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January 11, 2013 3:23 am

Bill Clinton as Father of the Year: Yes, Inadequate Husbands Can Still Be Great Dads

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Photo: Wikipedia.

The news that Bill Clinton was chosen as father of the year by The National Father’s Day Council has brought for the scoffers. Really, the dude with Monica Lewinsky? The man who humiliated his wife?

They’re wrong. A man can be an imperfect husband and still be a great Dad. In fact, it’s become something of a national crisis. There are way too many men who love their kids more than their wives when, in truth, a healthy marriage dictates that the relationship between the parents always has to come first.

Countless wives who have come to me for counseling complain that they are married to indifferent, unromantic, selfish husbands. Yet, when I ask them, “Does he neglect his kids the way he neglects you?,” the majority of the time they say, “Actually, no. He’s a great Dad.” Even women who have divorced their husbands and told me what miserable marriages they were in will then tell me that, remarkably, their ex continues to be an engaged, and loving Dad.

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I’m reading The Patriarch, David Nasaw’s magisterial book about Joseph Kennedy. What the biography shows is that Kennedy was a deeply anti-Semitic, compulsively adulterous, misogynist. But boy did he love his kids. A man who put making money before almost all else, the exception was dropping everything whenever his kids were ill. To be sure, there were horror stories like the lobotomy of his daughter Rosemarie. But by and large, though he was an awful, philandering husband who hurt his wife with endless affairs, he was extremely attached to his kids.

Which brings us to Bubba.

A few months ago, while I was sitting at the JCC in Manhattan at a lecture that featured my friend Rabbi Marc Schneier of Westhampton and was moderated by Chelsea Clinton, I was suddenly disturbed by a rush of men with noodles coming out of their ears. Bill Clinton came in and sat in the seat right in front of me. His daughter was on stage and he wanted to see her. He arrived very quietly and was clearly there to show his daughter support. Then, this past Summer, Clinton toured a country very close to my heart, Rwanda, for his Clinton Global Initiative. In so many of the pictures he is walking around with one hand on his daughter’s shoulder. Not even his biggest critics deny that he is a loving and involved father who has given his daughter great confidence in herself as a woman, even as he has, most assuredly, caused her pain by acts of unfaithfulness that hurt her mother, all the more so because they were so public.

The two are not incongruous. You can be a great father even if you’re not exactly the greatest spouse.

Of course, it’s best to try and be both.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” won The National Fatherhood Award for his TV show, “Shalom in the Home,” on TLC which promoted responsible parenting. He has just published “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley

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  • charlie johnson

    A great father of the lie maybe.Democrats think their father is the US treasury. The present golfer wrote a book to honor his father because at ten years old the man showed up for a day to bring a basketball.I wonder how much he paid on child support?A kid who grows up to know the world thinks her dad told a big lie in front of the entire world would be very forgiving to say he is a great father.I guess if you count money as the proper values he has done well. But the methods he used to get the money stinks.

  • Woud you claim that these black American and other black guys that are not married to the mother of their children are not good fathers when they might do all that duty requires in order to be a good fauther?

    A few months ago I read an article on black guys in this country ( America) who are failures in life but claim to be good fathers.

  • Lawrence kulak

    Boteach’s analysis is way too superficial. Clinton may appear to be a great father, but if you are not a loyal spouse the most you can be is an adequate father. His closeness to Chelsea may be only to make up for the closeness he lost with his wife, and his interest in Chelsea may be selfish in that he may want her to make him look good. A great father shows the child that he loves and is loyal to his/her mother.

  • A man who has sex with strange women at the same address where his young daughter lives is not a great dad. You have drunk the Clinton koolaid!

  • Mareli

    The reverse is also true. A man can be a good husband but a less than adequate father. In fact, fatherhood can cause good husbands to become bad ones. They aren’t prepared for the responsibility and self-denial that parenthood requires.

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