Michelle Obama Is Making Herself a Stay-at-Home Mom, Not the Media

The Obamas care more about racial parity than gender parity.

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When in doubt, blame the media. That used to be an overused conservative tactic. Now it's being adopted, apparently, by the Kool-Aid imbibing Obama fans who are so blind to the Obamas' flaws they scramble mightily to find someone other than the Obamas to blame for these flaws.

Let me state for the record that I am neither conservative nor liberal, Democrat nor Republican, feminist nor antifeminist. Philosophical or partisan labels make me nervous and are never entirely accurate if there's a functioning brain inside the person so labeled. We all think for ourselves and have beliefs that differ from doctrinal rigidity. That is, unless that self-labeled person is a member of a particular political party and is angling for a job with that party (the old "What's in it for me" routine).

As for President-elect Obama, I probably agree with him on 90 percent of his environmental agenda, 90 percent of his diversity agenda, and 20 percent of his tax-policy agenda. I am extremely disappointed so far with what I see developing as his gender agenda: his position on women's rights. I could go on, but my point is I dislike both parties equally for very different reasons, so any reader comments along the lines of "you Democrat, you" or "you Republican, you" are flat-out wrong.

I met Rebecca Traister of Salon.com in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. We were both speaking on a panel of journalists. She seemed quite bright, but her latest article reflects little of that intelligence. Her vision of Michelle Obama is clearly obscured to the point of blindness by her worshipful take on what she calls the Bam-a-lot family.

The gist of her article is that Michelle Obama is being "momified" by the media. She writes that the media are paying more attention to Obama's clothes and role as mother than to her educational and career credentials.

Wake up, woman! Michelle Obama and Senator Obama's handlers, not the media, are doing that to her. Obama herself described her role as first lady as "Mom-in-Chief." She gave up her own career to help her husband pursue his. She clearly plans to emulate the retro Laura Bush rather than the career-oriented Sen. Hillary Clinton. From the Associated Press:

Valerie Jarrett, a longtime family friend who is helping lead the president-elect's transition team, said in a broadcast interview Sunday: "Having a seat at . . . the table and being co-president is not something she's interested in doing."

First ladies often start out slow, then pick up the pace as they become more comfortable in their roles.

An Ivy League-educated lawyer, Michelle Obama was criticized during the campaign, and Jarrett's comments could be taken as the beginning of an effort to lower her profile, de-emphasize her adviser role, and present a more traditional, first lady persona, possibly to avoid repeating the mistake the Clintons made.

Though Barack Obama said no such thing, Bill Clinton joked during the 1992 campaign that the country would get two for one if he was elected.

Another example: I blogged last week that when the Obamas were in Chicago, Senator Obama went along with Michelle to a parent-teacher conference. I was told of that meeting by a close friend who is a high-level Democratic fundraiser. But Obama's media staffers did not push that story. So, it ended up barely covered—it was in the last paragraph of a CNN sidebar on the Obama children's move to Washington—rather than on the front pages.

On Friday morning, before the president-elect met with his advisers on the troubled economy and before his first news conference since the election scheduled for the afternoon, Barack and Michelle Obama went to a parent-teacher conference at the University of Chicago Lab School.

So please, Ms. Traister, get a grip and stop foaming at least long enough to realize this is not some media conspiracy to turn Michelle Obama into Mrs. Mom but an Obama staff contrivance to tone down Michelle Obama's negatives. After she made campaign trail comments about being proud of her country for the first time (only following her husband's success) and disparaging Senator Clinton, the campaign had no choice but to tone her down, or the country would have turned on her husband.

It's sad both she and Senator Obama are going along with it. It's beginning to look as if they're a couple much more concerned with racial than gender parity. As one who has spent her life fighting for both, it's distressing for me to see gender parity fall by the wayside.

  • Click here to read more by Bonnie Erbe.
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