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On Father's Day, hypocrites are all in the family

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Family, marriage and the contribution of fathers come together as topics for reflection on Father's Day. So I'd like to know why Barack Obama, a husband and a father in a family structure that encompasses bonds deemed essential to our society, is constantly and savagely attacked by conservative leaders whose personal circumstances undermine the family values they espouse?

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Consider Obama: Raised by a single mother in a middle-class family where hard work and education were watchwords, Obama graduated from two of the top schools in the country, Columbia University and Harvard Law School. His legal scholarship was recognized when he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He married and, equally important, has stayed married to Michelle Robinson, a Princeton graduate and Harvard Law alumna. He lives with his wife, two children and his mother-in-law. Obama: constitutional law professor, civil rights lawyer, state legislator, U.S. senator, 44th U.S. president, family man.

Now let's turn to Obama's foremost critics: Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, Newton Leroy Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

Limbaugh and Gingrich have said too many negative things about Obama to count. "I want him to fail" (Limbaugh) and "secular socialist" (Gingrich) are just two of their attacks. Yet two of the nation's loudest proponents of family-values issues are serial husbands. Between them, the two men have had seven wives.

Limbaugh, who dropped out of college after one year, married his first wife, a sales secretary, in September 1977. She filed for divorce three years later; it was granted in July 1980. Limbaugh next married an usherette in 1983; they divorced in 1990. In May 1994, he married an aerobics instructor he met online. They separated in June 2004 and divorced that December.

Two weeks ago, Limbaugh married a Florida party planner. He's still wedded to her as far as I can tell.

Gingrich is one nuptial behind Limbaugh. But he started earlier. In 1962, at age 19, Gingrich married his 26-year-old former high school geometry teacher. Gingrich left her in the spring of 1980. He did return to see her at the hospital where she was getting treatment for cancer. He was there to discuss divorce terms. Formally divorced in 1981, Gingrich remarried six months later.

That marriage lasted until 2000. By his own admission, Gingrich started an affair with a woman 23 years his junior during his second marriage. It was around the time he was taking Bill Clinton to task over Monica Lewinsky.

Gingrich's second marriage ended in 2000, and he married his girlfriend the same year. The current Mrs. Gingrich is still with him, as far as I can tell.

Gingrich and Limbaugh, national icons in the conservative movement -- and mockers of this country's most traditional and honored symbol of commitment: holy matrimony.

But what would a Father's Day discussion of the nuclear family and a moral society be without bringing into the picture Mrs. Family Values herself, Sarah Palin?

The same Palin who last week said of President Obama, "It sounds like the inner circle that he has are some Chicago thugs." Well, Palin knows lawbreaking, too.

Her sister-in-law, Diana Palin, half sister of the former governor's husband, got a 15-month sentence this year. Burglarizing the same Alaska house three times for money to satisfy a drug habit is the kind of thing that can get you arrested. Thuggery? How about Sherry Johnston, the mother of Levi Johnston, the high school dropout who fathered Palin's grandson? She was arrested and charged with selling drugs; after pleading guilty to one count with intent to deliver the drug OxyContin she was sentenced to three years.

Because of her medical condition, the woman who was once Bristol Palin's future mother-in-law was released from prison to home confinement, where she wears an ankle-monitoring device.

And the whereabouts of 19-year-old Levi on this Father's Day weekend? His bonds with the Palins were so tight, he said on TV, that Sarah and her husband, Todd, allowed Levi to live in their house with Bristol while they dated. Conservative family values?

Levi can be found on the cover of Playgirl magazine, his nude body blocked from full exposure by his strategically placed arm.

And to think, as we prepare to celebrate this day of men and family, Limbaugh, Gingrich and Palin have the unmitigated gall to look down their noses at our president.

kingc@washpost.com



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