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Tags: Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, Proud to Support What’s-His-Name



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Iowa’s Republican party welcomes Michelle Obama back to Iowa. The last time she was there, she spent a lot of time encouraging voters to support “Bruce Bailey” for Senate — a less than ideal endorsement for candidate Bruce Braley.

“It’s not often that we agree with Michelle Obama, but per her advice everyone should visit votebrucebailey.com,” said Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “Votebrucebailey.com is the perfect site to learn about the congressman’s support for Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and the rest of his job-killing policies that are hurting Iowans.”

Should have moved quicker on that URL, Congressman!

Tags: Michelle Obama , Bruce Braley

Michelle Obama Tries to Tamp Down Anger about Bergdahl and VA Scandal



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Maybe First Lady Michelle Obama will succeed where others have failed in rehabilitating President Obama’s record regarding the Veterans Affairs Department and the decision to release five members of the Taliban to rescue a man many vets think is a deserter.

Less than a week after VA secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over the department’s recent scandals, Mrs. Obama held an event touting efforts by the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to fight homelessness among veterans.

“Almost 90 percent of today’s homeless veterans served before 9/11, but this is the first time anyone has made this a government-wide priority,” she said Wednesday. “We’ve got HUD and the VA and the Interagency Council leading the way, and we’re also working with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and nonprofits and community leaders on the ground. We’ve cut through red tape and streamlined efforts across agencies, and together, we have made some extraordinary progress.”

Toward the end of her remarks, the first lady seemed, intentionally or not, to tie the homelessness issue to the Bergdahl exchange.

“So just like it’s our country’s duty to bring back all of our men and women from the battlefield, we’ve also got a duty to make sure that every single veteran has a place to call home when they get here – and for the rest of their lives,” Mrs. Obama said.

Her comments echo President Obama’s remarks in announcing the exchange, which he said was “a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”

Soldiers who served with Bergdahl don’t think the principle works quite like that. “It’s great that he’s back and that we can have that very small victory, if you can even call it a victory, because I believe . . . we gave up a lot for what we got back,” former Army sergeant Evan Buetow, Bergdahl’s team leader when he disappeared, told CNN.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Michelle Obama , Veterans Affairs , Veterans

Michelle Obama: ‘We Love to Embarrass’ Our Kids



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The apples seem to have fallen at least a little far from the tree a bit, First Lady Michelle Obama says of her daughters Malia and Sasha. While Michelle and her husband have been known to hit the entertainment circuit and rub elbows with celebrities, their daughters are apparently more camera shy.

“My kids are not star kids — they do not seek the limelight, they want to be far away from us,” the president’s wife told Michael Strahan at Monday’s White House Easter Egg Roll.

But, as parents, the Obamas aren’t afraid to threaten their daughters with their own performing abilities when the girls aren’t behaving.

“We love to embarrass them,” Obama said. From time to time, she and the president will threaten to publicly start dancing and singing, respectively, to get the girls to shape up.

“If they’re looking a little uninvolved in an event, I’ll just lean over and be like, ‘If you don’t smile, I’m going to start dancing, I’m going to start dancing,’” the first lady said.

Tags: Michelle Obama

White House Pastry Chef Leaves Post: ‘I Don’t Want to Demonize Cream, Butter, Sugar, and Eggs’



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Bethany Jenkins at the Gospel Coalition explores food and healthy choices in her article “Watching What We Eat,” which mentions the White House pastry chef who recently left his post:

Under the direction of Mrs. Obama, the White House executive pastry chef, Bill Yosses, “was directed to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were to be served only sparingly to the first family.” He frequently replaces butter with fruit purée and sugar with honey or agave. He also often adds whole grains to desserts and picks his fruits, vegetables, and herbs directly from the White House garden.

A few weeks ago, however, Yosses announced his “bittersweet decision” to leave Washington and head to New York, explaining, “I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar, and eggs.” He also said, “Not everything is about sugar, but everything is about good taste. And there’s such a thing as healthy good taste.” In other words, he thinks it’s possible to focus on healthy ingredients without stigmatizing traditional ones.

