When Barack Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts the other day that opponents better “lay off my wife,” it sounded another echo to the 1992 Clinton campaign. Jerry Brown dared to bring up Hillary’s Whitewater lawyering in a debate, and with a scowl Clinton said “You oughta be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife!” Both candidates could count on a supportive media to echo the thought that their opponents were guilty of excessively personal nastiness, bashing those poor wives. But in both cases, the spouses were important powers in their campaigns.
This became clear in an April 24 CBS Evening News story inside Obama headquarters. Katie Couric and a camera crew wandered through the cubicles. As she talked to the press secretaries, a camera found this sheet of paper with a Barack declaration of policy: “Whatever Michelle Says Is The Message.” As the shot sat on screen for a few seconds, Couric told the audience that the press operation is in constant contact “with the road while trying to make sure the message of the day survives.”
Just as Obama’s 2008 press clips are as soggy with goo as Clinton’s in 1992, so does Michelle Obama look like the second coming of Hillary. Except that by this time in 1992, Hillary and her role were being downplayed after she was deemed too outspoken on the little housewives that didn’t have careers. By contrast, Michelle has seemed to face no internal effort to put her under wraps.