John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Defending the Wife

Posted on May 27, 2008
Barack Obama played it pretty well yesterday when he went on “Good Morning America” to defend his wife from a video posted by the Tennessee Republican Party.

Obama called the video "low-class" and "detestable" and said, "These folks should lay off my wife," as his wife laughed beside him.

It was a good way to try to scare off anybody who would want to make Michelle Obama and her political views an issue in the campaign.

Much of the talk around town has been about Michelle Obama and her effect on the campaign. Clearly, she is a formidable woman. She is attractive, intelligent, and not afraid to speak her mind.

But most people think that she is far more liberal than even her husband. Her comments about the first time she has been proud of America seemed both revelatory and self-absorbed. So, the only time you really think America is great is when it nominates your husband to be president, eh? Something seems wrong with that picture.

But having a wife who is more liberal than her husband is not that unusual in the White House. Eleanor Roosevelt was far more liberal than FDR. Betty Ford was more liberal than Gerald Ford. Nancy Reagan’s political views didn’t necessarily match up with Ronald Reagan’s. And of course, Hillary Clinton’s views were seen as far more left-wing than the centrist instincts of her husband Bill (unless we are talking about certain social issues).

So what is the big deal about Michelle Obama? I think part of it is that she’s pretty much brand-new to the political stage. Her husband has only been a national figure for a couple of years, and most people don’t know her.

Because she is new to the political scene, people have a right to ask certain questions about her, especially when she says things that are controversial. What kind of first lady will she be? What will her role be in the White House? How will her thinking influence her husband’s thinking on policy matters?

But attacking her could backfire. Independent voters and female voters will not put up with attacks that are deemed unfair. Some base voters might get fired up by videos like the one put out by the Tennessee Party, but I doubt it.

At the end of the day, the voters will decide the next election based on who the president will be. It won’t be based on the first lady, or the vice president, or the crazy aunt. Republicans should keep their eye on the ball and focus on Barack Obama, not his wife Michelle.

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