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September 16, 2008

Free Michelle

Michelle Economy

With just 48 days to go in a campaign defined as much as anything for its Us or People Magazine-style of symbolism, my question is: why isn’t Michelle Obama being deployed more visibly by the Obama campaign?

After a successful Democratic Convention in which Michelle dominated night one, and provided the American public a powerful role model in her own right as partner, spouse, and working Mom, she has since disappeared from the public eye.  At the same time the McCain show’s 24/7 rolling cavalcade of Cindy, Sarah and First Dude (the replacement for Cindy, Lindsey and Joe) represents, by comparison, a visual orgy of familial, filial and domestic role playing.

This evening, in doing one of my routine newswire searches, I happened to look up “Michelle Obama” at YahooNews Photos under the “politics” category. Given the family dynamics of the campaign, especially since the RNC, I was stunned to discover that the most recent picture of Michelle was actually six days old. Beyond that, I had to go 2 pages in and 20 photos deep to find a pic of Michelle and Barack together — an image from the night Obama clinched the nomination back in June.  Beyond that, there was not one picture of the couple together in the nineteen days since the Democratic Convention.

Mccain Hugs Cindy Sarah

Cindy Etc

I’m sure the Obama campaign has a perfectly logical strategy in place, such as inserting Michelle into local forums in key states, like the economic round table with working women (above) where she last surfaced — at least, newswire-wise — on September 10th in Indiana.  At the same time, however, I can’t help but think about the media impact of the consistent, and ever-escalating hugging and mugging for the camera by the show couples on the other side.

With the media (as well as much of the public) still transfixed by “the Palin effect” and the gender politics of this presidential race, I can’t help but look at Michelle’s expression above — in context, perfectly innocent and transitory, I’m sure –  and think of a star player biding her time on the sidelines in the second half of a championship game.

(But then, just imagine a media culture where Michelle actually could spend every day in forums on serious issues with people like you and me, and score the media face time too.)

(image 1: Darron Cummings/AP.  Sept. 10, 2008. Fishers, Indiana. image 2: Stephan Savoia/AP Vienna, Ohio. Sept. 16, 2008. image 3: Reuters.  Vienna, Ohio September 16, 2008.  image 4: Mark Duncan/AP.  Sept. 16, 2008, in Vienna, Ohio)

  • Texrednface

    I mean this with all sincerity and I believe it with all my heart…it’s “Family Values” at work. Their two children just started school and it is a family choice. Once those kids settle into the school year routine, she’ll be back. She has been a hit with the crowds. When she opens her mouth one hears an intelligent woman…hey, maybe she should be Vice President.

  • tina

    I have a conservative family member who does not consider himself racist who says Americans should not have a first lady “who looks like a gorilla”. And another, also self-described as nonracist, who says, “Do you really think ‘that’…should be in the White House?”
    Michelle Obama is being kept out of sight because she is still way, way, way too black for many Americans.
    I think she could rival Jackie Kennedy, personally. But lots of other people, even in my own family, don’t think so. The Obamas are “gorillas”.
    I restrain myself from pointing out the number of times that Bush has been caricatured as a chimpanzee. What would be the point, anyway? We all know why they are saying that, and it hasn’t got anything to do with Michelle actually resembling a gorilla.

  • katsat

    I, too, think that Michelle is with her daughters during their first couple of weeks of school. It’s important to have at least one parent with the kids if possible during this transition time.
    As a mother myself, I’m curious to know who’s watching the Palin kids while both parents are on the campaign trail. I know Michelle’s mother is the frequent backup for the Obamas.

  • Books Alive

    Have the Palins been advocates of home schooling their children? That’s very common among Fundamentalists and Dominionists. The Palins would doubtless want their children on sports teams, but home schoolers are beginning to set up leagues.

  • Clem Guttata

    I just finished reading a post on White Privilege that may help explain the situation.

  • Johanna

    She is a huge asset and most people I have spoken to find her very attractive, unlike Tina’ family members who sound so backwoods as to be almost fictional. But we don’t know what is going on in someone’s life. It might be family values, or it might be some kind of problem. She is missed, and needed.

