- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Father’s Day in Chicago, Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Apostolic Church of God on fatherhood that contained conservative themes. The Illinois senator spoke of the importance of parental responsibility and the need for fathers to set an example of excellence for their children. Mr. Obama should be applauded for addressing the issue of family breakdown and absent fathers - a vital social problem that cannot be resolved merely by appealing to government programs. Yet, he also needs to beware of proposing more big-government solutions.

Mr. Obama called upon men to rise to the full responsibility of fatherhood, rather than acting like “boys” who enjoy sex without accepting its concomitant responsibilities. He addressed the many disadvantages fatherless children have: They are “five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves.” Mr. Obama recommended that fathers read with their children instead of allowing them to spend countless hours watching television or playing video games. He encouraged greater efforts in counteracting the images and ideas promulgated by American popular culture: “It’s up to us to tell our sons, those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in my house we live glory to achievement, self respect and hard work.”

Mr. Obama’s invocation to fathers to fully assume their responsibilities is praiseworthy. But the praise ends when he lists a host of government initiatives that he says can help strengthen families. Mr. Obama recommends an Earned Income Tax Credit and more funds for job training and job opportunities as a reward for fathers who pay child support; more money for registered nurses to help expectant mothers; programs to increase father involvement; the expansion of maternity and paternity leave; and more sick leave so that parents can take better care of their children. In other words, Mr. Obama is fusing socially conservative values with a liberal agenda.

Mr. Obama occasionally espouses conservative ideas on social issues. However, his liberal voting record and his many big-government solutions to social problems ultimately dilute his message. From Mr. Obama’s perspective, fathers should be more responsible; but when they fail, Uncle Sam can always step in to help. This is, in the final analysis, a dishonorable message.

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