The two faces of Michelle Obama -

The two faces of Michelle Obama

Loving or hating the first lady may be a political litmus test

The two faces of Michelle

John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images

There are two Michelle Obamas, depending on what media you consume. The first version of the U.S. first lady is in the inspiring books with titles like Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, and the upcoming What Would Michelle Do?. The other Michelle Obama is the one Rush Limbaugh calls “Michelle, My Butt,” the one National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson proclaimed “had become increasingly angry since her undergraduate days.” Laura Bush was mostly ignored, even by her husband’s foes, but loving or hating Michelle Obama may be turning into a political litmus test.

The first Michelle is popular in fashion magazines, which celebrate her style choices and emphasis on healthy eating. “Michelle Obama understands that style is much more than an aesthetic choice or political tool,” wrote Kate Beatts, a former Harper’s Bazaar editor, in Everyday Icon. “It is the expression of one’s life, one’s way of being.” The entertainment industry has embraced her, too. The sitcom iCarly featured her in an episode earlier this year, the first time a first lady had been so immortalized since Nancy Reagan showed up on Diff’rent Strokes.

But if you turn to Fox News or talk radio, Mrs. Obama’s emphasis on personal style comes off looking sinister. In particular, her anti-obesity campaign is seen as an excuse for a government power grab. Rebecca Hagelin, who writes the column “How to Save Your Family” for the Washington Times, wrote that Mrs. Obama “has assumed the air of ‘government knows best’ rather than empowering parents to make informed decisions about what’s best for their families.” Michelle Malkin, a columnist and Fox contributor, claimed the initiative is meant to enrich labour unions involved in serving healthy lunches: “The biggest beneficiaries of her efforts,” Malkin wrote, “have been her husband’s deep-pocketed pals at the Service Employees International Union.”

Oliver Willis, a liberal African-American blogger, isn’t sure that this portrayal is directly related to race, arguing that it’s mainly political. “I think, historically, Republicans have an adverse reaction to Democratic first ladies,” Willis says. “It’s hard to say whether the hatred of Mrs. Obama is more virulent—conservatives did accuse Mrs. Clinton of everything under the sun, including aiding and abetting murder.” So while the president of iCarly’s network told USA Today that the episode should work “regardless of your political affinity,” everything Michelle Obama does is political to Obama opponents: the site Fox Nation took a joke from her episode (“I kind of like being called ‘Your Excellency’ ”) and implied it was her own opinion.

Willis doesn’t think that these attacks are likely to let up. “The biggest sin,” he says, “is the sin of being married to a Democratic president. That’s reason enough in their eyes.” But unlike Hillary Clinton, who wasn’t always loved by liberals, Michelle Obama has devoted fans to defend her. The stars of the hit satirical sketch comedy TV show Key & Peele, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, expressed their outrage about anti-Michelle sentiment. “When I hear people talk smack about Michelle,” Key told blogger Alyssa Rosenberg, “it drives me so crazy. What on Earth has this woman done?”


The two faces of Michelle Obama

  1. “The other Michelle Obama is the one Rush Limbaugh calls ‘Michelle, My Butt,’ ”

    That quote there pretty much explains all you need to know about the right’s attacks on Michelle Obama. It’s a very mature political movement.

    • I really don’t think you want to start characterizing the entire “political movement” of the Right based on a phrase attributed to Rush Limbaugh.  Because if we start characterizing the Left according to comments about Palin and her children made by Bill Maher, Louis C. K., or even David Letterman shown in the pic above, you’ll lose that argument in short order.

      • Like it or not Limbaugh is the defacto head of the Republican party.  

        Any time a Republican politician made ( ‘made’ since they don’t do this any longer) any comment that was negative against Limbaugh an apology or a backing down was not far behind.  

        This is simply not the case with the Democrats.  I ask you to name me one politician who’s backed down from criticizing Maher (who’s not even a Democrat), Letterman or Louis CK.  

        The silence is deafening.

        • No, we don’t have to like it because of the simple fact that it’s a blatant falsehood. Unless you can provide a link showing that Limbaugh elected head of the Republican party.  Or appointed or hired its spokesperson.  Good luck with that.

          And Democrats don’t have to “back down” from criticizing Maher, Letterman or Louis CK, because they never criticize them in the first place.

  2. Moochelle My Belle – Her of the eternal vacation at taxpayer’s expense.

    •  Please share with all of the expenses related to and lengths of the vacations of the previous 9 First Ladies. That’ll take us back to Jackie Kennedy and we can then make a fair comparison. Oh, what’s that you say? You don’t have any concrete info?

      • Looks like you’re the one making demands for someone else to investigate the vacations of the last 9 first ladies.  Too lazy to do your own research?

  3. “Oliver Willis, a liberal African-American blogger, isn’t sure that this portrayal is directly related to race, arguing that it’s mainly political.

    What?  Are you suggesting that my strong dislike of Michelle Obama isn’t necessarily because I’m a racist, but might rather be just bigotry based on politics?   Terrific.

    Here’s a suggestion Weinman:  climb out of your little shell and go meet someone who disagrees with you on something.  Speak to them.  Only then should you write about them.

    • Nice mis-read. It’s Willis’ opinion quoted here, not Weinman’s. And as long as promoting healthy eating is seen as a government power-grab, yeah, it’s going to be thought of as a partisan attack based on political ideology. 

