Relationship With Offspring

The Obamas, January 3, 2008.Photo: Getty Images

Obama: Fraught With Guilt, But Otherwise Terrific
Obama’s two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were 9 and 6, respectively, when he ran in 2008. Now they are 13 and 10. “I may tell myself thatin some larger sense I’m in politics for Malia and Sasha, that the work I do will make the world a better place for them,” he wrote inThe Audacity of Hope, but his “recent success does little toassuage the guilt” of missing out on his kids’ lives. Things only gotmore hectic during the presidential campaign: The girls were lucky ifthey saw their father more than once a week. They tagged along on thecampaign trail in summer 2008, but with school back in session, theObamas avoided disrupting their kids’ lives. (Fun fact: Sasha oncereferred to her Secret Service detail as the “secret people.”)

The Obama girls attend the elite Quaker-run Sidwell Friends School,where the Clintons sent their daughter Chelsea and where Malia andSasha would count Vice-President Joe Biden’s grandchildren among theirclassmates. (The school has since made headlines for itsJapanese-inspired Pearl Harbor Day menu and one father’s $10 millionlawsuit over the school psychologist’s affair with his wife.) Thegirls, who are not allowed to watch TV during the week or go onFacebook, are model Sidwell students, as Obama pointed out to arecalcitrant Congress on the eve of the debt ceiling near-collapse.“You know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day aheadof time … They don’t wait until the night before.” Obama has a nightlysit-down dinner with the family. “There are certain things that aresacrosanct on his schedule,” David Axelrod told the Times.”Kids’ recitals, soccer games, basketball games, school meetings.These are circled in red on his calendar.”

Romney: Five Sons, All Like Their Dad
The Romneys have five sons, all adults with wives and families and careers, and nearly all are actively involved in their father’scampaign. Despite clocking late hours while at Bain, Romney’s family life was practically postcard perfect. His eldest son, Tagg, a formermarketing officer for the L.A. Dodgers whom Romney has called “verybright and tender,” described the family’s post-Thanksgiving ritual:”We would all get together and play Christmas carols on the stereo,sing Christmas carols together, and then pull out all the decorationsand decorate the tree all together.” On the even years, Mitt and Annstill do Christmas with their five sons and a growing brood ofgrandchildren, now numbering sixteen. But it’s not all knit sweatersand family games of touch football. Josh, the middle son whom Romneydescribes as “good-natured” but also “the most stubborn in thefamily,” acknowledges that his father has something of a temper, a”Romney trait,” he says. Tagg, the eldest, described his father’ssignature buildup as “The Step,” borrowing from the TV seriesEverybody Loves Raymond. “For Raymond and his brother, iftheir dad took ‘The Step’ toward them, they knew right away: Whateverthey were doing wrong, they had to stop. My dad had ‘The Step.’ If hestepped towards us and he had that look, we knew Dad was serious.” Buthe was Mr. Disciplinarian only when he had to be, Tagg tells HughHewitt, for example anytime the boys disrespected their mother.Perhaps more telling, at least going by Josh, is the time theirfather, just home from work, had parked his car and was walking towardthe house. Matt, the second oldest — and “unrelenting,” Romneysays — was hiding in a tree and when his father was below him hejumped down and screamed as loud as he could. “My dad sat there forabout three seconds without moving,” Josh remembers, “and then juststarted to chase Matt, and chased him in the house. I remember Mattcame running into the house screaming ‘HELP!’ and going upstairs andlocking himself in the bathroom for about three hours.” The nextyoungest son after Josh is Ben, “the most reserved of the five,”Romney says, and a recent medical school grad. And last, but certainlynot least, Craig, who’s a music producer at the McGarryBowen ad agencyin New York. “Craig, being the youngest,” Romney told Hewitt, “is ofcourse our entertainer.”

Relationship With Offspring