Dear Michelle Obama, we’re watching your back. You betcha we are.
As I predicted, the pathetic whisper campaign of the nearly-hysterical Republicans to frame Michelle Obama as bitter, militant, angry, female and above all, BLACK is now reaching fever pitch. Yesterday’s little gem came from Fox News, via Michelle Malkin. (Pssst, Malkin. Did you call her a Muslim, too?)
Can you imagine ANY news outlet referring to Cindy McCain as John McCain’s “BabyMama”? The right-wingers seem to think that because Rupert Murdoch is a self-confessed bigoted dickhead, they’re allowed to unleash the full framing of the absurd around Michelle Obama while singing Hillary Clinton’s praises to the highest bidder?
Well of course they do. Because after all, Hillary Clinton is white and Michelle Obama is black. That’s all it takes for them to rationalize their blatant racism AND sexism, reported in living color by none other than the hideous and shameless Michelle Malkin.
Michelle, we’ve got your back on this one. Here’s what’s happening out in the blogosphere:
- Everyone in our household filed a complaint with the FCC. You can file a complaint, too, right here.
- Jack and Jill Politics points to a site launched to keep track of the smears on Michelle and debunk them immediately. You can find it here: Michelle Obama Watch
- Queen of Spain (Erin) has a reminder for Malkin and Fox: Racism is not okay just because it’s on Fox, or in West Virginia, or anywhere else. It’s despicable.
- Stefania Pomponi Butler, co-founder of MOMocrats, warns that the ‘Republicans are going to get handled come November…’ as well they should if they think this kind of tactic is going to gain any traction.
- Paddy at the Political Carnival reminds that the Republicans are pressuring to ban any sort of fairness doctrine in practice or in law because they are so desperate to use their tools to smear opponents and don’t want any little thing like facts to get in their way. Or fairness.
- Even Laura Bush has some kind words for Michelle Obama.
- Donklephant points out that the Urban Dictionary definition of “Baby Mama” proves the claim groundless (and perhaps actionable?). Ignorance is no excuse for such misused and intentionally racist terminology, even Fox News’ style of ignorance.
Finally, an illustration of Fox News’ and Malkin’s intellectually bankrupt and self-serving righteousness with regard to the question of sexism (I link as documentary evidence only. Don’t feel obligated to click this one unless you think I doctored the clip.)
Here’s Michelle Malkin in 2005:
Liberals say they want women to be taken seriously in the arenas of government and public policy. They claim they want women to be judged based on their ideas, not their physical appearance.
Unless, of course, those women are conservative.
In the same post, she quotes Cheri Pierson Yecke’s op-ed taking feminists to task for allowing blatant sexism and claims that it’s aimed only at conservative women (a laughable assertion, by the way. Just ask Hillary Clinton):
Their silence speaks volumes about their convictions and partisan leanings. After all, it is mainly conservative women who have been the victims of this sort of media slashing. Sad to say, with few exceptions, the circling vultures are left-leaning women.
Has our culture become so shallow, and our sensibilities so numb, that we will accept from adults the sort of vicious behavior that we would never accept from our children?
Fox News and Malkin prove, yet again, that they are against sexism before they’re for it, but have no problem embracing racism no matter which side of their mouths they’re using to argue.
It was a pathetic attempt to marginalize a successful, strong, articulate, passionate woman who also happens to be black. Faux News may think they’re making headway, but all I can say is…
Not this time.
Update: After the onslaught, Malkin makes a pathetic attempt to claim she’s being unfairly judged.
The New York Times has an article today about the strategy the Obama campaign intends to employ going forward, particularly with efforts to turn states that traditionally vote Republican blue. The first steps are putting a full-court press on states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio.
All in all, an excellent strategy. However, this leaves me cold:
Recognizing the extent to which Republicans view Michelle Obama’s strong views and personality as a potential liability for her husband, Mr. Obama’s aides said they were preparing to bring aboard senior operatives from previous Democratic presidential campaigns to work with her, a clear departure from the typical way the spouse of a candidate is staffed. Mrs. Obama’s operation would include senior aides devoted to responding to attacks and challenges to her, particularly if she continues to campaign as much as she has so far.
