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June 17, 2008

More From Obama Lover, Michael Powell

Michelle Philadelphia

Conservative columnists accuse her of being unpatriotic and say she simmers with undigested racial anger. A blogger who supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton circulates unfounded claims that Mrs. Obama gave an accusatory speech in her church about the sins of “whitey.”

–From second paragraph of Michael Powell’s NYT feature on Michelle Obama

Seeming to formalize a problem where there isn’t one, today’s NYT piece on Michelle Obama (penned, yes, by “Obama lover,” Michael Powell) frames Michelle — because, I assume, she’s been adding staff and is about to host “The View” — as being embattled and in need of a relaunch.

I guess with Hillary out, Powell needs some pot to stir, subtlety reinforcing “the angry Michelle” meme by describing her as a “less mutable” black woman who “burns hot.”

With the photo framed under the title: “After Attacks, Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction,” the clapping reinforces the idea of introduction, but the complex facial expression — with Michelle distanced from the viewer behind the shoulder of the man in front of her — only raises more questions about where she is coming from. On top of that, the first line of the story — although addressing an unrelated circumstance — ends up editorializing on the image by describing Michelle as sporting a “trained smile” as she is asked to consider her “complicated public image.”

In point of fact, the photograph was taken back in March while Michelle Obama was listening to BHO’s speech on race, a bold and politically risky effort in the midst of the unrelenting media storm over Jeremiah Wright.  Given those circumstances, it makes perfect sense that Michelle’s complex of emotions emanates from the heat of the moment, not some alleged personality issue or supposed present-day public relations problem.

After Attacks, Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction (Michael Powell – NYT)

(image: Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times.  Philadelphia. March, 2008.

  • jonst

    It’s curious how we have story after story about Michelle Obama….but stories like this, on Cindy McCain, get buried, and rarely, if ever, make the MSM. Feel free to pass it around folks.

  • Emily L. Ferguson

    No longer constrained by the absolute necessity of being extraordinarily gentlemanly but firm, Mr. Obama has now palpably altered the tone of his campaign, again still without slinging freshly exhumed mud. The need for the campaign to relocate Mrs. Obama in the new tone is, however, only part of what’s going on out there in Chicago.
    The other two concerns – how much Mrs. Obama had decided to get out on the bandwagon and what she would have to learn to stay on pitch – are now in play.
    Clearly she has decided to move towards the front, probably because the advantages of that are enormous: they personify an almost idealized American marriage (still visibly in love after 17 years together), she has struck a balance among her roles with enormous dignity, smarts and capability, she reinforces his persona as a mediator and thinker, and if you read The Root blog you will find that people there understand that her being more dark skinned than he (with more ties to the harshness of being black in South Side Chicago) enhances the campaign because her academic and employment success represent more hope for the generation that the campaign needs to get out to vote.
    So, despite the “evenhandedness” of the NYT article, the truth of the matter is that Mrs. Obama has accepted an interesting new job – to balance the dynamic which existed between them pre-campaign against the need to be publically less dominant of him.
    Of course, we can’t ask the NYT to explore so candidly the quality of their closeness. It would be perceived as an invasion of the privacy of two of the “beautiful people”, quite as no newspaper dared pry that deeply into the truths of the relationship between the previous “beautiful people” who ran for and won an American Presidency. So Powell pushes the envelope under the guise of evenhandedness. Reading the article reveals to me that he may not even understand what he’s playing around with.
    To me, the neutrality of the expression in her face in this image reflects her committment to her earlier role as wife and audience member. It would not surprise me at all if this image was shot before he began the speech.
    There was an image of her during the speech which revealed so much more about their relationship. Unfortunately I can no longer find it in public sources.

  • catfood

    Our allegedly liberal media is working for McCain. In this instance, the NYT is pandering to prejudice. They purposely ran a photo which would, to people so inclined, reinforce their perception of Michelle Obama as an angry black woman.
    To the best of my knowledge, not one of these attacks is based on anything she has ever actually said or done. To some extent, they reflect the racist baggage of the attackers. I suspect that there is also some anti-intellectual bias. The fact that Michelle Obama is an erudite woman campaigning and possessing a mind of her own drives some people nuts. The only photos we see of Cindy McCain show her beside or behind her husband with her mouth shut, i.e. being a good Republican wife.

  • black dog barking

    Ms Obama looks serious, as is fitting at this serious moment attending a serious speech. The midnight armies of Limbaugh want this to be anger but it is not. Anger is their pony’s one trick. It is their base, it is their total range of expression. It is their message.
    Anger shouts. Ms Obama is listening.

    • Ggreene19

      Labeling white people as racists is your one trick pony too. Guess what, the American people might just show you a real trick next year when they chase this loser out. Are you better off than you were 4 trillion dollars ago? You probably are but most of are not.

  • g

    not one of these attacks is based on anything she has ever actually said or done.
    Agree. The origin is the subtle parsing of “really proud”. The whole thing is disgusting and completely racist and sexist. I am appalled at some of the things that crawl out of the right-wing sewer, but that’s to be expected. it’s discouraging seeing legitimate media take the same tone.
    I think she’s a fantastic woman – admirable and gorgeous.

  • catfood

    The thing is, who could blame her if she WAS angry now?
    The smear merchants best case scenario is that their baseless attacks will provoke her to the point of actually displaying anger.

  • r@d@r

    well thank goodness she didn’t make the mistake of denigrating women who stay at home baking cookies!

