Chivalry is still charming, as Barack Obama proved when he recently warned Tennessee Republicans to leave his wife alone.
He was commenting on a GOP web ad that highlights Michelle Obama’s comment, made at a rally in February, that she was proud of America for the first time in her adult life. When asked about the ad Monday during an interview on Good Morning America, Obama said Republicans were welcome to pick on him and his track record, but not his wife.
“If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable. The notion that you start attacking my wife, or my family … is just low class. … Lay off my wife, all right?”
Love that. You could almost hear those bowling pins toppling as Obama’s testosterone surged, while Michelle was almost Nancy Reaganesque sitting by his side. Of course, Michelle Obama is manifestly capable of defending herself, but it’s refreshing to see a man come to his damsel’s defense.
Even so, hard-core feminists who switched allegiances from Hillary Clinton to Obama must have had to Botox their faces to keep their eyes from rolling out of their sockets upon hearing “lay off my wife.”
They were already in fetal recoil from Obama’s earlier “sweetie,” offered to a female reporter at a campaign stop in Detroit. When ABC’s Peggy Agar asked him a question about how he was going to help the American autoworkers, Obama responded: “Hold on one second, sweetie. We’ll do a press avail.”
Be still my beating heart.
Alas, Obama felt it necessary to apologize a few hours later, leaving a message on Agar’s voicemail. “That’s a bad habit of mine,” he said. “I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. I mean no disrespect and so I am duly chastened on that front.”
What preciousness hath feminism wrought when a perfectly good “sweetie” piques a grown woman’s ire?
Far too much has been made of tongue slippages that are silly to insignificant, including Michelle’s un-proud moment. We know what the woman meant. She was proud of her husband, proud of her country for recognizing his talents, and probably proud of herself. She was swept up in the moment.
That said, Michelle Obama doesn’t get a pass from scrutiny and criticism. What she says matters, not least because she is the partner of the man who would be president but also because her statements are made in the service of his campaign.
Both husband and wife have made plenty of remarks that were not mere nits, but are troubling hints at a future where government knows what’s best. Such as this from a Los Angeles rally where Michelle pronounced that Obama “will require you to work.”
“He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism … that you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”
Require? Demand? What if we like being alone in our comfort zones?
Or this from Obama in Roseburg, Ore., last Saturday: “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 O.K. That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen.”
We can’t?! It’s not?
By all means, let’s roll out the hybrids and hold the fries, but are other countries now the judges of American lifestyles? Perhaps while human-rights investigator Doudou Diene is in the United States the next few weeks probing racism for the United Nations, he can take a measure of American gluttony. What would Senegal have us do?
Obama isn’t wrong that America needs to clean up, slim down, and guzzle less, but let’s hope Michelle isn’t right about the requiring and demanding part. Free markets and private-sector innovation are beautiful things, as is voluntary sacrifice.
Let’s stay just cynical enough, meanwhile, to ask not what our country can do for us — or to us — but what we can do for ourselves as sane citizens of a free, entrepreneurial nation.
– Kathleen Parker is author of the upcoming Save the Males.
© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group