NYT: Everyone Loves Michelle Obama; Her "Proud" Gaffe Needs Context
Patrick Healy profiled Michelle Obama in Akron, Ohio, speaking and making calls to undecided voters, in Tuesday's "New to Campaigning, but No Longer a Novice." The photo caption over a picture of three adoring fans in Akron listening toher speakreads like a "dinner theatre" reviewfrom a local free paper:
In a raucous rally at a school gym in Akron, the would-be first lady had the audience laughing and cheering throughout.
On a visit to her husband's campaign office here the other day, Michelle Obama was handed a phone and a script of talking points and made calls to a few undecided voters. Mrs. Obama mixed policy on taxes and health care with chitchat about Ohio, laughter about her life in politics and tidbits about her family.
After a couple of calls, she realized that she had not been following the typewritten notes. "I didn't look at the script," she said, speaking more to herself than to the volunteers on the phones next to her.
But no matter. While some of Senator Barack Obama's advisers once viewed Mrs. Obama as an unpredictable force who sometimes spoke her mind a little too much, she is now regarded within the campaign as a disciplined and effective advocate for her husband. She has also, advisers believe, gone a long way toward addressing her greatest unstated challenge: making more voters comfortable with the idea of a black first lady.
Addressing a raucous rally in a gym here on Friday, Mrs. Obama had the crowd - a mix of a few thousand black and white voters - laughing and cheering throughout.
"So many precious little babies like that one!" she said after noticing one infant near the stage. "Just completely delicious!"
The audience roared with delight. And many clapped, too, when she said: "I also come here as a mother; that is my primary title, mom in chief. My girls are the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. When people ask me how I'm doing, I say, 'I'm only as good as my most sad child.'"
Healy implied (as the Times has before) that Michelle Obama's gaffe - not being proud of her country until her husband started doing well in presidential polls - has been overstated, and was quick to provide context for her remark. He even lumped it in between two discredited accusations, as if it should be discredited as well:
Indeed, for months Mrs. Obama was a political target. A Fox News anchor referred to an affectionate fist bump between the Obamas as a "terrorist fist jab." Republicans, including Cindy McCain, criticized her for saying in February that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." (They omitted the words that followed: "And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.") A blogger supporting Senator Clinton spread an unfounded rumor that Mrs. Obama had once used the word "whitey."
Incidentally, Michelle Obama used a form of that sentence twice in one day during Democratic primary campaigning in Wisconsin, once in Milwaukee and later in Madison. When it brings up the remark at all, the Times tends to cite the second, less stark version, from Madison. Here's whatMichelle Obamasaid in Milwaukee, in which she leaves out the "really."
'"...for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."