Commentary Magazine


Marital Harmony in the White House

If we were the teensiest bit anxious about marital strife in the White House after President Obama yukked it up at Nelson Mandela’s funeral with Denmark’s very winsome Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and took a rollicking “selfie” with her and British PM David Cameron, we can breathe a sigh of relief. The Washington Post reassures us that Mrs. Obama was not as peeved as she seemed to be in some of the photographs.

As the Post’s Reliable Source reports, AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt (apparently no relation to Helle), who shot the now-famous pic of the cavorting and an apparently displeased Michelle looking on, has personally debunked the story. In a post on AFP’s blog, he noted that, in fact, “photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.” What’s more, he wrote, no one else should be peeved by the funeral jollity either. Obama, Cameron and Thorning Schmidt were just acting “like human beings, like me and you. I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium.”

I have to say I sort of agree. However deeply people may feel the loss of Mr. Mandela, he triumphed over his enemies and then lived to a ripe old age, surrounded by children, grandchildren, and devoted followers. Under the circumstances, unremitting solemnity at the funeral would have seemed insincere. Still, it was disconcerting to see the (rapidly abdicating) leader of the free world horsing around in the stadium stands.

And hey, Michelle Obama can’t help it that her face looks rather, well, peeved in repose–or when listening to six hours of tributes to the man her husband insists on calling by his tribal name, Madiba. Some people’s faces are just like that.