When a Catfight Just Isn't

Michelle Obama's recent remarks weren't disrespectful to Hillary Clinton.

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Can two women disagree in a political context without having their exchange labeled a catfight? Seems as if the sorry answer is no, at least in the situation outlined below:

Michelle Obama was on a campaign visit to Britain and spoke briefly with the Sunday Times (of London) before leaving. The Times reported as follows:

On the eve of a campaign visit to Britain, the wife of Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, has delivered a spirited warning to Hillary Clinton, his toughest rival. "Nothing is inevitable," said Michelle Obama, vowing that her husband was a "uniter" who could beat Clinton to the party nomination.

Asked if she thought Clinton was a polarising figure, she replied: "That is definitely one of the challenges she faces. You can see it in the surveys."

The E-mail responses to this article have me nonplused. One person accused Mrs. Obama of "nasty back-stabbing" while asking, "Could we just have a little civility?"

Another said she sounds like a "bit of a harpy."

Well, guess what? She happens to be right. Clinton's negative poll numbers (the percentage of persons polled who say they view her negatively) sit in the mid-40s. Clinton herself has made light of those numbers on the campaign trail.

The Boston Globe reported on her talk to a group of supporters in August, explaining why her negatives are so high: "Essentially, she said at a house party here Thursday, the right wing has already thrown everything they have at her, so there's nothing left to dig up."

Michelle Obama was not attacking Clinton, nor were her words mean-spirited. She was merely responding to a reporter's questions in a fact-based way. Has the public so overreacted to attack politics that when any two women disagree in public, voters immediately see any exchange as a smear? Gosh, let's hope not.