Tags: Michelle Obama , White House , Health

Which Embattled CEO Was Michelle Obama’s Guest for the State of the Union This Year?



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From the Wednesday Morning Jolt:

Guess Which Embattled CEO Was Invited to the State of the Union This Year?

From this year’s State of the Union Address: “Our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker.” That line referred to General Motors CEO Mary Barra, invited by Michelle Obama to the address and sitting near the First Lady.

Barra, top right; Michelle Obama, bottom left.

The news Tuesday:

General Motors chief executive Mary T. Barra on Tuesday deflected a barrage of questions on Capitol Hill about the automaker’s failure to fix a deadly ignition-switch flaw, telling lawmakers that she was unaware of the decade-old problem until early this year.

How early? Before or after she was the First Lady’s guest of the State of the Union?

While she repeatedly apologized for a defect that GM has blamed for the deaths of at least 13 motorists, Barra also repeatedly ducked lawmakers’ sometimes testy queries, saying she is awaiting the results of an internal investigation.

At one point in the hearing, Barra admitted she had not read all the documents submitted by GM to the committee. As Reuters television put it, “many times the head of GM pleaded ignorance to the details behind several GM recalls.”

Finally, “Barra, however, stopped short of promising to reveal the company’s entire internal report, instead saying she would release what GM considered ‘appropriate.’”

Tags: GM , Michelle Obama

The President’s Busy Morning: Russia Announcement, ESPN Radio



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This morning President Obama announced new sanctions on Russia for that country’s aggression in Crimea and threatening gestures toward Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Then the president did an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.

This is the home page of WhiteHouse.gov right now:

“View the President’s Backet” is at the top of the page.

Elsewhere on WhiteHouse.gov, visitors are encouraged to provide their e-mail addresses so they can “Sign up to get the First Lady’s blog posts, videos of events and photos delivered right to your inbox” dealing with first lady Michelle Obama’s trip to China.

This is really the only way for the American public to learn much about the first lady’s six-day taxpayer-funded trip to China with her daughters and mother, as “First lady Michelle Obama will not take questions from reporters or give interviews during her tour of China that begins today, and members of the press corps who usually follows [sic] the first family everywhere can’t travel with her entourage.”

Back in November, news organizations filed a formal complaint with the White House about the administration’s habit of “bypassing them to release ‘official’ photos of presidential meetings and events,” contending “visual press releases” have displaced independent coverage.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama , White House , Russia , Basketball

Michelle Obama: Obamacare, Gun Control Require a Democratic Senate



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In the interest of fairness, Michelle Obama taped some remarks to help the National Republican Senatorial Committee yesterday.

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was among the female candidates who gathered with the first lady for a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser, where Obama spoke of the need to elect more Democratic senators to further the president’s agenda.

The first lady, talking about how narrowly “Obamacare” had passed and the slim margin by which gun control legislation was defeated, said that “it is critical that we elect Michelle Nunn, Alison Grimes, Natalie Tennant.”

“It is critical that we get them to the Senate,” she said. “And it is just as critical that we elect — re-elect — Senators Mary Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen. It is critical, because we all know that it’s not enough to elect Barack Obama president if we don’t give him a Congress that will help him keep moving this country forward. We know that now. We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it.”

By emphasizing to voters in Kentucky, Georgia, and West Virginia that a vote for the Democratic candidate is a vote for Obamacare and gun control, Michelle Obama has greatly assisted GOP efforts to retain and/or win those seats. Thank you, Michelle Obama, for your efforts above and beyond the call of duty to assist GOP efforts to retake control of the Senate.

Tags: NRSC , DSCC , Michelle Obama , Obamacare

I Liked It Better When Trump’s Bombshells Were His Girlfriends



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With his trademarked humility and circumspection, Donald Trump recently boasted he’s about to announce huge news about President Obama, and one rumor has already been reported: “Douglas Kass, a Florida-based investor who appears on CNBC’s talkshow ‘Squawkbox’ where Trump is often a commentator, tweeted to his 48,000 followers: ’High above the Alps my Gnome has heard that Donald Trump will announce that he has unearthed divorce papers between the Prez and his wife.’ “

The fact that the Obamas went through rough patches in their marriage, and contemplated divorce at one time, is not news. Most accounts of the Obamas’ lives attribute the marital stress to financial difficulties.

