Mister Rogers Wouldn’t Approve of Obama’s Lena Dunham Ad (OPINION)

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

Call it the Mister Rogers Effect: Moms want their kids to grow up in a neighborhood where the adults are virtuous. Whether it’s the baker, the postman, the mayor, or even the President, we want our children to have role models who are kind, generous, truthful. The kind of people your children could safely emulate.

During the most recent debate, some of us sat down with our children to see President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney discuss foreign policy. They disagreed on many things, particularly on Romney’s auto bailout position. For a few uncomfortable minutes, one accused the other of lying, until Romney suggested people at home should simply look it up. They did. For the days following the debate, Romney’s 2008 editorial about how he’d handle the Detroit automakers was the most-read story on the NYT’s website. So, who was telling the truth? Romney was deemed more accurate, but his success in this particular exchange is hardly earth shattering. What is significant is that voters, rather Americans, are realizing the President is not who we hoped he was.

“Here’s what upset me last night, this playing fast and loose with facts,” David Letterman said on his show. “Now, I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you want your president to be telling the truth… And so when we found out today or soon thereafter that, in fact, President Obama was not telling the truth about what was excerpted from that op-ed piece, I felt discouraged.”

“Discouraged” is a far cry from the sunny optimism that at one time characterized Americans. Even those who disagreed with the president’s politics were a little misty eyed at seeing the first black man to sit in the Oval Office. When my husband and I later adopted a toddler from Africa, part of me was delighted by the fact that she was immigrating to a country with an African-American leader. But since those moments of hope, something strange happened.  Obama—and consequently, our neighborhood—somehow managed to get smaller, more crass, more cynical.

The most recent example is when his campaign released an ad featuring hipster Lena Dunham comparing voting to Obama to surrendering one’s virginity:

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy… someone who really cares about and understands women…  It’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says ‘did you vote?’ and [you reply] ‘no, I didn’t feel—I wasn’t ready.’ ” The Weekly Standard wrote, “The President of the United States running a campaign ad implying that young women who don’t let themselves get pressured into sex are ‘super uncool’ is more than enough to make any normal person’s head explode.” Of course, Twitter did erupt. “Is it too much to ask that the President’s campaign ads be workplace safe?” someone tweeted. Parody ads popped up. But the damage was done. The President had released an ad mocking sexual purity, just to win votes among the college age demographic.

We wanted him to be great. To inspire. To soar. Instead he became smaller, almost bent on taking us down with him.

Recently, a friend’s first grader was assigned a biography of the president for Great Americans Day. “How bad would it be for me to ask my child to switch books?” the mom asked me. There was a time in the very recent past when I would’ve responded with a gentle reprimand. “Come on,” I would’ve said. “He’s our President, he’s a good man, he’s accomplished a great deal.”

Rather, that’s how I would’ve answered it. She happened to ask me six weeks after extremists murdered four American diplomats in Libya, and the President had still not told us what really happened. In the second debate, when Obama defended his lack of military response to the attack, his focus was all on semantics. He parsed his words, he covered his legacy. It was tragic and disappointing, because we wanted justice. We wanted to understand. We wanted honesty. We didn’t want a President to assign blame, before heading off to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

In fact, it was Fred Rogers who said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

Moms know this: a complex world requires nuanced responses to terrible events, but we want our leaders to be honest, courageous, and responsible. We are raising children to become adults, to build families, to create businesses, to serve this country in uniform. Sadly, none of us really live in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, with its astroturf lawns and closets full of perfectly pressed sweaters. Life is complicated and dangerous and sometimes scary. We want leaders who rise above it and illustrate how to navigate the complexities of this world with as much virtue and grace as possible.

The problem with this campaign season is not that moms are realizing Obama is not the President we wanted him to be. Much more tragically, he’s not the man we wanted him to be.

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  1. by Rejecting Obama: The Mister Rogers Effect

    On October 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    [...] sunny optimism that at one time characterized Americans.Please read the entire article about the “Mister Rogers Effect” here! /* /* Filed Under: Uncategorized Tagged With: Barack Obama, Fred Rogers, Mitt Romney Leave a [...]

  2. by lisa jay

    On October 30, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Children have the right to grow up in a G-rated environment. But we can’t go to a sporting event, or even to a city park, without being drowned in every coarse smutty expression that exists. In the 90′s parents had to carefully guard their young children from hearing or seeing too much. Now it’s impossible. The scale has tipped.

  3. by TL

    On October 30, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Regardless of what Mister Rogers may or may not have supported, your use of his name to push your own political agenda is shameful.

  4. by Lady Aberlin

    On October 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    you have made use of Fred Rogers’ name to sell your disillusionment. Fred was about love, not use. He didn’t think much of bullies (Elder Romney), and although he himself came from sheltered privilege, he never “was born on 3rd base & thought he hit a triple” – he was a humble man, a gentle man, and much more Obama in his essential nature. Fred taught that the very same people who were good sometimes were (and are in the Real Neighborhood) the very same people who were bad sometimes – and he included himself in this profound truth about human nature. You love your child because he is your child, and not for the racial cred he gives you as you hold his hand so as to cross streets safely -that he may love others as you love him. I am sorry you felt you needed to enhance/justify your political choice, and air your sorrows about the times we live in & the imperfect humans, candidates & voters alike – by borrowing from Fred’s ideal neighborhood of Make-Believe. Fred would not lie, unlike Romney & Ryan. He said of make-believe “first you believe it & then you make it.” Obama was the little engine that could. what is Romney? Mammon in faith clothing. To take Fred’s name to adorn yourself with the virtue of his acomplishments is theft. and you know, there’s a commandment that speaks against this.

  5. by Debra Fish

    On October 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Great article. Don’t worry about the ones crying about the use of Mr. Rogers. I didn’t hear then crying about the use of Big Bird. Romney has worked hard and built a business and as a result, there are many businesses that employ many people. Obama on the other hand has caused people to lose jobs. Hubby lost his business and I lost a 30yr. job myself. Obama He is running the sleaziest and scariest campaign in the history of the United States. One ad compares voting for Obama to having sex for the first time. One ad has Samuel L Jackson and a child screaming a vulgar phrase at a family, another ad has children hating what we stand for and blaming the parents, another ad was saying that people are gonna turn into zombies and talks about homemade bombs, and the one that I saw today has old people threatening violence and arson. With the threats flying around on social media already, that one was the scariest.

  6. by lisa jay

    On November 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    So, Lady Amberlin, does this mean you think Mr. Rogers would like Lena Dunham’s leering, sexually suggestive ad for Obama?

  7. by Doc Rogers

    On November 3, 2012 at 3:44 am

    The problem is when you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. You have Mr. Obama claiming he “evolved” to think that marriage between Adam and Eve, can now just become Adam and Steve. We see the lost drifting on the left-since they have no reference point beyond their fallen sin nature.
    Marriage commanded by God is foolishness to them, because the wisdom of their wise men did not comprehend things of God. For them, man came to be by accident, owes no allegiance, has only to invent “situations” to his liking. Any perversion is then within reason. Man is not basically good.

  8. by usfrog

    On November 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    When a man lies as freely as does Obama, I would have NO scruples in depicting to my first-grade child the picture the way it is. My mom did the same thing with me and learning the truth at an early age makes it easier to accept distressing facts instead of getting a shock later on in life. There is plenty of information out there on Obama. Use his Kenyan grandmother’s happy memories on his birth in Mombassa and his travels to Indonesia to spice up the story and possibly avoiding the “F”.