Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Michelle Obama: Asset Or Liability?!?!

If you've followed this site for any period of time, you know that Michelle Obama and I didn't get off to the best of starts. I thought some of her initial remarks when the campaign was just getting underway were a bit "extra". Her "keepin' it real" style of oratory, which includes lots of playful barbs at her husband, is something most married black folks can relate to, but doesn't necessarily play well on the campaign trail. Like it or not, America likes it's First Ladies quiet and (preferably medically) sedated. Botox Barbie McCain fits the mold. Nancy Reagan invented the mold. Laura Bush is a keeper of the mold. Michelle Obama more or less breaks the mold into a million pieces.

Over time, I've grown love her style. It's genuine, personable, and dare I say, Real. Her frankness and occasional lack of tact is the perfect compliment for her husband's sometimes overly polished persona. This has sometimes landed her in trouble. She's dropped mangled soundbites that the Right Wingers have pieced together to paint her and her husband as unpatriotic America-haters. This is of course a crock of bull. Michelle-O doesn't talk any differently that AverageSis, AverageSisterInLaw, AverageMom, or any of the other dozens of black women I know. In fact, if you really peep her backstory, you'd agree that she's the embodiment of the truest attainment of the American Dream, perhaps even moreso than her equally talented husband. And my homegirl The Black Snob says she "dresses so sharp, she could cut a b*tch" [1]

Seriously, what's not to like?

Needless to say, not all the country shares my fond opinion. Middle America just isn't used to a seeing a highly educated, confident, proud black woman who speaks with intelligence (not to be confused with sass) and has accomplished far more than many people can only imagine. The "elitist" tag her husband gets slapped with is often applied to her as well. Some think her "Barack at home" tales effectively emasculate her husband, rather than humanize him. Her Princeton essay on racial issues on campus will surely be trotted out come the Fall.[2] And that "really proud of my country" speech may be taken out of context, but don't bother telling that to conservative talking monkeys like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Michelle Obama really, really hates her country, and she should just move back to Africa. Or so they say.

I like peeping foreign newspapers from time to time, since they tend to cover US issues from a completely different PoV. Witness some snippets from this recent UK Times article, discussing whether or not Michelle-O is a plus or minus to her husband's Presidential ambitions.

Michelle Obama would be not only the first black First Lady in history, but the youngest (at 44) and the tallest (at nearly 6ft, she has at least an inch on her husband). In one other, crucial respect she is also different from any previous First Lady: she says exactly what she thinks, when she thinks it, with a caustic sense of humour that is both very amusing and very dangerous.

For while Mrs Obama is her husband's greatest asset, she could also, potentially, become his biggest liability.

She was accused of being unpatriotic when, in an unguarded moment, she declared: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country ... because I think people are hungry for change.” Even more damaging, when asked whether she would support Hillary Clinton if her husband's opponent eventually wins the nomination, she could not hide her antipathy: “I'd have to think about that - I'd have to think about her policies, her approach, her tone.”

Perhaps most controversially of all, she has gone out of her way to put a little homemade tarnish on the halo over her husband's head. She has spoken of his snoring, his bad breath in the morning, how he fails to put the butter back in the fridge or replace the plastic grip on the bread packet to keep it fresh.

To many, this may sound like the normal joshing of a happy couple, but coming from a potential First Lady the remarks were seen as positively risqué, even disrespectful. First Ladies tend to fall into one of two categories - policymaker or home-maker: either they are political operatives in their own right (as Hillary Clinton was), or they are expected to look pleasant, back some worthy causes and avoid saying anything either controversial or interesting (in the manner of Laura Bush). First Ladies are not expected to hold forth on the subject of their husbands' smelly breath.
The article is an intriguing read that's a bit flawed in places[3], but interesting nonetheless. Peep it if you get a moment.

Question: Do you see Michelle Obama as an asset or liability to her husband's campaign? Should spouses be off limits when it comes to political smear campaigns or are they fair game?

Michelle Obama: asset or liability? [UK TimesOnline]

[1] Her words, not mine.

[2] Which means Botox Barbie McCain's drug issues should also be fair game. I'm just sayin'.

[3] Even they misquote the "really" proud speech. Sheez, where's the ombudsman?

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.