Monday, May 19, 2008

Michelle Obama: Fair game? Yes.

In this news article, Barack Obama is telling Tennessee's GOP party to lay off his wife, Michelle Obama. This was as a result of their posting a video clip of her now-famous statement that "she was proud of her country for the first time of her life", which right-wingers and certain conservative talk-show hosts have had a field day with. While Barack was referring to the Tennessee GOP party, no doubt other state GOP parties and even the national party will eventually get into the act of criticizing Michelle once Barack officially gets the nomination (and at this point, the nomination is his to lose).

While it is completely natural for Barack to state such things to protect his wife, are the media required to abide by this order? The answer is no. Why? One only has to consider Barack's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton - a former First Lady - and ask if she was left alone during her husband Bill's two terms in office. If you think that she was left alone, then you weren't paying attention for those eight years. So the question becomes, why should the media be allowed to criticize First Ladies, since they are not the ones who ran for office?

How much that First Ladies are "fair game" for the media is directly proportionate to how public a persona they intend to have. In fact, if you compare Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, you see that Clinton chose to be a more public persona, because she had her own plans to run for office. Bush, however, has been much more low key - thus, coverage has been such that she is reported on usually when she makes a public appearance for some cause.

As for Michelle Obama, she chose to make that statement. If this signals an intent to be a public figure like her husband, then she is also "fair game". In addition, while it may be chivalrous for Barack to come to the defense of his wife, it can also be perceived as an insult by feminists that "the little woman" needs her "big man" to come to her defense; that she can't stand up and defend herself. If she's going to share the world's grandest stage with her husband, then she needs to show that she is capable of taking the heat as well, or she'll have to adopt a Laura Bush philosophy and stay out of it except for special occassions. They can't have it both ways.

As both a modern woman and a black woman, Michelle needs to demonstrate to the world that she is capable of standing on her own two feet, with her husband needed only for support and to "have her back". If she can do that, then she'll go a long way towards helping both blacks and women by demonstrating how far they've come. Plus, if she accomplishes this, then the mainstream media will positively EAT. IT. UP. You know they will, even though there is no liberal bias in the media. She's already made one reach for the limelight - she can't turn back now just because she got burned the first time around.

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