Anyone old enough to remember back to 1992 can’t miss the irony here, particularly if they supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the nomination. Hillary Clinton was shredded in the first years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and mostly because she dared to actively participate in his presidency. She was criticized for everything from her hairstyle to her infamous “baking cookies” comment. Nothing she said or did was good enough, and she didn’t accept the criticisms without pushing back hard.
Michelle Obama is a strong, intelligent, thinking woman who expects to use her abilities to help elect her husband. I would be disappointed if she didn’t. She is an asset, not a liability. As John McCain works to woo Clinton voters into his camp, I would encourage women to stop and consider what they are planning to do to Mrs. Obama and reconsider. Do they really want to align themselves with a party that sees a woman unafraid to speak her mind as a liability? Do they want to support a party that would attack Michelle Obama for daring to have strong views and the courage to speak them? Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was for ALL women, not just white women, or older white women. It was for all of us. Right?
Don’t we then, as Democrats, owe it to Hillary Clinton to stop this kind of sexist message from seeping into the campaign? Make no mistake, the Republicans are really, really good at creating these sorts of wedges. They want you to be afraid of Michelle Obama because she is a woman who dares to stand equal with her husband. If Hillary Clinton really pioneered a trail, evidence of it will include willingness on the part of women to set aside their resentment about her candidacy, support Michelle Obama’s efforts to work toward her husband’s election and vigorously reject ANY effort to paint Mrs. Obama into a box.
Larry Johnson’s ugly, smarmy efforts to smear her by rumor are just the first salvo. Just tonight, he revealed his true self in his post today when he declared his support for Bob Barr — possibly the most extreme, radical right conservative alive — a man who spent his time in the Congress laboring tirelessly to bring down Bill Clinton. As I suspected, Johnson was never a supporter of Hillary Clinton. What he is: An ugly little man at a computer using words, Memeorandum, and blog traffic to divert attention and support toward Hillary Clinton so he could work with his other Republican operatives to smear her if she won the nomination.
Now that Hillary Clinton has suspended her campaign, he will concentrate his efforts on Michelle Obama, as he has been doing in recent days. Each and every woman out there ought to be outraged about it, and join in collective unity to push back on the efforts of the Republicans to use women as a wedge to win the White House.
We are women, not wedges. We do not exist to be viewed as liabilities for our husbands. We have our own identities, and our own voices. If we take anything at all away from Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House, let it be the ability to be recognized as individuals, with our own opinions and identity. We should not, and will not, be censored because Republicans don’t like it. It’s time for them to hear things they don’t like, and deal with it, because they have some ‘splainin’ to do about the $4.59/gallon gas price I paid today, the $4.39/gallon milk price I paid, my veteran son who lives with us because there are no jobs that will pay him enough to remain independent, the 4,000+ dead in Iraq, the deterioration of Afghanistan, and the futures of our sons and daughters, which hangs in a very delicate and precarious balance.
Whether you supported Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, the attitude that women should all behave like Cindy McCain is one that we should credit Hillary Clinton for shattering. She didn’t just put cracks in that ceiling; she shattered it.
Don’t let them win this. They will use bitter, hard feelings to drive it in as a wedge. We are women. We know how to build bridges and we teach our children to use their words to say “I’m sorry”, and forgive. Let’s be the women that lead by example and move past the primaries into an understanding that whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama, no woman should be subjected to the abuse being used against Michelle.
Thank you, Hillary Clinton, for enduring the abuse heaped on you and overcoming it. May we all be a credit to a better future, where such behavior is not only unacceptable, it is unheard of.
Wow, Michelle Obama dug down into her soul to get to this point, I can tell.