David Mendell discussed the Obamas’ surprisingly dicey personal finances in his 2007 biography of the then-senator, Obama: From Promise to Power:

He and Michelle were living a middle- to upper-middle-class, white collar existence, going home to a spacious town house in Hyde Park and employing a caregiver to help with child care. But despite their combined incomes, which topped $250,000 a year, Obama had personal debt. He had maxed out his credit card, partly on campaign expenses, and the couple were both repaying student loans from Harvard.

Those campaign expenses came from Obama’s 2000 Democratic-primary bid to unseat Representative Bobby Rush, a four-term incumbent with 90 percent name recognition and a 70 percent approval rating. Obama lost, garnering 30 percent to Rush’s 61 percent. Michelle reportedly thought the campaign was a bad idea, and a new book, Ed Klein’s The Amateur, claims that the stress of the defeat and resulting debt brought the couple to the brink of divorce.

In his book, Klein cites a friend of Michelle Obama who says, “Michelle actually had divorce papers drawn up.” Could those papers have been sitting in some file cabinet all these years? Could Trump’s people have somehow gotten a copy of them?

Unless there’s some sort of genuinely shocking information in that filing that would be pertinent to evaluating Obama today — Drinking? Drug use? Violent temper or mood swings — it’s hard to imagine these papers it would sway voters much in this year’s election. While it’s unlikely Trump’s latest publicity stunt could backfire sufficiently to jeopardize Romney’s standing in the polls, it’s hard to imagine the Romney campaign brain trust in Boston being thrilled with loose cannon Trump seizing the headlines and making the Obamas look like victims. (Clearly high-profile Clinton marital issues didn’t hurt Democrats in the 1998 midterms or Hillary Clinton’s 2000 bid for Senate.)

Having said that, if unflattering details about Obama are revealed to the public because of divorce papers, two men are likely to spend the day laughing: Obama’s 2004 Democratic primary rival Blair Hull and Obama’s short-lived 2004 general election rival, Jack Ryan. Both men had their divorce papers unsealed by suddenly nosy members of the Chicago media, a press corps that never was quite so dogged in pursuit of politicians’ divorce papers since.

Tags: Barack Obama , Donald Trump , Michelle Obama , Mitt Romney

All of the Non-Michelle Speeches (Condensed Version)



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Tomorrow’s Morning Jolt will feature quite a few thoughts on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I think Michelle Obama gave about as persuasive a case as can be made for her husband’s reelection — primarily because it so quickly and casually glanced at the record of her husband and focused instead on the tales of a much poorer, little-known Barack and Michelle starting their family life, with coffee tables out of dumpsters and cars with holes in the floor. As more than a few noticed on Twitter, about 90 percent of Michelle Obama’s speech could have been given four years ago.

The early governors all seemed to aim to hit the same note, and if any of them broke through, it was Deval Patrick. But Ted Strickland, Martin O’Malley, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro . . . they all blended together. It’s as if the convention organizers gave them a template to personalize, only slightly:

“The country was on the edge of economic apocalypse when Barack Obama took office. It was entirely the fault of free-market economics, and policies encouraging large home loans to people who had spotty or worse credit ratings had absolutely nothing to do with it. Since then, we . . . have . . . made . . . progress! Don’t look too hard at how much progress, or whether 8.3 percent unemployment with a lower labor-force participation rate really counts as progress to you, or whether that’s even remotely close to what we promised four years ago. Lilly Ledbetter now has a much longer period of time to sue her employers, and this is the single most important development for women in the workplace since Rosie the Riveter! If this speech is before 9:45 p.m. Eastern, we must protect women’s right to abortion! If this speech is after 9:45 p.m. Eastern, we trust women to make the best choices . . . (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) about their bodies! We must keep government away from the all-important doctor-patient relationship! Also, we passed health-care reform, and ignore all of that polling you’ve seen since passage, you’re going to love it! The 26-year-old kids among you most of all!”

