Tuesday's front-page pre-Inauguration profile of first lady Michelle Obama by reporter Rachel Swarns, "For New First Lady, Hints of Agenda and Tone," was typically flattering - standard operating procedure on Inauguration Day. Laura Bush was the recipient of a piece almost as favorable in the days before Bush's first Inauguration. Even when the Times briefly suggested that not everyone is enamored with America's new first lady, the paper did its best to minimize the damage.
On Inauguration Day, Michelle Obama will become the first African-American to assume the role of first lady, a woman with the power to influence the nation's sense of identity, its fashion trends, its charitable causes and its perceptions of black women and their families. Already, the outlines of her style and public agenda have begun to emerge.
She has hired a politically seasoned team of advisers and an interior decorator committed to creating a family-friendly feel in her elegant new home. She has sketched out a vision of a White House brimming with children and ordinary Americans while suggesting she may delegate some traditional first lady duties to her staff: food tastings, china selection and the like.
She has decided to shape her public program with the help of a policy director who has raised concerns about instances of systemic employment bias against minorities and called for tougher enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, contentious issues in the workplace.
Holding to its pastform, the paper skimmed over Michelle Obama's notorious comment on the campaign trail in Wisconsin, "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country" now thather husband was doing well in the polls.Swarns didn't even spell out the phrase, which suggests an unpleasant self-absorption onMichelle Obama's part,in her Inauguration Day story, merely calling itone of Michelle Obama's "rhetorical stumbles" (thesame dismissive phrase reporter Jodi Kantor previously used to describe the comment). Swarns twice blamed "conservatives" for attacking the soon-to-be-first lady:
She knows that life under the microscope carries its perils.
After some rhetorical stumbles during the presidential campaign, Mrs. Obama was criticized by conservative columnists who accused her of being unpatriotic and bitter toward whites. Her approval ratings have soared since she refocused her image on her role as a wife and mother, but she still comes under periodic attack from conservative bloggers and others.