President Obama apparently angered conservatives recently when he “blamed” and/or “used” his daughter Malia’s childhood bout with asthma to personalize the issue of climate change. On Thursday night’s episode of One America News Network’s The Rick Amato Show, conservative host Rick Amato took it one step further by criticizing the president for his former smoking habit, and its supposed effect on Malia. As a first-time guest on Amato’s show, I had to set the record straight:
Rick Amato: He says, “Climate change, it’s personal because of my daughter’s asthma.” What about his smoking? He was a smoker when his daughter was four years old and had asthma.
Tommy Christopher: I have it on pretty good authority that when Malia was four years old, the president would only allow her to smoke Marlboro Lights, so let’s just get that straight.
President Obama’s (former?) smoking habit has been much written-about and concern-trolled about, but of course, there’s no chance he ever smoked around his kids, and no reason to suggest he ever did.
Amato’s point about the smoking was secondary, but it does illustrate the lengths to which conservatives will go to change the subject on climate change, which, in fact, is scientifically linked to asthma. The main problem Amato and others seem to have with this is that the president is using his daughter to advance a political message, which would be a fine thing to do even if it were true. As I told Amato, this is how you get people to care about issues.
This entire premise seems, to me, to be an attempt to conflate personalizing an issue within your own family with the way opponents like the NRA have tried to drag the president’s daughters into the debate over gun violence. It’s not the same when someone else does it.
However, what they’re saying about the president’s remarks isn’t even true. He didn’t bring up Malia’s asthma, ABC News interviewer Dr. Richard Besser did, and in his answer, the President did not say the incident made climate change personal to him. Here’s what he did say:
Dr. Besser: Asthma is something your family has experienced.
President Obama: Yes.
Dr. Besser: Do you worry that the environment, the climate has impacted on your own daughter?
President Obama: Well, you know, Malia had asthma when she was four, and because we had good health insurance, we were able to knock it out early and, you know, you’ve got kids who are going to the emergency room, three, four, five times a year. What I can relate to is the fear a parent has when your four-year-old daughter comes up to you and says, “Daddy, I’m having trouble breathing.” The fright you feel is terrible.
So, the interviewer asked him about it, and although he did share his experience, the president’s concern was for other people’s kids, who don’t have access to good health insurance. Or, at least, they didn’t. Thanks, Obama!