“And then there’s Mitt Romney. He’s out of touch! He has a Swiss bank account! He’s out of touch from his Swiss bank account! He’s got money in lots of places, and you and I both know, there must be something criminal involved! The Romney-Ryan budget calls for taking away all of your money! And giving it to millionaires and billionaires — and just the ones you really don’t like, not the celebrities and movie stars you’ll be hearing from later this week!”

Tags: Deval Patrick , Julian Castro , Martin O'Malley , Michelle Obama

How Real Is Barack Obama’s ‘Real World’?



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President Barack Obama, who has spent almost all of his career and adult life in academia, law firms, and government, begins his criticism of Mitt Romney by declaring, “those of us who have spent time in the real world . . .”

It would probably be rude of me to think about Michelle Obama’s work, where her salary jumped from $121,910 to $316,962 per year after her husband became a U.S. senator, a job that was strangely left unfilled after she stepped down to focus on her husband’s campaign.

Such positions are quite challenging to find in the . . . real world.

UPDATE: Of course, Obama uses the phrase while speaking to donors at a $40,000-per-couple fundraiser.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s Spain Vacation Cost Taxpayers $467,585



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Just arriving in my e-mailbox:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it obtained documents from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with Michelle Obama’s controversial August 2010 vacation to Spain.  According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the records indicate a total combined cost of at least $467,585.

Judicial Watch obtained the Secret Service records pursuant to an August 2010 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  (The agency notified Judicial Watch that it withheld 78 pages of responsive records in their entirety.) Judicial Watch obtained the U.S. Air Force records pursuant to a March 5, 2012, FOIA lawsuit.

The following are highlights from the U.S. Air Force records, which indicate a total cost of $213,124.15:

According to U.S. Department of Defense’s 2010 published hourly rates, the total cost of flying Michelle Obama and her guests from Camp Andrews to Malaga and then to Mallorca and back to the United States was $199,323.75. This is based on approximately 17 hours and 15 minutes of total flying time.The 15-member flight crew stayed at Tryp Guadalmar, a nearby motel. Lodging cost was $10,290.60 and car rental cost was $2,633.50. Food cost was $876.30, including $57.68 for four bottles of maple syrup and a package of pancake mix.

The U.S. Air Force concealed the number of civilian passengers who accompanied Mrs. Obama on the five-day trip, citing an exemption to FOIA law. (The New York Times previously reported that Mrs. Obama brought along one of her daughters and “two friends and four of their daughters, as well as a couple of aides and a couple of advance staff members.”)

Secret Service records, meanwhile, show that the costs to the agency for the vacation were $254,461.20. This total includes $26,670.61 for a chauffeur tour of Costa del Sol and $50,078.78 for a travel planning company SET P&V, S.L. (George Soros is 50% owner of the travel company.) Taxpayers also paid the bill for separate lodging for a dog and its handler.

As I noted earlier this week, from Jodi Kantor’s The Obamas, pages 90–91:

Even the president made uncomfortable jokes about why his wife needed so many things. Behind the scenes, aides said, the Obamas were concerned about money: the president’s books could only sell so many copies, and it would be years until he could write more and the first lady could write her own. From vacation rental homes big enough to accommodate the Secret Service to all the personal entertaining they did at the White House, their lifestyle had grown fearsomely expensive.

Lest someone claim the book is an anti-Obama smear job, Kantor began covering the Obamas for the New York Times in 2007 and based the book on multiple interviews with 33 different White House staffers.

And, of course, last week, when asked about the GSA scandal, Romney told me this.

“I think the example starts at the top,” Romney said. “People have to see that the president is not taking elaborate vacations and spending in a way that is inconsistent with the state of the overall economy and the state of the American family.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama , Mitt Romney

President Self-Pity



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Last week’s discussion of America’s perception of itself as a meritocracy, and whether Obama’s election helped spur more envy and appetite for scapegoats, prompted Jeff Dobbs to remind me of this observation from 2008:

In the fallout over his remarks about small town Pennsylvanians, Obama challenges the notion that he is elitist:

“I am amused about this notion of elitist, given that when you’re raised by a single mom, when you were on food stamps for a while when you were growing up, you went to school on scholarship,” he told a town hall meeting of U.S. military veterans in western Pennsylvania. [...]

