Michelle and Sasha Obama are taking a beating for their summer vacation trip to Spain. The media are salivating, constantly dissecting what some call an inappropriate trip that sends a "let them eat cake" message to the American people.
I have two words -- lay off.
Can't we just let them enjoy what little "private" mother-daughter time they're ever going to have, especially at this time in their relationship? Sasha will be a fourth-grader this year and I know from personal experience with my own daughter that these years -- the ones where the diapers and tantrums are done but the teen hell years are still off in the distance -- are especially precious.
Not to mention the obvious question -- isn't it a good thing to have the First Children see the world?
When I was a young girl growing up on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania, I dreamed of the day I'd be able to see something beyond a few of the states that surrounded the one where I lived. Most of the people I knew were content to settle in my small hometown after high school or college, or at least not stray too far. But I longed to break loose, move to the big city and see EVERYTHING!
Of course, that requires two things -- time and money. The time was no problem. The money? Well, that was a little harder to come by as I worked my way through college while pursuing a journalism career. Not to mention the cost of that law degree I have. By the time I secured my first passport and made my maiden trip across the pond, I was 35. I've made up for lost time since then, but I knew that if and when I had a family, if I could swing it, I'd want any children to travel internationally sooner than I had to be able to see first-hand how the rest of the world lives.
So I've been thinking a lot about the current media Michelle smack-down:
It's not appropriate to make such a jaunt when the country's unemployment rate is 10%! How dare they spend some of the taxpayers money on a lavish trip?! Why isn't she keeping her daughters at home when so many other American families have had to scrap their more modest getaway plans?
I'm sure there are some families thinking these things, but the real reason for this trash talk isn't difficult to figure out -- it's an easy way to fill time and create "content." This is a Faux News story. If the first family of the United States can't take their small children on trips to show them the world, who can? For security reasons, presidential families will always have to travel in special jets and endure Secret Service companions, all at taxpayer expense. Is that a reason to keep their children locked up in the White House with their only exposure to other cultures coming from their school classes?
No doubt these same politicos would not be calling Michelle a modern day Marie Antoinette if she had chosen something like a reprise of the Clinton vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Comparing her to the headless French queen is just conservative crazy talk. You can bet that if this trip was the same except you exchanged Laura Bush and one of her daughters for Michelle and Sasha, and there would be nary a peep from the naysayers. The coverage would more likely be about what a nice mother-daughter experience they were having that both would remember for the rest of their lives.
This easy time-filling brouhaha is nothing more than the intersection of cable news spin and our country's increasing xenophobia, as well as the conservative zeitgeist that the Obamas just don't deserve any of this -- neither the the White House nor any of the accoutrements that come with being the family of the leader of the free world.
My fellow MOMocrat Cynthia Liu also reminded me about another double standard in this scenario that's even more important, saying:
I see, the GOP can stall extension of unemployment benefits, urge the continuation of the UNPAID-for Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of the country, and dismiss 119 golf "fundraisers" attended by the GOP leader of the House in the last ...365 days...but it's Michelle and Sasha Obama's trip to Spain that sends a "let them eat cake" message to the American people.
I'm really sick of how the press willingly repeats the most racist memes from the right wing.
Michelle's desire to have some special time with Sasha is normal and understandable. What isn't normal is that they're the First Family, and there's no place in the America they could go to have some quiet girl time in these last golden years of childhood. If any of the rest of us were in Michelle's shoes, we'd probably be doing the same thing in an effort to give our families whatever little bit of "normal" mom and daughter experiences that are possible for people who live in the biggest glass house in the world. So why shouldn't we let them have their time and put the politics of First Family vacations to rest and get back to the real issues, like those tax cuts and unemployment benefits.
Joanne Bamberger is the woman behind the political blog, PunditMom. A writer, as well as a political and media analyst, Joanne's book about how women online are creating their own political revolution will be published this fall by Bright Sky Press.