Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Michelle Obama, Policy Wonk

Michelle Obama has been visiting government agencies around Washington. She is, of course, wildly popular. The NY Times, in its article, tries to find some kind of controversy or conflict, as is its wont as a newspaper. But this seems silly.

It is a notably different approach than the one embraced by the former first lady, Laura Bush,
Well, yeah. Michelle Obama is different from Laura Bush. Sort of like Barack Obama is different from George Bush.

Some observers praised Mrs. Obama’s foray into the legislative debate, saying the new first lady, who is a Harvard-educated lawyer and a former hospital executive, was eminently qualified to promote the president’s policies.
Which she is.

Others expressed surprise, saying they had expected Mrs. Obama to focus on her daughters and on the traditional issues she had emphasized in the presidential campaign, like supporting military families and working parents. Her remarks, they said, carried echoes of former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, though Mrs. Obama has said she will not become involved in policymaking as Mrs. Clinton did.
Why anyone expected Michelle Obama to be a "traditional" First Lady is beyond me. Michelle Obama sounds a little like Hillary Clinton. Gosh, that's certainly a surprise! Not.

“She went to some lengths to say she was going to be first mom in chief,” Myra Gutin, a scholar of first ladies at Rider University in New Jersey, said of Mrs. Obama. “I don’t think we ever really imagined her edging toward public policy like this. It’s not like she’s making public policy. But it’s a little less neutral than some of the other things she’s talked about focusing on.”
If you did not imagine Michelle Obama engaging in policy debates, then there is a problem with your imagination, not Michelle Obama. Welcome to the 21st century. Yes, the first First Lady with a Harvard Law degree has strong opinions. I don't normally associate the word "neutral" with Michelle Obama. And that's a good thing.

Of course, on the other side are women who see this as utterly normal.

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center here, countered that Mrs. Obama was successfully balancing her ceremonial role as first lady, her role as a mother and her keen interest in public policy.
Keep it up, Michelle! You're doing a great job.

No comments: