The race baiting ploy never worked with presidential candidate Barack Obama and the one or two times it has been tried with President Obama it hasn't worked any better. No such luck with Michelle Obama though. During the campaign Obama bashers eagerly grabbed at race to attempt to tar Michelle as a closet anti-American, race obsessed, black radical. There's still the occasional dredge up of the out of context statement Michelle made during the campaign allegedly questioning her faith in America, and the supposedly less than reverential reference to the flag. This is to pick at the First Lady and by extension President Obama. But that's old hat. The recent visit of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown cracked the window just enough to toss mud again at Michelle and of course hope some of the mud splatters on the president.
The sore point, actually two sore points, was Obama's supposed paltry gifts to Brown. This followed closely on the heels of Obama's decision to return the bust of Winston Churchill that former President Bush cherished in the White House back to the British. A muck raking writer in the British tabloid UK Telegraph went berserk and accused President Obama of being an ingrate, delivering a damaging blow to British-American relations, and sullying the name and image of a world icon. The blame for the President's alleged villainy was dumped on Michelle; even likening her to the poisonous Shakespearean femme fatale Lady MacBeth, the power behind the 17th Century Scottish throne.
The British rag dug deep, a quarter century deep, and trotted out Michelle's undergraduate thesis at Princeton written in 1985 with the less than incendiary title, "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." That was enough to launch the Telegraph writer into inter Galactic flights of conspiratorial fancy and see all kinds of dark and sinister meanings in the thesis. The paper tossed out more out of context quips such as " I will always be black first and a student second," and "Princeton made me more aware of my blackness than ever before," and "There is a distinctive black culture very different from white culture."
In or out of context there's nothing here that could even be remotely considered a racial revelation of the ages, let alone merit tagging Michelle as the second coming of Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan.
But with not much else going to make the tired and pathetic case that Michelle harbors secret white antipathies that are evidently enough. There's nothing new about Michelle's Princeton thesis and its supposedly racially inflammatory bombshell. During the campaign a gaggle of conservative writers, GOP dirt diggers and bloggers had a field day imputing all manner of dark motives to Princeton's refusal to release the 96 page thesis. This was supposedly iron clad proof that candidate Obama and Michelle had something to hide and that Princeton was in cahoots in the cover-up.
The Obama campaign gave lie to that and quickly released the thesis to the online political site Politico. The thesis was a first class thoughtful, research paper that used lengthy questionnaires, a survey, and interviews to examine divisions and strains in relations not between blacks and whites but between black Princeton grads and the general black community.
This didn't matter much to the Telegraph. The point again was to take another swipe at Michelle on about the only thing that the handful of race baiting Obama critics still hope will have some traction on, and that's race. It won't be the last we'll hear of this.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009).