She called on another supporter, whose voice quivered and broke with barely contained emotion as she explained how important it is to her, personally, that our country change course. She explained that she had just returned from Oregon where she campaigned for Obama and attended the 75,000-person rally by the river. She had noticed, she said, that the Secret Service had increased security dramatically for Barack Obama’s rallies since the Phoenix rally in January.
The room collectively gasped and murmured, some aghast that these fears were being spoken aloud directly to Barack Obama’s wife. Some nodded, concern and fear on their faces. Others shifted on their feet, displaying a range of emotions — concern, discomfort with the topic, indignation.
The woman continued: “What can you tell us…” and then her voice caught and broke as a sob rose up from her chest. She paused for a moment. “I’m afraid of what might happen. What can you tell us, after last week’s comments–” another sob– “after last week’s comments, to make us feel more at ease?” She cried unabashedly after finally getting out her words.
The room that had been electrified with positive energy throughout the evening suddenly became still and quiet, all eyes focused on Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama’s eyes, though, were focused on that concerned supporter. She paused, allowing the clearly distraught supporter to pull herself together. Maybe it was 30 seconds before Obama spoke, stretched out into imaginary minutes. Finally, she said firmly, “I’m ok. Really. I am ok. And if I’m ok, you should be ok.
Here’s the part that just yanked me:
“We talked about this as a family.”
The room remained still and quiet. Imagine having that talk with your children. Then, she paused, gathering herself, pulling herself up, seeming to grow even taller, Michelle, the campaigning wife returns. She says,
“I’ve talked about this before. Barack is probably safer now than he was before. Kids are dying in the street in our community. They get shot walking to class, sitting in school, taking the bus home. They are dying in the street…. Send us good vibes. Pray for us. Think positive thoughts. But most of all, be vigilant. Be vigilant about stopping this kind of talk.
It’s not funny. You don’t have to like Barack to dislike that kind of talk. Be vigilant about stopping that kind of talk.”
Amen, Michelle. And I take “that kind of talk” to mean the fear talk, but also talk of harm coming to him at all, a la Liz Trotta and Hillary Clinton, whether by accident or design.
“The GOP, should I be the nominee, I think can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record,” Obama said. “I’ve been in public life for 20 years. I expect them to pore through everything that I’ve said, every utterance, every statement. And to paint it in the most undesirable light possible. That’s what they do.”
“But I do want to say this to the GOP. If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful. Because that I find unacceptable,” he said.
Obama praised his wife’s patriotism and said that for Republicans “to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her I think is just low class … and especially for people who purport to be promoters of family values, who claim that they are protectors of the values and ideals and the decency of the American people to start attacking my wife in a political campaign I think is detestable.”
Obama later added, “I think that the American people also would like to see some restoration of decency to this process. And when you start attacking family members, there’s a lack of decency there.”
Speaking of family members, it was also revealed during the same interview that the children would be getting a dog. Now.
Michelle Obama actually overruled her husband while on “GMA” when they were asked whether their two daughters had yet to get the dog they were promised.
She said they had agreed to get the dog a year from now, while her husband said they will have “a year to test whether they are sufficiently responsible…”
But Michelle Obama cut him off, sayingy, “They are responsible.”
He tried again by saying “Whether they are going to be responsible in the middle of winter to go walk that dog.”
“We’re getting a dog,” his wife said flatly.
“When it’s cold outside,” Obama persisted.
His wife looked into the camera and said to their kids, “You guys are getting a dog.”
When the presidential candidate again asked who would be walking the dog, the potential first lady replied, “You will. You will all be walking the dog.”
“OK. All right,” Obama conceded.
I wonder how long it will take for some sexist pig to make a big huge deal out of the fact that Michelle Obama overruled her husband on a domestic matter. Remember, it’s conversation like this that was used to marginalize Hillary Clinton during Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for the presidency.
I hope the kids get a dog they absolutely love and cherish for a very long time, too. The press should leave them alone, too. A little respect is in order sometimes.
A steaming, rolling pile of shit. I debated about whether to even write about this, but I think it’s important to talk about the bigger implications of the politics of personal destruction that sleazeball Johnson is now floating to the top of the bowl.
