The second hottest item on Time.com on Tuesday morning was an article titled "Barack Obama, Stop Ruining My Marriage." Time reporter Sean Gregory’s shtick is that the President’s date nights with the First Lady are setting too high a standard for the average American husband. It begins with the obligatory compliment:
The list of reasons to admire Barack Obama is longer than Pennsylvania Avenue. But please, and I'm begging here, let's not hold him up as an exemplary husband simply because he takes his wife out on a date.
On Sunday, the New York Times did just that, with a story headlined "If They Can Find Time for a Date Night ..." The gist: If the Obamas — with Mom committed to her various causes and Dad trying to save the free world — can still find time for each other, hey, lame husband sitting on the couch watching sports, time to step it up. The writer suggests that the President has placed an "elbow in the ribs of husbands," while Jon Stewart has joked, "Take it down a notch, dude."
Gregory’s whimsical take then expanded to say it’s easy for Obama to have date night with all the natural advantages of a president, the large White House staff, the live-in mother-in-law as babysitter, and especially "the plane" for romantic getaways. Couples with two working parents and no baby-sitter in the house are going to find it harder to escape the routine. But he really doesn’t resent the president:
The thing is, Obama is the first to acknowledge his enormous leg up when it comes to family life. He's obviously working hard, and you can't blame him for taking advantage of an opportunity to eat dinner with Michelle and the kids. I would do the same thing if I were President. But I'm not. And I'd thank the world to stop reminding me of that little fact, especially on date night.
The New York Times article, by Jan Hoffman, is gauzier than Time: "From longtime marrieds-with-kids, the sounds of romance envy: Groan. Growl. Whimper. Sigh....While some commentators were grousing about the presidential date’s undisclosed cost to the taxpayers, news of the romantic evening prompted many wives to glare across the breakfast table, trying to remember the last time their husbands made a fuss over them."
Even Joy Behar of The View made an appearance in the Times to praise Obama:
Joy Behar, a host on "The View," whose marriage ended after 17 years, said nothing killed their sex drive like talking politics. So she said she understood the constraints on the first couple’s chemistry.
"And with a mother-in-law in the house?" she said. "Now that’s a real lust-corrector!" The president’s schedule posed unique marital challenges, she noted. Every day Mr. Obama has to weigh competing demands, Ms. Behar said: "Musharraf or Michelle? That’s a tougher thing for him than the average Joe. So it’s really meaningful when you watch them together." She added, in a tone of wonderment, "He actually looks like he desires her."
Hoffman even made sure to associate the conservatives with cluelessness and lack of romance:
Some husbands had their story and were sticking to it: emphatic cluelessness. Mark Hyman, a conservative television commentator, said his first reaction to the Obamas’ date night wasn’t envy, but bewilderment over how they managed to schedule one. He and his wife, he said, could scarcely keep up with coordinating weekend activities, scattered across Baltimore, of their three children, ages 7, 10 and 13.
Hyman apparently can’t romance his lady like Barack does: "Sometimes we talk about going to a film together," he said, "but by the time we agree on one, it’s out on DVD."