“We lived for the first 13 years of our marriage up until three years ago in a three-bedroom condo without a garage so if you live in Chicago that means you’re scraping ice every morning,” he said in rejecting the elitist label.

I think it all makes sense.

No matter their actual economic station in life, the Obamas perceive themselves as being lower than they deserve. If they are making a quarter of a million dollars in 2001, they have crushing student loan burdens. If they are living in a three bedroom condo in Chicago, they don’t have a garage. If they are getting over a million dollars in book royalties, Michelle complains about the struggles of making due on $10,000 a year for extracurricular activities for their kids.

So when Obama says that folks in small town Pennsylvania have become bitter, clinging, among other things, to religion and antipathy for those not like them – what we may be seeing is projection.

There is a remarkable capacity for self pity in this administration. I’m thinking of remarks like this:

Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

Or this

Maybe he watched too many episodes of “24″ or “The West Wing,” but President Obama complained last night about the phones in the Oval Office, portraying them as antiquated technology.

“I always thought I was gonna have like really cool phones and stuff,” he said during a Q&A session with contributors to his re-election campaign.

“We can’t get our phones to work.” Acting out his exasperation, he said: “Come on, guys. I’m the president of the United States! Where’s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up? It doesn’t happen.”

He said the White House is “like 30 years behind” when it comes to technology.

“Our IT purchasing is horrible,” said the president referring to Information Technology throughout the government.

Or this

“I just miss – I miss being anonymous,” he said at the meeting in the White House. “I miss Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, not shaving, getting into my car with my girls, driving to the supermarket, squeezing the fruit, getting my car washed, taking walks. I can’t take a walk.”

If you look around your life, looking for signs that you are blessed and unimaginably lucky, you will find those signs. If you look around your life, looking for signs that you have drawn the short end of the stick, that you’re being unfairly denied, that forces are conspiring against you, and that you always have it rougher than everyone else – well, chances are, you’ll be able to find those signs, too.

UPDATE: Campaign Spot reader Fritz observes, “The revealing thing about the t-shirt anecdote is that Obama’s and Emanuel’s idea of stress reduction is that other people should have no choices.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama

Our Ambitious President’s Demonization of Ambition



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Over at Human Events, John Hayward looks at Obama’s speech in Scranton to note the strange phenomenon of a man who has reached the heights of power and wealth through the public sector demonizing those who seek to reach those same heights through the private sector:

There is no longer the slightest pretense of treating government as a dreadful expense to be shouldered by a consenting populace as evenly as possible, to perform a few carefully limited duties. Now you’re supposed to wait for Good King Barack to smile upon your small-business plan and direct one of his many courtiers to cut you a check. Applause for his good intentions is expected, while questions about the grim outcomes are rude, and limits to his discretion are unthinkable.

It’s long past time for Americans to grow up and move past this childish and destructive fantasy. The great majority of people act in the interests of themselves, and their families. They work hard to get ahead. They make investments in the pursuit of reward. The Democrats have no trouble understanding and promoting this when they’re looking to buy votes at $700 a pop . . . but otherwise, they expect us to embrace the highly regimented altruism of limitless “donations” to an angelic government filled with thousands of wise and selfless bureaucrats, whose salaries we are not supposed to envy.

Politics is the worst way to fulfill your self-interest. It’s compulsive, which means it’s destructive. Wealth is quickly shredded in a crossfire of votes from competing interests, seeking to force one another to pay for benefits.

Think back to the 2008 campaign, when Michelle Obama told a group of women at a Zanesville, Ohio, day-care center:

We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do . . . Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.

The Obamas are absolutely convinced that they rose to the top in the morally correct way, and that most of the other folks at the top rose there in a morally tainted way.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama: Barack ‘Is Better Prepared Than the People Briefing Him.’