  • g

    tina, thanks for being so candid about what you hear – even though it is very disappointing to hear that there are people saying that.
    Regarding the Palin kids – according to news reports, the Palin family seems to have had a very hectic life over the last couple of years, what with Mom commuting between Wasilla and Juneau and Anchorage; I read somewhere that Todd Palin’s job in the oil fields had him doing one week away from home alternating with one week at one. Bristol had been in school in Wasilla, and then taken out and living with an aunt in another city – I don’t remember whether this was pre or post Trig – and apparently Track had been spending the last year or so of high school in another state?
    so – rather a hectic family life. Perhaps a “modern” life with working parents. I think for the older kids it’s probably not a big deal, but I think about the youngest daughter and wonder whether she feels neglected with all this moving around.

  • momly

    Michelle is with her kids. As a mom whose been “unemployed” for 4 and a half years after a family move, I applaud her.
    And, if the Palins life has been so hectic over the past few years, then certain circumstances therein are more understandable, are they not?
    Kids need their moms.

  • Kris T

    I believe, as well, that Michelle is attending to transitional back-to-school period with her daughters, and as such, that is a respectable place for her to be–at home and caring for her girls. Books Alive, I would suggest that you at least qualify your homeschooling statement to be “Religious” homeschoolers, as there are legions of non-religious homeschoolers who happen to be raising open-minded, free-willed children who will hopefully have a place in American politics in the future. As a mother who is still helping her daughter transition into Kindergarten after 5 weeks, I can appreciate the time and emotional energy required to get kids settled into new routines. I can’t even fathom how the Palin’s are handling campaigning along with schooling and all the other family and homekeeping obligations. Perhaps school hasn’t yet started in AK?

  • Jim Miller

    Why isn’t Michelle Obama being deployed more visibly by the Obama campaign?
    Could it be because of this tidbit confirmed on
    The following is out there in bulk email distribution.
    According to, Princeton was requested to put a ‘restriction’ on distribution
    of any copies of the thesis of Michelle Obama (a/k/a/ Michelle laVaughn Robinson) saying
    it could not be made available until November 5, 2008 but when it was published on a
    political website they decided they would lift the restriction.
    Subj: Thesis – Michele Obama aka Michelle LaVaughn Robinson
    In her senior thesis at Princeton , Michele Obama, the wife of Barack Obama
    stated that America was a nation founded on ‘crime and hatred’.
    Moreover, she stated that whites in America were ‘ineradicably racist’. The
    1985 thesis, titled ‘Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community’ was
    written under her maiden name, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson.
    Michelle Obama stated in her thesis that to ‘Whites at Princeton , it often
    seems as if, to them, she will always be Black first…’ However, it was reported
    by a fellow black classmate, ‘If those ‘Whites at Princeton ‘ really saw Michelle
    as one who always would ‘be Black first,’ it seems that she gave them that
    Most alarming is Michele Obama’s use of the terms ’separationist’ and
    ‘integrationist’ when describing the views of black people.
    Mrs. Obama clearly identifies herself with a ’separationist’ view of race.
    ‘By actually working with the Black lower class or within their communities as
    a result of their ideologies, a separationist may better understand the desperation
    of their situation and feel more hopeless about a resolution as opposed to an
    integrationist who is ignorant to their plight.’
    Obama writes that the path she chose by attending Princeton would likely lead to
    her ‘further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure
    that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full
    Michele Obama clearly has a chip on her shoulder.
    Not only does she see separate black and white societies in America , but
    she elevates black over white in her world.
    Here is another passage that is uncomfortable and ominous in meaning:
    ‘There was no doubt in my mind that as a member of the black
    community, I am obligated to this community and will utilize
    all of my present and future resources to benefit the black
    community first and foremost.’
    What is Michelle Obama planning to do with her future resources if she’s first
    lady that will elevate black over white in America ?
    The following passage appears to be a call to arms for affirmative action
    policies that could be the hallmark of an Obama administration.
    ‘Predominately white universities like Princeton are socially and academically
    designed to cater to the needs of the white students comprising the bulk of
    their enrollments.’
    The conclusion of her thesis is alarming.
    Michelle Obama’s poll of black alumni concludes that other black students
    at Princeton do not share her obsession with blackness. But rather than
    celebrate, she is horrified that black alumni identify with our common
    American culture more than they value the color of their skin. ‘I hoped that
    these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of
    identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational
    path that black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a
    certain level of identification with the black community. However, these
    findings do not support this possibility.’
    Is it no wonder that most black alumni ignored her racist questionnaire?
    Only 89 students responded out of 400 who were asked for input.
    Michelle Obama does not look into a crowd of Obama supporters and see
    Americans. She sees black people and white people eternally conflicted
    with one another.
    The thesis provides a trove of Mrs. Obama’s thoughts and
    world view seen through a race-based prism. This is a very
    divisive view for a potential first lady that would do untold
    damage to race relations in this country in a Barack Obama
    Michelle Obama’s intellectually refined racism should give all
    Americans pause for deep concern.
    Now maybe she’s changed, but she sure sounds like someone with an axe to
    grind with America . Will the press let Michelle get a free pass over her obviously
    racist comment about American whites? I am sure that it will.
    PS: We paid for her scholarship.