      • Actually it’s Weinman’s summary of Willis’s position that’s quoted. Weinman takes racism as the default reason for my dislike of Mrs. Obama, and then points out that Willis has a slightly less narrow-minded view.

        Also, you will notice that Willis’s is the only opinion solicited for the piece. No point actually asking someone who dislikes Mrs. Obama why they dislike her and putting that opinion in the piece. I mean, they’d just be lying to conceal their inherent racist-political bigotry, right?

        Also also, disliking someone because they’re preachy isn’t “partisan attack”, it’s a pretty standard human reaction. Attributing that dislike to either racism or partisanship, on the other hand, without even asking one of the subjects in question is a partisan attack based on political ideology. And Mr. Weinman gets paid by a “news” magazine to do this.

        • I agree that racism is thrown out as an accusation way too much these days – and the Jaime Weinman article is yet another example of it. However, I do think that the negative response to Michelle Obama by many is unwarranted. Unlike Hillary Clinton, she does not have a real policy role in government (for the record I don’t care about Michelle Obama). Like most first ladies, her job is advocacy.

          Most first ladies have preachy causes. For Nancy Reagan it was “don’t do drugs”, for Hillary Clinton it was “universal healthcare” and for Laura Bush it was “read a book”. Of those issues, only universal healthcare is a partisan issue. Indeed, I should hope that America can have bipartisan agreement that avoiding drugs, literacy, and eating vegetables are a good thing (if they disagree somewhat on the role of government in promoting these things).

          And if you look at comment boards for stories on Michelle Obama, the emphasis isn’t usually on her being preachy. The number 1 topic is her butt, followed by her purported dislike of white people (though evidently not the half-white cousin of Robert E. Lee, raised by white people, that she married).

        •  Didn’t you get the memo, Gaunilon?  Any and all criticism of the Obamas is considered racist.  Clearly, the only logical reason that someone would dare to find fault with the thin-skinned petulant man-child President or his preachy, hypocritical, everyone-needs-to-cut-back-except-ME-ME-ME wife is because deep down inside their cold, black hearts they are an evil filthy racist who longs to take the US back to the Jim Crow days and lynch blacks.  We know this because DNC chief and intellectual titan Debbie Wasserman-Schutlz told us so.

  4. The Obamas have taken some rather elaborate vacations during the worst economic conditions in America since the Great Depression.  That is quite different than Reagan or Clinton or even Bush II taking a similar vacation, because poverty wasn’t nearly as rampant during their tenures (there are currently about 46 million Americans of food stamps).

    I will not make any judgment on her personality or character because I do not know her, but my biggest issue with Michelle Obama is her hypocritical position on organic gardening and healthy eating. She goes on about how people need to eat better, and publicizes that she has an organic garden at the Whitehouse, all the while her husband’s policies reflect a total sellout to industrial agribusiness.  GMOs are being approved and planted at a record pace.  The FDA is conducting armed raids on stores and farmers that sell raw milk to fulfill the demand of their customers, yet won’t ban BPA.  The Federal government subsidizes the unsustainable production of corn for ethanol (over 50% of the US corn crop went to biofuel production in 2011), causing food prices to rise world wide.  The rest of the subsidized corn, and subsidized soybeans, are fed to cattle, hogs and chickens living in inhumane CAFOs (where they are also fed such things as chicken manure, feathers, rendered beef fat and a steady supply of anitbiotics, and injected with growth hormones) or directly processed into empty calories for human consumption.

    I find it quite hard to believe that Michelle Obama is not aware of the double standard she is promoting, so what is her motive?

    • Excellent!

    • Yes, of course, the many pictures of W celebrating with McCain and yucking it up while Katrina victims die was sooooooo much better.

      And that little party where he joked and laughed and grinned incessantly while pretending to look for those mia weapons of mass destruction — that was better too, huh?

      •  Tyke – You need to grow up and realize that a person may have more than one of two political positions.  Politics aren’t just a pep rally for grown-ups.  What part of my comment gave you the idea I was a Bush supporter, or a Republican-lover for that matter?  What does Michelle’s conflict of interest regarding food policy have to do with Katrina or the Iraq war?  This is the typical American political discourse – rather than respond to a statement with an appropriate argument or sensible rebuttal, change the subject.  What’s next, a “yo mama” crack?  It is obvious from reading your thoughtless reply that the relentless proliferation of attack ads have a target audience at least.

  5. Seriously?  Oliver Willis is your main go-to guy for a faux “balanced” story on Michelle Obama?  Obama Fan-boi Oliver Willis of Left-Wing Partisan, White House Coordinating, Propaganda Factory Media Matters? 
    What, did the guy you normally use for similarly “serious” stories refuse to take off his tinfoil hat and come out of his cardboard box under the overpass, so you had to go with your second choice?

  6. How could anyone not love and respect a woman who would, for a sweet $300,000+ a year paycheck, setup a low-income patient dumping program nobly called the “Urban Health Initiative” for the University of Chicago Medical Center, in order to keep those filthy uninsured poor people from clogging up their ER waiting rooms and making well-to-do, privately insured patients wait longer?

    Maybe you should ask Angela Adams, the uninsured mother who was told by the UCMC staff to take her young son, who had had his lip partially bitten off by a pitbull, across town to the county hospital for treatment.  I understand they were very helpful in telling her which bus to get on.

  7. If anything tells you that the right has gone bonkers, it’s that they actually make something *sinister* out of the First Lady Encouraging Children to Eat Healthy Food.

    At this point, they’re just nuts.