Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michelle Obama

Will Michelle Join Hashtag Battle Against Hamas Kidnappers?

When the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped 300 Nigerian girls not long ago, the response from the mainstream media as well as liberal elites was not long in coming. The outrage and calls for action seemed strangely disconnected from the enthusiasm on the part of many of those speaking up about the kidnapped girls for President Obama’s weak “lead from behind” foreign policy that has left the U.S. paralyzed in the face of egregious human-rights disasters, such as the one in Syria. But as much as many of those promoting the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, seemed to confuse a tweet with tangible action that might do something, the willingness of Americans both prominent and obscure to express their concern was appropriate. As we have since learned, it will take more than a hashtag and a selfie to rescue the girls that Boko Haram have boasted of selling into slavery. But the criticism of the naïveté of the tweeters revealed that social media has become one of the principal battlefronts in human-rights controversies.

That’s become apparent in the last week as both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings about the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were apparently kidnapped Friday by Hamas terrorists. These social media campaigns have now been taken up by the rest of the world and become fodder for media stories. But unlike the worldwide consensus that kidnapping Nigerian girls was a terrible thing, what we have discovered is that there is no such unanimity in the civilized world about the fate of Jewish boys. While Jews and friends of Israel have promoted the #bringbackourboys slogan on Twitter, Palestinians and their sympathizers have answered with #threeshalits, an expression that is not only a callous comment about their abduction but an explicit endorsement of kidnapping as a tactic to force Israel to release imprisoned terrorists.

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When the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped 300 Nigerian girls not long ago, the response from the mainstream media as well as liberal elites was not long in coming. The outrage and calls for action seemed strangely disconnected from the enthusiasm on the part of many of those speaking up about the kidnapped girls for President Obama’s weak “lead from behind” foreign policy that has left the U.S. paralyzed in the face of egregious human-rights disasters, such as the one in Syria. But as much as many of those promoting the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, seemed to confuse a tweet with tangible action that might do something, the willingness of Americans both prominent and obscure to express their concern was appropriate. As we have since learned, it will take more than a hashtag and a selfie to rescue the girls that Boko Haram have boasted of selling into slavery. But the criticism of the naïveté of the tweeters revealed that social media has become one of the principal battlefronts in human-rights controversies.

That’s become apparent in the last week as both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings about the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were apparently kidnapped Friday by Hamas terrorists. These social media campaigns have now been taken up by the rest of the world and become fodder for media stories. But unlike the worldwide consensus that kidnapping Nigerian girls was a terrible thing, what we have discovered is that there is no such unanimity in the civilized world about the fate of Jewish boys. While Jews and friends of Israel have promoted the #bringbackourboys slogan on Twitter, Palestinians and their sympathizers have answered with #threeshalits, an expression that is not only a callous comment about their abduction but an explicit endorsement of kidnapping as a tactic to force Israel to release imprisoned terrorists.

The competition between these two groups hasn’t engaged liberal elites the way the Boko Haram attack, did but the willingness of some liberal publications to engage in the worst sort of blame-the-victim memes with regard to the kidnapped boys illustrates that the pro-human rights mentality that made #bringbackourgirls such a huge success is based on sentiments that run about a millimeter deep in our culture. With supposedly cutting edge websites like Vox using the kidnapping as an excuse to engage in specious and largely false arguments about the evils of Israeli occupation of the West Bank to rationalize if not justify Palestinian terrorism, it’s little wonder that Mrs. Obama is not lending her immense prestige to the campaign to free the Israeli boys.

Why won’t Michelle Obama tweet her sympathy for the Israeli boys? The answer is obvious. To do so would be to make it clear that the White House believes that the human rights of Jews, even those living on what the administration thinks is the wrong side of the green line, are human beings with rights, rather than just flesh and blood targets.

While no individual or even any government can involve itself in every issue or incident on the planet, the choices we make are instructive as to whether our putative concern for human rights is a pose or a genuine commitment. In the case of Boko Haram’s victims, it was easy for liberal Americans to express anger for the terrorists and sympathy for the victims, since to do so involved no hard choices, other than the choice former secretary of state Hillary Clinton made in refusing to designate the kidnappers as a terror group during her time in office. Americans don’t really care who runs Northern Nigeria or the intricacies of that vast nation’s political and religious conflicts. But that didn’t stop them from rightly expressing their disgust with the notion that terrorists could simply snatch girls from school and force them to convert to Islam and/or to sell them into slavery.