  • Tina

    She’s very beautiful. I have no trouble calling people RACIST who think she looks “like a gorilla” because her features are not barbie doll white girl–like Cindy or Sarah, who everybody says looks so great–I can’t see it in Sarah’s case. She looks very Stepford-wifeish to me. And Cindy is old, which isn’t the problem, her constant facial surgery and too much makeup and hair dye and efforts to look young are. She looks ghoulish much of the time. Give me Michelle any day, the most lovely of the group.
    And yet, I know one fat guy who croons, “Wow, everything is sooooo mcuh better looking on the conservative side of the fence. We have all the babes!”
    Matter of taste, I guess. Yuck.

  • Smuhamm

    Those who call people names associating them with Gorilla’s or feel that Michelle is to dark skinned, does not realize that the creator does not descriminate with color due to the fact that we all are made in his/her image. It is time for some real soul searching of the heart. It’s something they have been taught, and those listening to their family members talk like this are afraid of their family members and remember fear always, always chases you STAND UP TO THEM, SPEAK your beliefs, and back it up firmly without fear, they are just waiting for you to stand your ground, if you say nothing, it only feeds what they are saying and how they are thinking. They begin to think that everyone in their circle thinks like they do. Stand UP and Speak against racism when you see it or hear it. This is 2008 the year of Love and Truth breakthroughs, Unity is UNSTOPPABLE, regardless of the few who likes being divided and likes feeling superior to those not like them. 2009 those who want to remain divided and superior are in for an awakening, before their very eyes they are going to see what the creator has been trying to get us to see from day 1, LOVE ye one another, love your neighbors as you love your selves, and be careful who you may be entertaining when you reject the least of the flock.

  •[email protected]/ DennisQ

    It seems clear that Michelle Obama isn’t testing well in focus groups. It doesn’t make any difference what the reasons are; she’s not the candidate. She’s at best a side issue in the election.
    Barack Obama isn’t a purist. He tailors his positions with a view towards how they will be received. Why did he say, for example, that the surge in Iraq is working beyond our wildest expectations? Why did he vote to permit telephone companies to spy on Americans?
    Politicians flip-flop all the time … it’s the nature of the beast. I’ve heard that many of them don’t even know where they stand on issues unless someone on their staff tells them. I suspect more people find Michelle Obama threatening than find her appealing. Barack has decided this isn’t a timely fight; he’d rather contest some other issues.

  • bob h

    I don’t find it surprising that Michelle is not allowed to interact with the press, given “for the first time I am proud of my country”, etc. But why she does not accompany him in public is beyond me – she conveys an image of youthful, attractive vigor that sharpens the contrast with Commander Blimp himself.

  • desertwind

    Is it naive of me to think it’s simply that the kids just started school?

  • Duros Hussein 62

    I don’t think it’s so much that First Dude is hogging the spotlight; it’s just that he’s always there by her side. You know, because he can’t let her out of his sight for too long.
    Michelle is off on her own, being her own person, and campaigning for her husband where she needs to. And yes, attending to her children, who always come first to a family who actually know what “Family Values” means.

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