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Michelle Obama, at a Democrat party fundraiser in California last night:

“He reads every word, every memo, so he is better prepared than the people briefing him,” she said. “This man doesn’t take a day off.”

1) It’s a good thing that the Central Intelligence Agency is full of classy, dignified, professional people; otherwise, tomorrow’s President’s Daily Brief might consist of, “well, since you’re so well prepared, figure it out yourself, smarty-pants. After all, we already know you have as much courage as the Navy SEALs.”

2) The man doesn’t take a day off. No, but he has found time for golf for eleven straight weekends.

Beyond that, the president never has to worry with the mundane details of life that make up large portions of the average American’s day – how am I going to pay the mortgage, what’s for dinner tonight, what time is soccer practice for the kids, how bad is traffic going to be, what if I’m suddenly laid off (Obama’s job security circumstance is a bit more binary and about 18 months away), are we going to be able to afford taking the kids on vacation this year, is my children’s school teaching them what they need to know, what do I do if the car needs repairs…

So at a time when unemployment is 9.1 percent and filling up your car with gas almost requires a black market organ donation, I think the First Lady can spare us the details on how hard he’s working.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama

This Will Lead to a ‘Federal Pedestrian Management Agency’



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If you’re not subscribing to the Morning Jolt, you missed this in today’s edition:

Look, Mom, I’m Exercisi-AIEEEEEEE!!

Instead of “Let’s Move,” perhaps the First Lady should have called her youth exercise program the “Let’s Move Out of the Way” campaign: “The Governors Highway Safety Association says pedestrian deaths increased in the first half of 2010 and the First Lady’s program to get Americans to be more active could be partly responsible. Governors Highway Safety Administration spokesman Jonathan Adkins told 630 WMAL that Michelle Obama is ‘trying to get us to walk to work and exercise a little bit more.  While that’s good, it also increases our exposure to risk.’”

See, honey? That’s why I’m lazy and drive everywhere!

Sure, Michelle Obama is cutting down on American kids eating pizza . . . only to watch them become street pizza. She’s getting them to go on expeditions, it is it worth it if they’re getting mowed down by Ford Expeditions? American kids are taking up golf, only to get knocked off the road by VW Golfs. Just as America’s kids can fit in their Wrangler jeans, they’re getting hit by Jeep Wranglers. They’re picking up the pace, only to get hit by an AMC Pacer . . . eh, that joke doesn’t work; if a Pacer hits you, the car ends up getting damaged.

The Daily Caller notes that the Governors Highway Safety  Association seemed to recognize that they had stepped into a political controversy by appearing to suggest that Michelle Obama had some hand in horrific traffic accident deaths in the past year, but that at least earlier in the day, they yearned for the angle to generate coverage: “Scott McCabe, Reporter for the Washington Examiner, pointed out in an email to The Daily Caller that the GHSA brought up Michelle Obama in a story pitch for their report about pedestrian deaths. Their pitch included a bullet point that read ‘One is the possible increase in distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers. We’ve been focusing on the drivers, but perhaps we need to focus some attention on distracted walkers! Additionally, Mrs. Obama and others have been bringing attention to ‘get moving’ programs, so perhaps pedestrian exposure has increased.’”

James Joyner invokes last week’s forbidden phrase to open his debunking: “DC’s AM630 commits blood libel,” he scoffs. “Well, first off, there are no figures provided. Via Dr. Google, I see ‘The Governors Highway Safety Association says in the report that 1,891 pedestrians were killed in the first six months of 2010, up from 1,884 in the same period in 2009 — a 0.4 percent increase.’  Now, I don’t know the historical variation in these things, but I’d say offhand that this is a statistically insignificant swing. Regardless, a variety of factors — alcohol, technology, and road design among them — seem to be considered possible explanations for the slight reversal in trend.”

Sure, the idea that Michelle Obama designed her exercise program to slaughter American teens by the sides of our nation’s roads and highways seems implausible, but no more implausible than the notion  that a guy with classic symptoms of schizophrenia and an irrational hatred of his congresswoman since 2007 was driven to commit mass murder by a map graphic from Sarah Palin.