  • Stewart Dean

    “Undigested racial anger”, huh?
    Digesting anger. Just all part of good healthy daily diet for non-whites, sorta like fiber and low sodium. Jeebers, what utterly LOADED language in a lead sentence! As if. As if being crapped on is supposed to be something in her daily life, and something that is normal and something she would be remiss if she it made her turn a hair. She is not even allowed to shed it, like water off a duck, but instead needs to *digest* it…presumably with good spirit.
    Powell needs to spend some time in the Deep South with no money and a darkened skin. Yum, Yum, Yum! Better than Dairy Queen. Those lucky, lucky dark skinned people that get the rare privilege of digesting anger.

  • The BAG

    Wonder what your thoughts are about the hands.
    I’m in NYC right now and had occasion to discuss the pic with Alan Chin. He wasn’t sure if the photo was taken from long distance, or with a wide-angle lens. He also wasn’t sure that the hands on the left are Michelle’s.
    I looked at several other photos and the boniness just below the wrist matches pretty clearly. The color of the suit (and maybe a stripe in it??) seems to also match. She wears a diamond ring but the stone, if it’s there, is cut-off in this picture.
    If those are Michelle’s hands, and given the proportions, doesn’t that also lend an air of distortion to the image?

  • Linda rosenfield

    Did ya know this exact same pic and article word for word are on Huffington Post? Who took from whom?

  • Neal

    The little knives are out big-time. There has been no big scandal to push forward so it will be an attempt to kill the campaign by a thousand little cuts. The flurry of hazy gossip, unsubstantiated rumor, untrue accusation and innuendo will continue until the election. The point is to have so many rumors that the undecided are eventually repelled.
    Read the following from the Minnesota Independant:
    Duluth man who says he has dirt on Obama also has an extensive rap sheet
    By Andy Birkey Jun 18 2008
    Larry Sinclair of Duluth, Minn., has been charged twice with forgery, served 16 years in prison for fraud, is a Crimestoppers Most Wanted fugitive in Colorado, yet he’s speaking at the National Press Club (NPC) Wednesday to tell anyone who will listen that he has dirt on Sen. Barack Obama. Politico reports on Sinclair’s extensive rap sheet.
    Sinclair’s credibility is in question, and he has yet to provide any documentation of the charges he’s leveling against Obama — that he and Obama had oral sex and did illegal drugs in Sinclair’s limo in 1998. In February of this year, Sinclair failed a polygraph test when asked questions about his story., which administered the polygraph testing will hold a press conference at the National Press Club immediately after Sinclair’s event.
    It appears that just about the only reason anyone is paying attention is that the event is being held at the National Press Club. The NPC insists he is only renting space in its building and that they do not turn down paying customers. But critics charge that the Press Club, by featuring Sinclair’s event prominently on its Web site, gives credibility to a criminal who has levied accusations against a public figure without proof. An online campaign has been under way to convince the Press Club to cancel the Sinclair event, which is being paid for by Veritas Federal Media. (The organization’s lineage is unclear, but blogger Taylor Marsh traces Veritas Media to one Joseph Giganti, who was the spokesman for the 2000 presidential campaign of Republican Alan Keyes — the same Alan Keyes trounced by Barack Obama en route to the U.S. Senate.) Sinclair is being represented by Montgomery Blair Sibley, an attorney whose license to practice law has been suspended. Sibley recently represented the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, also known as the “D.C. Madam.”
    Sinclair filed suit against Obama, Obama’s media advisor, David Axelrod, and the Democratic National Committee for infringing on his right to free speech in Minnesota district court in February. That suit was quickly dismissed. Judge James M. Rosenbaum dismissed Sinclair’s case in early March, calling it a “plainly frivolous case sua sponte [of one's own accord] without requiring the victimized defendants to expend legal fees in responding.”
    The look on Michelle Obama’s face telss it all.

  • Emily L. Ferguson

    They’re Michelle’s hands, some short lens, that. The pin stripe suit she’s wearing appears in another of the shots in the NYT slideshow, too.

  • mjfgates

    One thing that makes it easy to characterize Mrs. Obama as “angry” is the shape of her eyebrows– they’re just naturally higher up at the outer corners of her face, and lower down in the middle. So, even when her face is relaxed, the brows are doing the classic “GRRR! I’M MAD!” thing. With a horizontal set of eyebrows, and that photo, she’d look, i think… worried.

  • gussie

    I’m pretty unsophisticated with this stuff, but I saw that picture in a BAG ad on another blog, and clicked because I wondered what you were saying. My first impression was: she’s gorgeous.

  • KansasKowboy

    Michelle doesn’t need a makeover. She reminds me of someone classy like Jackie K or O. Jackie was wealthy but you never thought of her as a rich beotch. But when I look at Cindy McCain I think “rich beotch”. When I look at Michelle I just see a nice person.

  • Johanna

    It will be hard for the media to really lay a glove on Michelle. I think two qualities protect her: her genuineness, and her glamor. As for the latter, she is an attractive woman who picks clothes and hairstyles that serve her well, but that are also distinctive in a coherent way. She has a real signature look, unlike most other women in public life. Or let’s say, such a look, and it’s good! Her way of talking, both in speeches and more important, in the one on one encounters you can see on C-Span after the main event is over, is natural and genuine. She lacks the plastered on smile, the phony surprised manner, the immobile features, and other things that so take away from the public appeal of figures like Hillary, and even Nancy Pelosi. When she talks one on one she doesn’t seem to be “on”, or constantly reflecting upon herself. She is in the moment, and giving her attention to the matters at hand in an easy and comfortable way. Some of what she has said publicly has shown a lack of judgment, but people will be very comfortable with her as a first lady.

  • essay writing

    Took me time to read all the comments, but I enjoyed the article.

  • concern citicent

    love to read your blog but please dont try to get involved with the media aka press fam bla bla bla and other stuff …. it’s really turned me off and so my friends and the fam.

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