The Vogue cover for last month was a photograph of our imposing first lady, flanked by a story teaser “Michelle Obama: How the First Lady and the President Are Inspiring America.” We inhabit the United States in the era of co-presidencies — ushered in by Bill and Hillary, then George W. and Dick (some would reverse that order) and now Barack and Michelle, who was proclaimed by a 2009 Vogue cover “The First Lady the World’s Been Waiting For.”
With the formal marriage co-presidencies, as contrasted with the Bush/Cheney domestic partnership, it is now generally accepted that being first spouse provides experience that qualifies one for the top spot. A major thrust of Hillary’s argument for nominating her instead of Barack Obama in 2008 was lengthier and superior government service.
Where? — mostly in the White House, of course. That assertion largely went unchallenged and now is assumed correct by much of the electorate.
Before the Vogue cover, another sign of Michelle’s aspirations was revealed during her appearance by satellite at the Academy Awards. There she dumb-luckily announced the “Best Picture” award for “Argo,” sparing her and husband all the nasty commentary that would have followed Michelle announcing that “Zero Dark Thirty” had won.
“Didn’t that movie celebrate and condone torture?”
“Wasn’t that another example of left-leaning Hollywood fixing a contest to spotlight the president’s triumph over Osama bin Laden?”
In 2013, we have fewer data points to assess Michelle’s candidacy than we had with Hillary, even at the beginning of the second Clinton term, when it was already clear that Hillary would seek elective office. By then, she had already bungled the administration’s golden opportunity to enact truly universal health care coverage. She had also orchestrated the Zoe Baird/Kimba Wood/Janet Reno — we’re gonna have a female attorney general circus.
With Michelle, less is visible so far. It is telling that Michelle has recently moved beyond such comfort zone initiatives to the politically charged issue of gun control. Her recent speech comparing children dying by Chicago gun violence to child victims in wars “halfway around the world” and recent publicity forays with Hollywood and Conde Nast magazines are unmistakable signs that she is thinking past 2016.
Immediately before the Oscars, I watched for the 20th time the genius of Eddie Murphy in “Coming to America,” delighting in the opening scenes set in the fictional African country of Zamunda. There, King Jaffe Joffer (played by James Earl Jones), the Queen and Crown Prince Akeem (played by Murphy) are fawned and waited upon by an army of costumed retainers. A few hours later when Michelle Obama surprisingly appeared to announce the final Oscar, I was struck by the similarity of the scene with the one in Zamunda. Michelle was flanked by a room full of silent flunkies wearing silly military costumes.
One benefit of a long life is doing what never seemed possible — agreeing with Bill O’Reilly — in this case about the deplorable taste of Michelle’s Oscar Night performance.
The Vogue cover is another exercise in extremely bad taste. Vogue objectifies women, not so subtly telling them that the most important thing is their body shape and how it is clad, mostly in duds far beyond the reach of all but the top 1 or 2 percent. Michelle’s spread was heralded by the president in virtually the first comment out of his mouth at the recent White House Correspondents Dinner: “Everybody loves Michelle — she’s on the cover of Vogue — high poll numbers.”
America is being groomed for Michelle to run for elective office. When asked whether she would run in 2016, Michelle coyly did not say “no” — responding instead that she’d rather host “The Tonight Show.”