But to use their hashtag power to speak up against Hamas and the widespread support for kidnapping among Palestinians, even though PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has belatedly condemned the crime, involves some real hard choices. It involves a realization that the Middle East conflict isn’t so much about borders or Israel’s policies as it is about the hate that drives Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state’s repeated offers of peace.

Boko Haram’s military was not matched by an ability to mobilize international opinion on behalf of their cause of preventing women from being educated. But Hamas is more fortunate. They can not only count on Palestinian social media users to glorify their crimes and to call for more such abductions but also rely on the willingness of many Western liberals to rationalize any violence against Israelis.

Up until now, the response of the U.S. to the kidnapping has been weak. While Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned it, he has not sought to draw conclusions from events about the wisdom of his decision to go on supplying the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government with American taxpayer dollars. Nor has the White House specifically called for the release of the boys and the surrender of the Hamas terrorists.

While we still know nothing about the fate of the boys, countering those who are supporting the kidnapping—a vicious campaign with overtones of traditional anti-Semitism—won’t be easy. But it would be helped if the first lady were willing to endorse freedom for the boys. A hashtag is no substitute for action or even a policy that sought to disassociate America from Palestinian terror. But it would be a start.

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Boko Haram and the Liberal Elites

Some on the right are mocking the Twitter offensive being conducted by the administration and the liberal and Hollywood elite against the Boko Haram terrorists who abducted 300 Nigerian girls from a school and then boasted this week that they would sell them into slavery. While everyone agrees that the mass kidnapping and the effort to stop girls from being educated is outrageous, some people think there’s something slightly absurd about the fact that it seems as if the principal response of the West to this latest instance of Islamist depredations is to tweet about it. They’re right about that.

Let’s specify that making fun of the first lady for joining in the chorus of #bringbackourgirls tweets is both mean-spirited and beside the point. It is to the credit of Mrs. Obama that she would attempt to use her enormous international prestige to help dramatize the plight of the girls and add further force to the anger about the crime. Neither she nor any of the Hollywood stars that are use their Twitter accounts to put themselves on the side of those seeking to undo this injustice have anything to apologize about. Considering that all too many of this same group often devote their public utterances to inconsequential affairs or, worse, peddling the conventional wisdom about issues in the form of liberal platitudes, none of them can do much about Boko Harm other than stating their opposition–and good for them for doing so.

But once we’ve defended the backlash of outrage on Twitter, it is time to admit that Rush Limbaugh may have had a point when he noted last week that some of those who have done their bit for the abducted girls on Twitter may be under the delusion that doing so actually constitutes something important or even a tangible response to the crime. Much like the isolationists who must now explain why they think it is appropriate for the U.S. to try to do something about the 300 girls but still advocate a retreat from engagement in the war against Islamist terror, liberals must examine the disconnect between their outrage and the weak foreign policy of the Obama administration that they have cheered.

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Some on the right are mocking the Twitter offensive being conducted by the administration and the liberal and Hollywood elite against the Boko Haram terrorists who abducted 300 Nigerian girls from a school and then boasted this week that they would sell them into slavery. While everyone agrees that the mass kidnapping and the effort to stop girls from being educated is outrageous, some people think there’s something slightly absurd about the fact that it seems as if the principal response of the West to this latest instance of Islamist depredations is to tweet about it. They’re right about that.

Let’s specify that making fun of the first lady for joining in the chorus of #bringbackourgirls tweets is both mean-spirited and beside the point. It is to the credit of Mrs. Obama that she would attempt to use her enormous international prestige to help dramatize the plight of the girls and add further force to the anger about the crime. Neither she nor any of the Hollywood stars that are use their Twitter accounts to put themselves on the side of those seeking to undo this injustice have anything to apologize about. Considering that all too many of this same group often devote their public utterances to inconsequential affairs or, worse, peddling the conventional wisdom about issues in the form of liberal platitudes, none of them can do much about Boko Harm other than stating their opposition–and good for them for doing so.

