This is the ’08 version of a really weird conservative urban legend that pops up every four years. The names change, but the basics remain the same: 1) It always involves the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate; 2) It always portrays the wife — not the candidate — committing some anti-American, unpatriotic act.
I was first exposed to this during the 1988 campaign when the line was, “There’s a picture out there of Kitty Dukakis burning the American flag … just wait til that comes out …” (that one got out of hand when a GOP senator actually believed it and called a press conference to say he would soon produce the evidence — which never materialized). Four years later, “There’s a picture out there of Hillary Clinton burning the American flag … just wait ’til that comes out ….” In 1996, the Hillary thing repeated itself. In ’04, there was a similar one about Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Differences this year: Because of the racial angle and Jeremiah Wright, Michelle Obama — and Louis Farrakhan, for good measure — are blaming “whitey.” Because of YouTube, it’s a clip, not a photo.
This B.S. arises every election cycle, so let’s lay the “whitey” rumour to rest.
But what about that other knock, the one where Michelle Obama was caught red-handed on youtube? She said, “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am proud of my country.”
OK, not a very prudent choice of words. But let’s consider the remark in context:
What we’ve learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am 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.
And I feel privileged to be a part of even witnessing this. Travelling around states all over this country, and being reminded that there is more that unites us than divides us, that the struggles of a farmer in Iowa are no different than what’s happening on the south side of Chicago. That people are feeling the same pain and wanting the same things for their families.
One of my commenters (who describes her as “ghastly”) said, “If she goes around saying she wasn’t proud of America until it started to recognise the sheer wonderfulness of Barack (and presumably, by extension, Michelle) Obama, then she can’t really complain about being attacked for it.”
But is that a fair representation of Michelle Obama’s remarks, in context? No; obviously it isn’t.
Michelle Obama was expressing frustration over the hyper-partisanship of American politics: the Rovian tactics that are used to drive a wedge between one American and another, and compel Republicans and Democrats to opposite poles of the political spectrum.
To be fair to Karl Rove — not that he deserves it — this hyper-partisanship did not begin in 2000. It was evident throughout the Clinton years, as anyone who lived through the Lewinski scandal and the ensuing attempt at impeachment will remember.
In other words, this hyper-partisanship that sets Republicans and Democrats at each others’ throats has been a fact of life for all the years that Michelle Obama has been an adult. And now she sees people seizing on her husband’s campaign as an opportunity to get beyond partisanship and fight a common enemy: for example, for poor whites and poor blacks to work side-by-side for their rightful share of America’s prosperity.
(Meanwhile, John McCain promises to save millionaires $700,000 in taxes.)
It’s a pity, given that Obama’s remarks are readily available on youtube, that so few people have actually watched the video and considered what Michelle Obama was saying. Next time someone quotes her, out of context, you can set the record straight.