Wednesday, February 20, 2008




No Way To Explain


Michelle Obama, nee Michelle Robinson, was born in 1964, was raised on the south side of Chicago- hardly a privileged venue- yet worked and succeeded in high school, and was accepted into Princeton University. After graudating from Princeton, she was accepted into Harvard University Law School and after gaining her law degree, she got a job at Sidley & Austin, described by Newsweek Magazine as "a blue-chip corporate-law firm in Chicago (where) she was making good money as an associate on track to becoming a partner." (There she was assigned to mentor a young associate named Barack Obama.) Soon afterward she left her position for one with the City of Chicago- where she accepted a cut in pay- after being interviewed by Mayor Daley's Deputy Chief of Staff, who found her "so confident and committed and extremely open." And then, the Chicago director of Public Allies, described by Newsweek as "a nonprofit that encouraged young people to go into public service—just the kind of encouragement she felt she had never gotten." And then, a $275,000 job at the University of Chicago Medical Center (from which she has taken a leave of absence to work in the Obama campaign), where "she inspired a program to send doctors from the prestigious University of Chicago Medical Center into community hospitals and clinics in poor surrounding neighborhoods."

No wonder Barack Obama, himself an extremely impressive, high-achieving individual, refers to his wife as his "rock." No wonder acquaintances describe her, Newsweek reports, as poised, relaxed and confident. An unusually impressive individual.

So, forgive me for wondering what Michelle Obama was doing at a campaign appearance on February 18, 2007 in Madison, Wisconsin when she declared

For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction. And just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic, common issues and it's made me proud.

According to latimes.com, the Obama campaign explained:

Of course Michelle is proud of her country, which is why she and Barack talk constantly about how their story wouldn’t be possible in any other nation on Earth. What she meant is that she’s really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who’ve never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grassroots movement for change.

Does this mean that Michelle Obama, understandably, is proud of the success of the campaign ("....thousands of Americans who've never participated in politics....")? If so, is she proud of her country- or the campaign? Or does this mean that she is proud because "their story wouldn't be possible in any other nation..."? And if so, why is this the first time that something in the political realm has made her proud of her country? Or is she proud precisely (only) because of the overwhelmingly positive response engendered by the campaign?

I don't know what the Obama camp was trying to say, and I'm not sure it does, either. We do know, though, that Barack Obama (presuming no extraordinary comeback by HRC) will be running against a fellow who has spent his entire political career in Washington, D.C.; was a leading cheerleader for a very unpopular war run by an extremely unpopular President (whom he infamously has been photographed hugging); has no compunction about admitting that American troops might be in the Persian Gulf for another century; concedes, in the face of an impending recession, that he doesn't know much about the economy; will have to contort himself further into a pretzel pandering to the extreme right; and has earned the antipathy of several legislators in his own party for his legendary temper. And we know something else for sure: the Repub Party will remind the voters that while that candidate was spending his time (though before Mrs. Obama was an adult) being "tied up" (as he referred to it in a joke about Hillary Clinton he told at a GOP debate) at the Hanoi Hilton, others were finding it difficult to be proud of their country. Good luck fighting that one.

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