Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Sue Shellenbarger quotes Doug Wead, author of two books on presidential families, noting that both Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., fit a certain presidential pattern of "Mama’s boys with absent fathers who were perceived by the sons as high achievers."
Obama’s tale is more complicated, because in addition to being abandoned by his father, Barack Obama Sr., at the age of two, his mother also left Obama Jr. in the care of her parents while she went off gallivanting around the world.
Indeed, on the stump, Obama seems to mention his ailing grandmother, 85-year-old Madelyn Dunham, whom he will be visiting in Hawaii Friday, far more often than he references his mother and father combined.
McCain’s pop, Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr., was largely absent as his wife raised (now Sen.) John Sidney McCain III.
But the Obama memoir is titled "Dreams From My Father," and McCain’s is "Faith of My Fathers."
Daddy issues, anyone?
McCain wrote of his father as "a distant, inscrutable patriarch" who suffered from alcoholism.
Do you need to have grown up in a dysfunctional home, without the love of two parents, in order to become a successful presidential candidate?
Wead set out to find if the parents of presidents had some special secret when he began "The Raising of a President." Instead, he tells Shellenbarger, he discovered the moms and dads of POTUSes past "were as neurotic and possessive and awful as anybody’s."
In fact, Wead found most interesting "how these presidents were able to transcend these experiences or re-invent them as inspirational."
Or as a family therapist tells Shellenbarger, "When you don’t have two nice parents who are very supportive … you seek out and find sources of resilience and transcendence — and you become amazing."
So go ahead, ignore your kids, marry the alcoholic, leave your kid in the care of his grandparents for years — you might be setting them on a path to the White House.