something very odd about conflating the legitimately dangerous activity of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated with the completely benign practice of having a high school boyfriend.