Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Michelle Obama Channels Betty Ford

But in the era of gender and racial correctness, not quite...

On "The View" today, according to the Times' Jodi Kantor, "She got to explain her 'proud' comment at length, in a friendly setting; she talked about her husband and children in approachable terms; she stressed her humble roots (she just said her mother has a slight gambling habit, and has won $17,000 with what sound like quarter slots). That said, it looks like Mrs. Obama is having the appearance of fun, rather than actual fun. This is not the loosest I’ve seen her, and she is surely watching every word."

No wonder. "Unlike her husband, who wrote in his memoir that he had learned at a young age to smile and charm and disarm whites of the notion that he might be a bristly black militant," Maureen Dowd observes, "Michelle has not always hidden her jangly opinions so well."

Over three decades ago, Americans fell in love with an outspoken First Lady, who didn't hesitate to talk about birth control, her addiction to alcohol or anything else she was asked. But Betty Ford came to the White House without running an election campaign gauntlet--behaving naturally unlike others who could pass for inflatable life-sized dolls permanently positioned to stare adoringly at their husbands.

Michelle Obama has a lot of that outspokenness in her, but in this election year, a rare combination of racism and sexism will be waiting to twist everything she says. It will take a delicate balance to channel her inner Betty Ford while preventing haters from picturing her, in Dowd's words, as "a female version of Jeremiah Wright, an angry black woman."

It might help to keep in mind that Mrs. Ford deflected criticism by keeping her sense of humor. Telling a reporter that the media was asking all kinds of personal questions, except how often she slept with her husband, she volunteered to answer that, too.

"As often as I can," Betty Ford said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think this is truly insightful!! enjoyed the read