And if Michelle Obama has ever said, “we’re putting childhood obesity in the crosshairs,” this story will blow up big-time.

Tags: Michelle Obama

When U.S. Lawmakers Visit, Foreign Governments Go Shopping



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The latest U.S. State Department list of gifts from foreign leaders to American officials was released this week, revealing what foreign governments gave to President Obama, the First Lady, the cabinet, diplomatic staff, visiting members of Congress, and some CIA personnel.

Since 1978, federal employees have been required to file reports with their agencies detailing gifts worth more than $305 received from foreign governments. Employees are permitted to keep gifts worth less that that; gifts worth more are considered gifts to the agency, although the employee has the option of purchasing the item. In almost all cases, the gift is accepted because “non-acceptance would have caused embarrassment to donor and the U.S. government.” Non-purchased gifts are either turned over to the General Services Administration for storage or retained by the agency for official display. In some cases, lawmakers are permitted to display the gifts in their offices, which is deemed “official use.”

The president receives ceremonial gifts everywhere he goes; everything is appraised in case the lawmaker decides to purchase the gift from the government. Food, wine, and edible gifts are “handled pursuant to Secret Service policy.”

Pope Benedict XVI gave Obama a “gilt framed and matted mosaic depicting St. Peter’s Square; decorative gold coin with the inscription ‘Benedict XVI Pont Max Anno IV’ with the profile of Pope Benedict the XVI; booklet entitled ‘Instruction Dignitas Personae On Certain Bioethical Questions’; book entitled ‘Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI’; silver keychain.” All of that was collectively estimated at a value of $7,905.

Shimon Peres, president of Israel, gave Obama a bronze statue of a girl releasing a flock of doves, estimated to be worth $8,000. The pen holder made from the wood of the HMS Gannet, given by then–prime minister Gordon Brown, is valued at $16,510.

Saudi King Abdullah gave Obama a “large desert scene on a green veined marble base featuring miniature figurines of gold palm trees and camels; large gold medallion with the Royal seal in a green leather display box; large brass and glass clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre in a green leather display case.” The entire package was assessed at $34,500. But the king’s gift to Michelle Obama cost even more: A ruby and diamond jewelry set consisting of a pair of earrings, a ring, a bracelet, and a necklace, estimated to cost $132,000.

Of course, you didn’t have to be as wealthy as the Saudi rulers to give expensive gifts to the First Lady: Ernestina Naadu Mills, first lady of the Republic of Ghana, gave her a “Backes and Strauss ‘Black Star of Ghana’  watch, crafted in 18 karat gold with diamonds and leather,” estimated to be worth $48,000.

Then again, not every gift is so pricey; Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, gave President Obama a bottle of olive oil valued at $75.

A fascinating bit of irony considering the controversy Hillary Clinton found herself in, dealing with U.S. diplomatic personnel collecting personal and sensitive data on U.N. personnel: On February 1, 2002, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Israel, and Tourism Minister Binyamin Elon gave her a gift, a metal-and-wood sculpture by artist Israel Hadany valued at $3,500. The sculpture’s title? “The Spies.”

(One of my favorites, from a few years ago: “Shortly before Christmas 2004, King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan gave Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld an “aromatherapy gift set” valued at $380. It may never be known if the collection of scents soothed the secretary’s nerves; the gift was turned over to the General Services Administration.”)

Back in 2006, I wrote about the gifts to then–CIA Director George Tenet for the (gasp!) Washington Post. The list of donors and non-director recipients is classified, but I noted back then that the gift descriptions offered a clue of the donor’s nationality: Bahranian 22-karat gold coins, a “Pakistan ‘Tabriz’ design rug,” valued at $500, “Pakistan Bokhara rug,” valued at $500, and perhaps most intriguingly, a “Qum silk rug” on May 8, 2004, about 7 feet by 4 feet, in emerald green and red. Qum, a city famous for its ornate rugs, is in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.

I notice this year there are no revealing adjectives on the list for gifts to CIA employees.

