To engage with the news since Senator Obama became the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party you would think that the member of the Obama family pitted against John McCain was Michelle. It is certainly not surprising that the wife of the presumptive nominee would or should be fair game for political discussion, especially when she actively campaigns for her husband. But the attacks on Michelle Obama indicate a level of vitriol that already seems to eclipse even the level of hatred many on the right had and still have for Senator Clinton.
In the last few weeks alone, in addition to the repeated questioning of her patriotism based on the oft repeated "pride in her country" quote, Michelle Obama has been painted as a "Baby Mama" by FOX News, a racist for purportedly using the term "whitey" in a mythological tape, "Mrs. Grievance" on the cover of the conservative National Review magazine, and most recently -- and probably the best indication of where all this is really going -- she was referred to flatly as an "angry black woman" by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas in an appearance on FOX News.
Senator Obama's campaign issued a statement on the heels of all this, questioning why Senator McCain has not publicly taken a stand against these kinds of personal attacks, expressing disappointment in the Republican Senator. The McCain camp's response was akin to "when you stop we'll stop" by asserting that Obama has not stopped the Democratic Party from attacking Cindy McCain as evidenced by their recent questioning of Sen. McCain's use of her family's private jet for campaign events.
But questioning the Republican nominee's use of his wife's personal fortune is not an attack, personal or otherwise on Cindy McCain. It is questioning whether or not the Senator himself is getting proper benefit from his wife's financial status and whether or not that is ethical. If it is an attack, it is an attack at John, not Cindy.
And yet almost daily we have heard these charges about Michelle Obama. Which of courseraises the question: Why does she spark such a high level of rancor from those on the far right? Part of it is clearly just political strategy. Certainly the candidate's wife is a good barometer of the candidate's judgment and, as that person is also someone who will be representing the country at least in an unofficial way, it is absolutely fair to take a close look at the potential first lady. Yet doing things like calling Michelle a "baby mama" or an "angry black woman" is very far beyond the line of decent and fair political discourse, even in its present state.
I suspect that part of the focus on Michelle Obama is the fact that she has a double negative in the eyes of some. She is an intelligent, strong African-American woman, and I suspect for some this is really hard to handle. Indeed Cal Thomas's comment on that FOX panel hints at a thus far mostly unspoken line of thinking on the matter. "In this campaign, we are being asked to accept three things simultaneously," he said. "...The first woman with a credible chance of being president, the first African-American with the chance to being president and, whoever Michelle Obama is going to be styled, the angry black woman, first lady? This is an awful lot..."
The irony for the Left, particularly for the feminists and other women who so strongly decried the perceived sexism they saw leveled at Senator Clinton, will be that this could be a big challenge for them as well. Already many black women, as evidenced by discussions on sites like jackandjill and jezebel, are waiting to see if feminist leaders are as outraged at Michelle's treatment as they were about Hillary's.
As the months go on, we will see whether being black and a woman, since Michelle carries the weight of both groups, is just too much for some people to handle
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