Sunday, August 8, 2010

Michelle Antoinette

I'm trying to figure out which is more bizarre:

A. Michelle Obama taking a five-star trip to Spain in the midst of a protracted recession.

B. Maureen Dowd chastising Michelle Obama for not being a better wife. Link here.

Some of it makes a certain kind of sense. If we are all supposed to be citizens of the world then Michelle Obama must be Queen of the World. Don't her subjects have the right to see her in person, strolling the streets of Marbella, hanging out in the Alhambra, surrounded by enough burly security officers to form a rugby league?

Didn't you know when you were voting for Obama that you weren't voting for a president: you were voting for a monarch.

Just as Obama lords it over the American people-- because he knows better than they what is good for them-- so does his wife play out the same role.

For those who believe that President Obama is possessed of superhuman arrogance, it looks like he has found his perfect match in Michelle Antoinette.

But how does a Maureen Dowd come to criticize a woman for being a bad wife?

She could have fallen back on the tired cliche of the independent woman living her own life, not being tied down in the kitchen by her husband.

But she doesn't. Perhaps she has experienced an awakening.

She notes correctly that the press coverage of Michelle Antoinette's trip has ranged from bad to awful. Here's the London Daily Mail, Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News, the Seattle Times,  and Australia's The Age.

What political point can be made by gracing a foreign country with your presence and your money in a time of economic crisis? It says that you are not with the people, but are above them.

As Dowd points out, Michelle Obama had done a very good job as first lady. So much so that the country had forgotten her unfortunate remarks about how it was only contingent circumstances that could provoke her pride in her country. Now, with one trip, she has managed to remind us all of her previous gaffe, and has made it look more truthful than anyone wanted to believe.

Dowd also remarks, astutely, that many other times when the administration was facing a defining moment, thus when her husband might have needed her to be at his side, Michelle was off somewhere else: whether at a Broadway show or partying in Los Angeles.

What is Michelle Antoinette trying to tell us? Is she saying that she has made such a great sacrifice in being married to Barack Obama and in putting her own ambitions on hold to advance his career goals, and that, for having made this supreme sacrifice, the world and the nation owes her whatever she asks.

Whatever the reasons, Michelle Antoinette is not, in Dowd's eyes, a very good wife. Unless there are exigent circumstances, a good wife does not abandon her husband on his birthday. A president's wife does not abandon her husband at crucial political moments either. How can Obama do his job when even his wife is not on his side.

Why is Michelle Antoinette doing this? Unlike her French namesake she is neither very young nor hopelessly naive. Perhaps she is saying that she has it all coming to her. Perhaps she believes that she has made an enormous personal sacrifice to advance her husband's political career. She may even believe that Barack Obama is the best thing that has ever happened to America and that she is primarily responsible for having given the nation the gift of her husband's leadership.

If that is true, then perhaps she feels that there is no limit to the debt that the nation owes her.

However, does Michelle Antoinette know that she is diminishing her husband, her nation, and the office of the presidency. Maybe not. For not having spent enough time on difficult public relations problems, she may simply be blind to the effects of her actions.

Or maybe she is so full of herself that she cannot imagine that she might be wrong.

But I suspect that the real reason is that she has simply read too much Maureen Dowd. A year ago June, when Michelle Obama was in London. Dowd wrote in her column that Michelle was a perfect ambassador to the world: "The right signal is Michelle and her daughters being charming ambassadors, 'gobsmacking' the town, as a British tabloid put it, by scarfing down fish and chips at a London pub...." Link here.

What a difference a year makes.

The passage of time has taught Maureen Dowd that the picture of the Obama marriage that she and many others where cooing over was perhaps as much of a sham image as Obama's presentation of himself as a moderate centrist.

Here's  how Maureen Dowd described the Obama's taking an evening off to have a date night at a Broadway show last year: "I loved the 'Pretty Woman' romance of the New York tableau, the president, who had not lived an entitled life where he could afford such lavish gestures, throwing off his tie and whisking his wife, in a flirty black cocktail dress, to sip martinis in Manhattan, as Sasha hung over a White House balcony and called out goodbye."

It's not a happy day when you discover that you've been had. Again, what a difference a year makes.


Anonymous said...

From Maureen's column:

There are plenty of multi-star hotels there, and she and the girls could have cleaned a few pelicans.

Wow! That's pretty good snark.

I've gotten tons of mileage out of this in a mixed conservative/liberal group:

"Well, Obama says 'he can't just swim down there and suck the oil up with a straw.' But Dick Cheney could! With his bionic heart he could swim down and suck that oil up! 'Cuz he lives on oil! He made us invade Iraq for more oil to eat! Grrr! Grr! Good thing we threw all those 'oil guys' out of the Whitehouse!"

The conservatives laugh like hell at a funny jest and the libs laugh a little then look kinda ill.


Anonymous said...

As Dowd noted, Michelle silenced her critics by almost disappearing.

They are living life large, and it seems inappropriate for where they claim to come from. If they were humble and poor, it seems childlike that they have an attitude of hitting a jackpot.