But once we’ve defended the backlash of outrage on Twitter, it is time to admit that Rush Limbaugh may have had a point when he noted last week that some of those who have done their bit for the abducted girls on Twitter may be under the delusion that doing so actually constitutes something important or even a tangible response to the crime. Much like the isolationists who must now explain why they think it is appropriate for the U.S. to try to do something about the 300 girls but still advocate a retreat from engagement in the war against Islamist terror, liberals must examine the disconnect between their outrage and the weak foreign policy of the Obama administration that they have cheered.

Is it too much to ask that anyone who is angry about Boko Haram needs to understand that getting the girls back or helping the millions of other men, women, and children threatened by Islamist terror requires more than a hashtag and a selfie? Though the left still mocks neoconservatives as “warmongers,” do those flocking to Twitter really think anything short of force will rescue the girls, if indeed that is still possible after both the Nigerian government and the rest of the world has dithered about their fate in recent weeks?

Social media is an effective marketing and informational tool but terrorists are defeated by force, not sternly worded tweets. We’d all like to believe, as the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof does, that education would defeat Boko Haram in the long run. But an administration that waited years before designated this al-Qaeda affiliate as a terrorist group, and whose “lead from behind” tactics created the power vacuum in Libya that led to it being armed, cannot evade some of the responsibility for the fact that it now operates with apparent impunity.

Like it or not, the West is locked in a long war with Islamist terror. Retreating from Iraq and Afghanistan won’t end it. Nor will détente with Iran or pressure on Israel. It will require patience that democracies often lack and a willingness to maintain both vigilance and an aggressive policy that keeps America engaged even when we’d rather stay at home and tend our own gardens. But most of all it will require Americans, both the ordinary person in the street as well as the Hollywood elite, to understand that incidents like the Boko Haram abduction can’t be isolated from a conflict they would rather forget or pretend was merely a function of Bush administration policy.

So tweet about the girls all you want, Hollywood. But while you’re tweeting about the girls in between attending fundraisers for the president who has weakened our ability to influence events abroad, just remember that if you really want to help the girls and the countless other potential victims of Islamist terror, you need to also support a strong America and the use of force to defend the values we all believe in.

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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.”

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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.

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West Wing Throws Holder Under the Bus

Liberals and Democrats have been doing their best to stonewall calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but apparently some of those serving in the office of his boss aren’t as much in love with him as some of his defenders elsewhere. That’s the only way to interpret the astonishing quotes from West Wing officials in yesterday’s front-page feature on Holder in the Sunday New York Times. Leaks from sources in the Obama White House to the Times are a staple of contemporary journalism, even though they are not likely to generate investigations even when highly classified information concerning security is involved. But what was so interesting about this latest story is the way some of the Times‘s usual sources dished on Holder yesterday:

While the White House publicly backed Mr. Holder as he tried to smooth over the latest uproar amid new speculation about his future, some in the West Wing privately tell associates they wish he would step down, viewing him as politically maladroit. But the latest attacks may stiffen the administration’s resistance in the near term to a change for fear of emboldening critics.

Democrats continue to regard Republican attacks on Holder as reason enough to support him, but the notion that everyone inside the administration is thrilled with his performance is obviously an exaggeration at best. Though liberals continue to deny that he committed perjury when he testified before the House of Representatives and denied knowing about potential prosecutions of journalists—a statement that failed to take into account his role in the investigation of Fox News’s James Rosen—the White House leaks show Holder is unlikely to survive in office for long.

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Liberals and Democrats have been doing their best to stonewall calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but apparently some of those serving in the office of his boss aren’t as much in love with him as some of his defenders elsewhere. That’s the only way to interpret the astonishing quotes from West Wing officials in yesterday’s front-page feature on Holder in the Sunday New York Times. Leaks from sources in the Obama White House to the Times are a staple of contemporary journalism, even though they are not likely to generate investigations even when highly classified information concerning security is involved. But what was so interesting about this latest story is the way some of the Times‘s usual sources dished on Holder yesterday:

While the White House publicly backed Mr. Holder as he tried to smooth over the latest uproar amid new speculation about his future, some in the West Wing privately tell associates they wish he would step down, viewing him as politically maladroit. But the latest attacks may stiffen the administration’s resistance in the near term to a change for fear of emboldening critics.

