Monday, February 25, 2008

Barack's Rock Rocks!

Michelle Obama made the cover of Newsweek last week, and I've just had an opportunity to get through it and tick off some excerpts from a couple of its feature stories.

Both pieces reveal Ms. Obama in a way which helps us anticipate how she will fill the role of First Lady.

First, the cover story by Richar Wolffe, Barack’s Rock:

Michelle Obama's appeal-she routinely draws audiences of 1,000 ... As a political spouse,
she is somewhat unusual. She isn't the traditional Stepford booster, smiling vacantly at her husband and sticking to a script of carefully vetted blandishments. Nor is she a surrogate campaign manager, ordering the staff around and micromanaging the candidate's every move .... Michelle has made it her job to ensure that Barack, who now lives full time inside the surreal campaign bubble of adoring crowds and constant attention, doesn't himself lose sight of what's normal .... In her words, she is just making sure he is "keeping it real."

Deeply competitive by nature ... she wants the White House as much as he does ..... after the surprise loss in New Hampshire, where polls had Obama leading Hillary Clinton by wide margins. It was Michelle who delivered the pep talk to the candidate's dispirited aides waiting anxiously outside the couple's hotel suite.

Michelle then turned her ministrations to her husband. As he walked onstage that night to deliver his concession speech, she took his hand and led him around the front of the podium so he could recharge himself with the cheers of the crowd. She paused with him for a moment, then patted him on the cheek and left the stage.

. . . . What would she do as First Lady? It's a question she gets all the time now. Yet it's not one she ventures to answer in any detail. She is interested in issues women face balancing work and home, and in lowering barriers that keep poor students from college. She says,
There are a ton of things. It's endless what you can do in the White House. . But until I get there and know what kind of resources I'll have and how much time and what's the agenda of the country, I think, truthfully, I don't know which of these many things I can focus on.
If they win, Michelle says, there won't be any to-do list for the East Wing until she gets her daughters settled in Washington. (She never moved to the capital when Obama became a senator.) She asks,
What will the girls need? Are they going to transition easily to the White House and this public life and a new school and a new city? If they're losing their minds, that's one project off Mommy's table, because I'm going to be making sure that they have their feet on the ground.
. . . . . Though she has no official policy role in the campaign, she has been deployed to speak directly to the fears of black audiences in a way that Barack often does not. Earlier this year, Obama staffers worried that some African-American voters might still be reluctant to believe that a black man could really be elected president. Michelle went down to South Carolina to try to put them at ease. As she reviewed her speech on the plane ride to one event, a story came to mind. She thought of African-Americans she had known who had saved for new furniture, only to wrap it in plastic to protect it. But in the end, doing so was self-defeating. She told the audience,
That plastic gets yellow and scratches up your leg. I think folks just want to protect us from the possibility of being let down … by the world as it is. A world, they fear, is not ready for a decent man like Barack. Sometimes it seems better not to try at all than to try and fail.
She urged them to take the risk.

At least once, Michelle did voice her displeasure to the campaign staff. After one of the debates, Obama's team met to discuss strategy. Michelle dialed in and spoke over the phone. She did not say much, but she made it clear that she was not happy. She thought that Hillary Clinton had packed the crowd with supporters, and that Obama had been booed whenever he criticized Hillary. She told the strategists that she didn't want that to happen again. A senior Obama aide who attended the meeting and spoke candidly on condition of anonymity:
It was more than a strategist talking about what the best tactic would be. It was a spouse saying, 'Do not do this to my husband again'.
My second 'exhibit' is from Raina Kelley's A Real Wife, In a Real Marriage:

Part of Michelle's strength is that she has been immune to the mommy wars that tripped up Hillary during Bill's campaigns. The baking-versus-working tension is irrelevant for her; black women have never been burdened with the luxury of choice. Our heritage does not include the gilded cage, and we certainly never fought to labor outside the home—black women have always worked. This is why many of us never inherited the remorse about balancing work and family that plagues our white counterparts. For Michelle, voters have read this as self-assurance—appealing to young voters who are optimistic that they will find a balance between career and home. For older women, Michelle seems to speak with real candor about the realities of domestic life—including her complaints about Barack's aversion to picking up his socks and putting away the butter. In an interview with Glamour magazine she said,
People understood that this is how we all live in our marriages. And 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.
Vigilante would not allow me to post these two articles in their entirety. I encourage Barack fans to follow my links and enjoy the originals!