Daily Archives: April 9, 2009

Gideon Rachman

What do Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all have in common? Absent fathers.

I hadn’t realised that this was true of Reagan until I came across this passage in Sean Wilentz’s book on “The Age of Reagan”. He notes that Reagan’s father, Jack, was an alcoholic who played very little part in his son’s upbringing. Wilentz writes – “Many children of alcoholics are said to have trouble separating illusion from reality. Whether or not this was true of Reagan, he did have a proven propensity to …conflate the two.” He also, of course, learned to be charming and grew up with a burning ambition that took him to the White House.

As Obama makes clear in his autobiography – “Dreams From My Father” – the absence of his Kenyan father was central to his own search of identity.

As for Bill Clinton, his biological father was killed before he was even born. And his step-father, Roger Clinton was an alcoholic. In an interview with CBS, Clinton reflected: “I think the fact that I was born without a father, and that I spent a lifetime trying to put together a picture of one also had a lot to do with how I turned out.” Read more >>