Facebook Twitter

Obama staff tries to tone down Michelle

SHARE Obama staff tries to tone down Michelle

When in doubt, blame the media. That used to be an over-used conservative tactic. Now it's being adopted, apparently, by the Kool-Aid imbibing Obama fans who are so blind to the Obamas' flaws that they scramble mightily to find someone other than the Obamas to blame for these flaws.

Let me state for the record I am neither conservative nor liberal, Democrat nor Republican, feminist nor anti-feminist. Philosophical or partisan labels make me nervous and are never entirely accurate if there is a functioning brain inside the person so labeled. We all think for ourselves and have beliefs that differ from doctrinal rigidity — that is, unless we happen to be a partisan angling for a political appointment (the old, 'What's in it for me' routine.)

As to President-elect Barack Obama, I probably agree with him on 90 percent of his environmental agenda, 90 percent of his diversity agenda and 20 percent of his tax policy agenda. I am so far extremely disappointed with what I see developing as his gender agenda: his position on women's rights. I could go on, but my point is I dislike both parties equally for very different reasons, so any reader thoughts along the lines of, 'you Democrat, you Republican,' are flat out wrong.

I met Rebecca Traister of Salon.com in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. We were both speaking on a panel of journalists. She seemed quite bright, but an article she posted last week does not reflect that shining intelligence. Her vision of Michelle Obama is clearly obscured to the point of blindness by her worshipful take on what she calls the Bam-a-lot family.

The gist of her article is that Michelle Obama is being 'momified' by the media.

She writes that the media are paying more attention to Obama's clothes and role as mother, than to her educational and career credentials.

An unobscured vision of Michelle Obama and her husband's handlers shows it is they who are doing that to her, not the media. Obama herself described her role as first lady as 'Mom-in-Chief.' She gave up her own career to help him pursue his. She clearly plans to emulate the retro Laura Bush rather than the career-oriented Sen. Hillary Clinton.

An Associated Press story last week reported, "Valerie Jarrett, a longtime family friend who is helping lead the president-elect transition team, said in a broadcast interview Sunday: 'Having a seat at the table and being co-president is not something she's interested in doing.'"

"First ladies often start out slow, then pick up the pace as they become more comfortable in their roles. An Ivy League-educated lawyer, Michelle Obama was criticized during the campaign and Jarrett's comments could be taken as the beginning of an effort to lower her profile, de-emphasize her adviser role and present a more traditional, first lady persona, possibly to avoid repeating the mistake the Clintons made."

Another example: Last week when the Obamas were in Chicago, Sen. Obama accompanied his wife to a parent-teacher conference. I was told of that meeting by a close friend who is a high-level Democratic fundraiser. But Obama's media staffers did not push that story. So it was barely covered. In CNN's online version, it appeared in the last paragraph of a sidebar and was downplayed similarly by other national media as a feature on the Obama children's move to Washington, D.C., rather than on the front pages.

So as far as Ms. Traister and other journalists writing that Mrs. Obama is on the wrong end of a raw deal from the media, I have three words of advice: get a grip. They should stop morphing Michelle Obama from the professional politician she has become, into Victim-In-Chief. This is not some media conspiracy to turn Michelle Obama into Mrs. Mom, but an Obama staff contrivance to tone down Michelle Obama's stridency and negatives.

After she made campaign trail comments about being proud of her country for the first time (only following her husband's success) and disparaging Sen. Clinton, the campaign had no choice but to tone her down.

It's sad both she and Sen. Obama are going along with it. It's beginning to look as if they're a couple much more concerned with racial than gender parity. This may go down in history as the presidential race in which the Democrats backed racial progress and tossed gender progress overboard as so much detritus.

Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mailbonnieerbe@CompuServe.com.