Exactly what is controversial about Michelle Obama? It has become accepted that the wife of the Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, is controversial. Pundits referred to her as such during coverage of the Democratic National Convention's first night.
Exactly what is controversial about Michelle Obama?
It has become accepted that the wife of the Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, is controversial. Pundits referred to her as such during coverage of the Democratic National Convention's first night.
Much energy was spent Monday night telling her story, which didn’t sound controversial at all. She grew up on the south side of Chicago in a working class family, achieved her way to college at Princeton and then Harvard, and returned to Chicago and worked as an attorney, which is where she met her future husband. She was his supervisor.
Eventually, she turned away from that lucrative law career and returned to her neighborhood to do community service work. She married Barack and they have two children, girls, who appeared on the stage with their mother Monday night.
A recent Wall Street poll showed that 29 percent of voters had a negative view of Michelle Obama. To be fair, 38 percent had a positive view of her. Both her positive and negative numbers were higher than Cindy McCain, the wife of the GOP nominee for president.
Michelle Obama is more of a public figure than Cindy McCain. She campaigns for her husband and generally says what’s on her mind. As Newsweek reported, “She isn’t the traditional Stepford booster, smiling vacantly at her husband and sticking to a script of carefully vetted blandishments.”
She’s blunt and formidable. Maybe that’s the controversial part. The Newsweek piece went on to explain that Michelle Obama is very competitive and wants to win, but doesn’t want a say in policy. And she’s not seeking public office herself. On Monday night, she said she wants to be her husband’s wife and her kids’ mother. Not much of a dustup there.
Maybe this perception as a controversial figure came about as a result of political opponents, who are trying to sell the idea that she doesn’t love her country. She was reduced to having to declare her patriotism several times Monday night.
That’s because during a Feb. 18 campaign speech in Wisconsin she said that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of America. She later apologized for the comment and said she meant that she had a renewed pride in her country.
Nevertheless, opponents pounced on the gaffe and sought to exploit it with the narrative that she, along with her husband and the family’s former reverend, isn’t fond of America. Even Cindy McCain, who generally stays out of the political fray, piled on.
“I just wanted to make the statement that I have, and always will be, proud of my country,” Cindy McCain said.
To build on that story, some Republican operatives (including Roger Stone, who specializes in opposition research for the Republican Party) floated a story that there’s a record of Michelle Obama calling white people “Whiteys” and that a major network has the tape of it. It’s the reason, Stone said, that Hillary Clinton continued her bid for the Democratic nomination for so long. She’s waiting for this surprise to sink Obama’s campaign.
The story, however unstable and fictitious, is now built and Michelle Obama is now considered “controversial.”
This week the Obama campaign and the Democrats will seek to dismantle it and tell their own story of Michelle Obama.
And while their story may be a little more polished and homespun than the real story, Michelle Obama’s life reveals someone who loves her family, her community and her country.
Pride in one’s country is shown, not stated. She’s shown it.
Tom Martin can be reached at email@example.com.