Tags: Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , Michelle Obama

Pie-Seizing President Pushes Salad Upon Citizenry



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The Campaign Spot, back in May 2008:

Jeff Dobbs, a little while back, saw Michelle Obama’s statement that “The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more.”

And he responded, “Three things I will not tolerate: You cannot attack my faith. You cannot attack my family. And you cannot lay a hand on my pie.”

Barack Obama today: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,” Obama said.

Would an Obama Administration really mean an end to “eating as much as we want?”

Apparently so:

In “Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside Obama’s White House,” MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe, a writer sympathetic to the president, reports the prosaic backroom details of the White House struggles from early this year, but occasionally stumbles upon an off-the-cuff revelation that’s much more interesting.

One staffer was conspicuously overweight. The president, in an incident that Wolffe believes proves how caring the man is, took it upon himself to present the aide with a salad for lunch — “then listened to him protest that he could take care of his own health. ‘I love you, man,’ Obama said. ‘I want you to look after yourself. Eat the salad.’ ”

The nanny state, personified. Imagine how mortified that poor staffer must have felt. Trust me, he knows he’s overweight. The last thing he needs is the leader of the free world ordering his lunch for him, and then that anecdote floating around the White House and ending up in some book as an example of the all-knowing, all-caring Sun God/president’s munificence.

Chris Christie for President: Because the commander-in-chief and leader of the free world should never be telling you to eat a @#$%^ salad.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama

Examining Obama’s Schedule in the Final Days



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Via Mike Allen’s morning newsletter at Politico:

AP’s Julie Pace: “Obama will headline rallies in Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago, and participate in a canvassing event in Philadelphia on Oct. 30. The next day Obama will head to Cleveland with Vice President Joe Biden for his final rally of the campaign season. . . . The White House has said the president plans to be in Washington* on Nov. 1, the Monday before the election, and on Election Day. . . . Michelle Obama will campaign in Las Vegas and Philadelphia on Nov. 1.”

Obviously, they’re focusing on Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada. Depending on which Washington they mean, Patty Murray’s Senate reelection bid may or may not have made the cut.

Missing from the list: California, Colorado, Wisconsin.

Missing from the list and unsurprising: Florida, New Hampshire, Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky.

* Do they mean Washington state or Washington, D.C.?

Tags: Barack Obama , Joe Biden , Michelle Obama

Cutting Food Stamps



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A thought to add to today’s editorial on Michelle Obama’s child-nutrition program, which has stalled in the House because it would be funded, in part, by cuts to the food-stamp program. I’m no fan of the welfare state, but food stamps are not at the top of my list of things to cut. (Hey, vouchers work! I wonder to what other areas of government spending we might apply that model?) Cutting basic food stamps in order to put more tofu on cafeteria trays in the suburbs doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.

To their credit, 106 Democrats in the House protested this move in a letter to Speaker Pelosi; to their discredit, each and every one of those 106 Democrats already had voted for a bill that cut not $2 billion but $12 billion from the same food-stamp program to support a bailout for spendthrift public schools and relieve pressure for reducing spending on teachers’ and administrators’ salaries and lavish benefits. Which is to say: House Democrats are unwilling to raid the pantries of food-stamp recipients to put more kale in the Pleasantville cafeteria, but they are willing to take bread from the mouths of the poor to fatten an already overfed public-school bureaucracy.

People who still believe, against all evidence, that the Democrats are the party dedicated to looking after the interests of the poor should keep Mrs. Obama in mind.

Tags: Debt , Despair , Fiscal Armageddon , Michelle Obama , Spending , Welfare

How’s Michelle’s Trip Playing in That Demonized Las Vegas?



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Michelle Obama would get less grief about a couple hundred grand being spent on her trip to Spain if her husband hadn’t, say, ripped into companies holding conventions in Las Vegas:

“You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime,” he declared of companies taking TARP funds.

The next day, Goldman Sachs pulled the plug on a technology conference in Las Vegas, greatly irking Nevada’s political leaders.

Wonder how this plays in Nevada with its competitive Senate and House races . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Harry Reid , Michelle Obama

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