Before I say anything, think for a moment about Michelle Obama. What comes to mind? If you’re like me, you think of her as the type of first lady who isn’t quite as hands-off as Laura Bush, but who has clearly tried to avoid wading into political battles, instead choosing relatively non-controversial topics like fighting childhood obesity.
But that isn’t the way Joe Curl of the pro-Republican opinion magazine the Washington Times sees it. He sees her as “very angry” and “madder than ever.” His evidence? First, Ms. Obama and her kids, along with several staff flew to Martha’s Vineyard 4 hours ahead of her husband in a separate plane this summer (Curl says this means that she’s angry with him). Then, at a fundraiser she praised the impact that her husband’s court nominees will have on Americans privacy, speech, and religious freedoms. Worst of all, she suggested that every child should have an opportunity to succeed rather than the few at the top. (Curl extrapolates on this to claim it shows that she is “ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the campaign trail”).
These attacks are, frankly, untrue and unfair. No stone has been left unturned, no wild speculation left unbelieved in Curl’s full-frontal assault on Ms. Obama’s temperament. What’s behind it? Simple: The Republicans only understand one way to argue: ad hominem. If you want Barack Obama to be a one-term president, attack him not for his policies but who he is as a person. But it’s not enough to just go after him, no – because can a bad, scary, man have a good, kind-hearted wife? Not if you see everything in black and white (disclaimer for Republicans: no racial overtones intended). So the person you’re painting as an angry, black militant president needs an angry, black militant wife.
But what if the wife doesn’t easily fit into the mold that you’ve laid out for her? Then, you get Joe Curl’s ridiculous article. That, and the following partial list of the supposedly despicable acts the Republicans have accused Ms. Obama of:
Looks fat to Republicans
– “militant racism” for her mentioning, during college, that she sometimes feels alienated as a black woman on an Ivy League university.
– suggesting by implication that she was not really proud of her country before when she used the filler words “for the first time” before stating that she was really proud of her country.*
– offending the Queen of England (not the Queen!) by touching her during a greeting, despite the Queen’s denial that it was offensive
– “eating a high-calorie meal at a burger joint”
– “greeting” an overweight surgeon general
– allegedly – and this is according to anonymous sources, so you have to be careful throwing around accusations as damning as these – complaining once in private that she dislikes being first lady.
– being fat (for reference, a picture of 45-year-old First Lady is provided at right)
*judging from the criticisms, the worst thing she’s ever done in her life.
And to reiterate, it’s a very small fraction of the ridiculous attacks Michelle Obama has faced. It goes back to my long-standing theory of conservativism: that conservatives are simply misguided liberals that still believe in liberal ideals, but have been led astray by hatred and fear. Without hatred and without fear, the conservative becomes what it fears most – a liberal. Thus hatred and fear are the nourishment of the conservatives, and they seek it everywhere it might be found. Mr. Curl’s article, and the attacks on Ms. Obama as a whole, provide excellent examples of this desperate, self-denying search.
Would (open) liberals do it differently? Sure. I could very easily give you an example of a first lady who had a big event in her past that liberals have left untouched, but would have essentially prevented her husband from even running if he were a Democrat based on the outpouring of hatred that conservatives on the right would have unleashed if the shoe were on the other foot. Of course, since I’m a liberal, I don’t really think it’s fair to point out what’s been left untouched, because it had absolutely nothing to do with her husband’s job as president. Just consider the last few Republican first ladies (Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush [who, by the way, has almost openly courted controversy], and Laura Bush) and how liberals treated them, versus the endless shower of baseless abuse heaped upon Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. I think if you’re honest, you’ll see I have a point.