Democrats continue to regard Republican attacks on Holder as reason enough to support him, but the notion that everyone inside the administration is thrilled with his performance is obviously an exaggeration at best. Though liberals continue to deny that he committed perjury when he testified before the House of Representatives and denied knowing about potential prosecutions of journalists—a statement that failed to take into account his role in the investigation of Fox News’s James Rosen—the White House leaks show Holder is unlikely to survive in office for long.

As the Times story suggests, Holder’s long tenure despite a series of disasters that included the Fast and Furious scandal as well as the revelations about the Department of Justice’s snooping on the Associated Press and Fox News is purely a function of having friends in high places. In Holder’s case that means Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett and her good friend Michelle Obama, who also happens to be pals with Holder’s wife. The president also likes Holder and that, and only that, has kept him in place despite the public relations disaster that has unfolded in recent weeks.

Any other Cabinet official that lied to Congress and then spoke of “regrets” to the Daily Beast in the same week as he tried to get the press to make nice with him in off-the-record meetings would be widely thought of as having one foot on a banana peel and another out the door. But with three aces like that in his hand, Holder may be under no real pressure to resign. That’s why some deep thinkers in the West Wing have realized that despite the loyalty felt toward Holder by the boss and the most powerful women in the administration, he is a clear liability that is helping to mire the president’s second term in scandal.

The West Wing leakers are right about Holder’s problems.

“The White House is apoplectic about him, and has been for a long time,” said a Democratic former government official who did not want to be identified while talking about friends.

Some advisers to Mr. Obama believe that Mr. Holder does not manage or foresee problems, the former official said. “How hard would it be to anticipate that The A.P. would be unhappy?” the former official said. “And then they haven’t defended their position.”

But, of course, Holder’s problems go a lot deeper than a lack of PR expertise. Holder’s lies about the Rosen investigation help feed the public’s frustration with the administration’s incompetence that flows from the Benghazi and IRS scandals. But they are also a sign of a department of Justice that is out of control and a leader with a credibility problem.

Democrats may be confident that the last of month of scandals will eventually calm down and that most Americans won’t care that much about them in the long run. But so long as Eric Holder remains in office, it’s going to be difficult for the administration to turn the page. Holder serves at the pleasure of the president, and so long as Obama sticks with him he need not resign, even as he is raked over the coals for his mendacity before Congress. But the cracks in the heretofore solid wall of administration defense of Holder shows that even he knows it’s only a matter of time before he packs it in.

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Kerry’s “Courage” Award Debacle

Yesterday, Samuel Tadros reported in the Weekly Standard that John Kerry was handling his transition to running the State Department about as adroitly as one would imagine. He had an idea, and Foggy Bottom sent out a press release excitedly announcing that First Lady Michelle Obama was going to enthusiastically partake in this idea. The State Department would confer Women of Courage awards on several worthy recipients. Unfortunately, one of them happened to have a bad habit, apparently, of proclaiming viciously anti-Semitic hate speech on Twitter and was pretty happy, according to her timeline, about the September 11 terror attacks. Tadros wrote:

On July 18 of last year, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed a suicide bombing attack, Ibrahim jubilantly tweeted: “An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.”

Ibrahim frequently uses Twitter to air her anti-Semitic views. Last August 4, commenting on demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, she described the ruling Al Saud family as “dirtier than the Jews.” Seventeen days later she tweeted in reference to Adolf Hitler: “I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler.”

Ibrahim holds other repellent views as well. As a mob was attacking the United States embassy in Cairo on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, pulling down the American flag and raising the flag of Al Qaeda, Ibrahim wrote on twitter: “Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning.” Possibly fearing the consequences of her tweet, she deleted it a couple of hours later, but not before a screen shot was saved by an Egyptian activist.

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Yesterday, Samuel Tadros reported in the Weekly Standard that John Kerry was handling his transition to running the State Department about as adroitly as one would imagine. He had an idea, and Foggy Bottom sent out a press release excitedly announcing that First Lady Michelle Obama was going to enthusiastically partake in this idea. The State Department would confer Women of Courage awards on several worthy recipients. Unfortunately, one of them happened to have a bad habit, apparently, of proclaiming viciously anti-Semitic hate speech on Twitter and was pretty happy, according to her timeline, about the September 11 terror attacks. Tadros wrote:

On July 18 of last year, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed a suicide bombing attack, Ibrahim jubilantly tweeted: “An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.”

