Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Obama, Wherever You Are

The First Lady turns 48 today. I know because an e-mail from the President last week reminded me with two links to a fund-raising site:

“The decision to become part of this campaign was deeply personal for a lot of people, and Michelle and I are no exception...

“This fall, Michelle and I will have been married 20 years. The next 10 months will be harder than any we've experienced together, and I couldn't do it without her. I know she'd love to hear from you today.”

With this kind of robo-mail, the Obamas are a long way from 2007 when a campaigning Michelle talked about her husband’s domestic faults (not picking up his socks or putting butter back in the refrigerator) and offered a philosophical reason for doing so:

“Barack is very much human. So let’s not deify him, because what we do is we deify, and then we’re ready to chop it down. People have notions of what a wife’s role should be in this process, and it’s been a traditional one of blind adoration. My model is a little different--I think most real marriages are.”

Inevitably, the White House makes fictional characters out of its inhabitants with journalists like Bob Woodward and the like trying to get behind the façade. The latest, Jodi Kantor, was on the Daily Show last night, with Jon Stewart expressing surprise that her relatively mild book had drawn a counterattack from Mrs. Obama claiming it portrayed her as “some angry black woman.”

With Republicans demonizing her husband non-stop in debates, such touchiness is understandable, particularly since even Obama supporters like Arianna Huffington are blurting advice for her to be more like Eleanor Roosevelt who “at the same time that she's doing fundraisers in Beverly Hills and Bel Air, she should go to South Central [Los Angeles]...and seeing the places where there is pain, where there is struggle, where there is homelessness, where there is unemployment.”

The real person in the White House now did not sign on to be Eleanor Roosevelt or anyone since then, when most First Ladies had to do no more than stand behind their husbands, smiling for photo-ops.

So, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, Happy Birthday, Michelle Robinson Obama (no campaign contribution included).

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