Let’s go back for a minute and think about who Larry Johnson is, what he represents, and why he isn’t believable.
- His history of failures in the intelligence arena is chronicled here. This is a guy who didn’t get Osama bin Laden right, yet loves to proclaim himself the king of the political smear.
- Johnson claims to be a Clinton supporter. If that’s really true — and I somehow don’t think it’s REALLY true, just sort of in-name-only-true in a disruptive, smarmy kind of way — then it is the goal of Hillary Clinton to forever fracture and destroy the Democratic party.
- Larry Johnson has been credited with the ‘madrassa’ smear back in the early days of the campaign. 1 Of course, Johnson denies this vehemently, but one would expect him to deny it. After all, CIA operatives are not well-known for stepping up, raising their right hands and admitting all truth with no hope of ‘plausible deniability’. Think back to the Iran/Contra days for shining examples of CIA “honesty”. I’m willing to take a preponderance of the evidence: Clinton operative + CIA clandestine officer + abject hatred of Barack Obama + blogger = opportunity and motive for perpetuating lies on the Internet. Credit where credit is due here. What I’m willing to suspend is the conclusion that Hillary Clinton herself supports such activity
Okay, with the background out of the way, let’s get to the current round of rumors. According to voila over at Daily Kos, Johnson is having an orgasm over a secret Republican video of Michelle Obama railing against “whitey” in church. And sure enough, if you’re willing to roll up your electronic cuffs, take off your shoes and wade through a lying sack of shit, you can see it for yourself over on Johnson’s blog, where he’s also got the video of the Tennessee GOP Michelle Obama smear commercial. My, my, what a thing for a loyal Democrat to have playing on their site!
This style of politics is exactly what Barack Obama’s campaign is turning against. The power churners of the past don’t like that very much. They especially resent the possibility that the new kids might open the doors and let light into the dark corners of our very ugly backroom dealings over these many years.
These are the days of doctored video, faux journalism, and shrill end games. Don’t be fooled. If this were something worth considering, it would have been released in time for the three special elections handily won by Democrats. The GOP would have pulled whatever they could out of their asses in an effort to retain their death grip on the southern states, and that tape would have been all over the airwaves.
What Johnson is selling is snake oil, wrapped in a generous helping of bullshit. Don’t buy it.
1 McClatchy, 5/8/2008
“One practitioner in Virginia, who hates Obama like a dog hates cats, led a reporter through his efforts. Because the man is a retired clandestine CIA officer, identifying him could endanger officers or operations that remain classified, so McClatchy will not reveal his name”
Thanks to Hugh McLeod at gapingvoid.com for the cartoon
In February, Michelle Obama made the following remarks at a day care center in Zanesville, Ohio:
“Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.”
Today those comments came up on Twitter along with the question “What is she thinking?”, which in turn sparked a small conversation in 140 character bursts. This post is meant to be my longer reply to the question. Even edited, I cannot be accused of being terse. Forewarned is forearmed.
In full context, Michelle Obama’s remarks were intended to be a slap at two young women who chose to work for corporate America — Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. I have to agree with anyone who criticizes Chelsea’s career choice — working for a corporate hedge fund that specializes in moving subprime credit contracts through at a profit is my idea of investment banking at its ugliest. I can only hope that Chelsea’s recent move onto the mean streets of America might give her a reason to abandon that position for one that has more social responsibility attached. However, using Chelsea Clinton to give an object lesson is a little bit silly, given that her career is not the typical path that most college graduates take, even Stanford graduates.
As the daughter and granddaughter of strong women who spent their lives working for Pacific Telephone in its various iterations before finally coming to be ATT, then back again, you’d think I’d be a strong supporter of the “get in on the bottom floor and work your way up” philosophy, but I’m not. In fact, both of those women flourished AFTER they left corporate America, both victims of corporate downsizing in an era where women were the most expendable group of employees to eliminate.
