FROM HEALTHY VEGETABLES TO PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS
EVEN AS HER POLL NUMBERS DROP, Mrs. Obama is getting herself mixed up in the same political issue that defeated the Democratic first lady before her. Linda Hirshman at the Daily Beast explains:
Despite the clear lesson from Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated venture, health care is a siren song for any first lady—because it looks like such a womanly thing. Taking care of sick people, especially sick children, fits perfectly into a traditional female caregiver role.
But it’s a trap. Health care is big, big business—15 percent of the economy, some say. Big insurers, Big Pharma, the AMA, big boys play health care. And as the tea bag summer went by, the political stakes got unimaginably high, too. As Michelle Obama turned her attention from healthy veggies to pre-existing conditions, pundits speculate that the “fall” in her approval ratings—from a high of 72 to 61 percent in the latest Gallup poll—may indeed be due to her venture into the politics of health care.
But theories about her dwindling appeal abound. Maybe she’s not too blue but too red: The mom-in-chief thing has gotten really old as the economy tanks and the president plays basketball with the boys. We know there’s a Harvard law degree in there somewhere; why is she appearing with kitty ears and Halloween treats?
Six months ago, all the first lady coverage was a just-right purply hue. What happened? The obvious answer is that everything was never just right. Just like regular politics, red and blue gender politics can’t be magically wished away, not even by the Obamas. And the gender challenges of being a first lady, 40 years after feminism, are darn near insurmountable.
A quick learner, Michelle Obama found out during the campaign that she’d be better off seen than heard. When asked what she’d do in case of the dreaded 3 a.m. emergency phone call, she answered that she’d hand the phone to Barack and go back to sleep. The more she embodied a conservative concept of “ladyship,” the more the most vocal parts of the country, especially the media, liked her. Why, they even compared her to the sainted Jacqueline Kennedy.
That's enough. I don't want to go down the Michelle-Jackie road again today. But the point is well taken that the American people want a first lady who's a lady in the White House. For many, the often (false) nostalgia of the Kennedy days embodies that sense for liberals.
Me, I don't have to look any further back than Laura Bush a lady's lady whom I miss greatly. One thing's for sure, she'd never have worn that ghastly cat outfit, looking like a wildcat siren on Halloween. Her venturing deeper into the wilderness of healthcare reform can only take her poll numbers deeper down.