The advice I give my kids is exactly the same as Michelle Obama’s: Walk, don’t run away from corporate America, use your strengths and passions wisely, and always serve your community. If you can blend the two, even better. The best option is to work for yourself in a field you love.
My mother’s career advice to me was the opposite: She said “go to college, get in on the ground floor, work hard and work up.” This is because she truly had faith in the old-school corporate culture that said “put your faith in us and we’ll be loyal to you, we’ll reward you.”
I watched them “reward her” by giving her crap contracts that she had to work four times as hard to complete as the men in her office. She did it, and she nearly died in the process. I watched them “reward” her by passing her over for promotions she deserved because there were men in the office more “entitled” than she. Ultimately I watched her opt for an early retirement as part of a larger downsize, served with a dollop of disappointment that the downsize happened right before the step up that she’d earned by her hard work and delivery of profit centers to Uncle ATT.
Those days of gender discrimination may be gone, but the ‘new’ corporate culture assumes no loyalty between employee and employer, yet demands absolute and total commitment. If you work for a public company, you work for the shareholders. Your career depends upon the whims of the market and the demands of the harshest taskmaster of all: the bottom line. This is what you work for, what you breathe, eat and sleep. Yes, it is also the culture that holds the promise of the ‘magic bean’, the ‘play your stock options right and you can be a rich woman, too’ promise, which far too many young job-seekers look to own.
The point that Michelle Obama was really making is this: Our best and brightest are looking for the ‘magic beans’, leaving our schools, hospitals and other service industries bereft of the heads and hearts to make them better, and to benefit society as a whole. This is true. It’s true because of the low pay and long hours and it’s true because at some point, even the best people get discouraged by the lack of support for schools and teachers and students. It’s true that students are not going to medical school because in order to do so, they must accept about a quarter million dollars in debt at the outset, with corporate America (in the form of insurance companies and trial attorneys) squeezing every penny out of them on the other end. It’s also true that the majority who opt for corporate America are unfulfilled, stuck, and view job-hopping as the only available form of career advancement.
The survivors learn. Many more find themselves at the mercy and whim of the moving target called ‘economic growth’, serving no God but Mammon.
What my mother discovered, what my grandmother discovered, and what I know to be true because of their discovery is that we are not wired to simply toe the bottom line. We have motives, passions, and beliefs that transcend balance sheets and can only be discovered in the process of serving others. I am not saying we’re doing our impression of Mother Teresa, but I am saying that we discovered the value of self-empowerment, self-employment, and entrepeneurship in the context of careers that help others reach their goals.
We live in a great time for that, even with an economic downturn. No longer are we at the mercy of the venture capitalists and investment bankers, directly or indirectly. The best tool for democracy and small business is the Internet, and there are incredible resources out there to discover niches and fill them.
Small businesses, not large corporations, are the backbone of this country today, tomorrow and yesterday. Schools are the foundation of success. Imagine what could happen if we restored the profession of ‘teacher’ to one that’s honorable and trusted. If we gave teachers the freedom to teach without the constraints and burdens of No Child Left Behind. If we gave music and arts back to the schools to raise up more singers and artists and musicians to decorate our world. If we paid attention and not lipservice to the benefit of a great education. Imagine that.
This was what Michelle Obama spoke of. It’s what I speak of. It’s why I’m proud that my middle son is studying jazz as his declared major while using his musical skills to earn his own way through school. It’s why I hope that my eldest son, a veteran who is partially disabled and would have been homeless if he hadn’t come back home to live (at the expense of his pride and independence) can find his way through bitterness and believe again. It’s why I tell my 14-year old daughter to reject groupthink, and nurture the same entrepeneurial spirit that led her to sell lemonade ice cubes during the summer for 25 cents apiece. That’s my 21st century career advice, and it mirrors Michelle’s.
Small businesses, teachers, nurses and doctors are the heart of the communities they inhabit. They serve, whether it’s on the soccer field or in the emergency room. Corporations donate. People serve. I want my kids to be people first, with hearts, eyes, ears and voices, engaged in their communities.