Ibrahim frequently uses Twitter to air her anti-Semitic views. Last August 4, commenting on demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, she described the ruling Al Saud family as “dirtier than the Jews.” Seventeen days later she tweeted in reference to Adolf Hitler: “I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler.”

Ibrahim holds other repellent views as well. As a mob was attacking the United States embassy in Cairo on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, pulling down the American flag and raising the flag of Al Qaeda, Ibrahim wrote on twitter: “Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning.” Possibly fearing the consequences of her tweet, she deleted it a couple of hours later, but not before a screen shot was saved by an Egyptian activist.

Tadros’s report stirred up appropriately negative reaction and Ibrahim tried to save her award by claiming her account was hacked. But the offending tweets were sent at very different times, left undeleted, never acknowledged before as fake, and didn’t appear terribly out of character for Ibrahim. The State Department announced it believed Ibrahim’s story about the tweets being fake. Since this was incredibly insulting to the intelligence of everyone the State Department thought would buy that excuse, people went about working to debunk that claim too.

At the Times of Israel, Arieh Kovler looked into the coding of the tweets and showed that the offending tweets were sent from the same platform as Ibrahim’s other tweets. Additionally, the tweets were sent from a phone application, and Kovler explained why it’s extremely unlikely a hacker would use a phone instead of a computer. It’s not definitive proof Ibrahim lied about being hacked, Kovler admitted. But the preponderance of evidence is difficult to ignore.

Tadros’s story now seems to have helped the State Department avoid a much more embarrassing spectacle were this all to come out after Ibrahim was scheduled to receive the award from the first lady and secretary of state tomorrow: McClatchy journalist Hannah Allam reported they will “defer” the award. Presumably the others will still receive their Women of Courage awards, but this incident will likely dim their excitement. After all, the fact that the State Department is conferring this honor on them doesn’t seem to mean the State Department actually knows anything about them.

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The Oscars, the Obamas and Camelot

No one who decided to go to bed or just switched the channel sometime before the end of a spectacularly boring Oscars show last night should be blamed. But if you did, you missed more than the identity of the winners of the major awards. In a night full of not particularly funny jokes or entertaining production numbers, and winners that most of the movie pundits predicted, the biggest surprise came when First Lady Michelle Obama appeared live from the White House to help Jack Nicholson present the Best Picture Award that capped the evening. Mrs. Obama is as graceful, attractive and well dressed as most of the film stars present at the ceremony. But the decision to include her at its conclusion illustrated a salient fact about the advantages her husband has been given and why the laws of political gravity do not seem to apply to him.

In the last year I have often written about how conservatives have underestimated President Obama’s political appeal as well as the kid glove treatment he gets from the media. The full explanation of his ability to escape the sort of critical scrutiny his recent predecessors have received is multifaceted, but I believe the most important aspect of this phenomenon is what I call the “Camelot” factor. The Obamas are the beneficiaries of a media whose liberal bias is beyond doubt. They also have a skillful staff that is ruthlessly manipulative and takes full advantage of social media and creative tactics. But mere bias and smart tactics don’t fully explain it. No president or presidential family has been treated by the mainstream media with the sort of deference if not reverential awe the Obamas get since John F. Kennedy and his beautiful wife were in the White House.

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No one who decided to go to bed or just switched the channel sometime before the end of a spectacularly boring Oscars show last night should be blamed. But if you did, you missed more than the identity of the winners of the major awards. In a night full of not particularly funny jokes or entertaining production numbers, and winners that most of the movie pundits predicted, the biggest surprise came when First Lady Michelle Obama appeared live from the White House to help Jack Nicholson present the Best Picture Award that capped the evening. Mrs. Obama is as graceful, attractive and well dressed as most of the film stars present at the ceremony. But the decision to include her at its conclusion illustrated a salient fact about the advantages her husband has been given and why the laws of political gravity do not seem to apply to him.

In the last year I have often written about how conservatives have underestimated President Obama’s political appeal as well as the kid glove treatment he gets from the media. The full explanation of his ability to escape the sort of critical scrutiny his recent predecessors have received is multifaceted, but I believe the most important aspect of this phenomenon is what I call the “Camelot” factor. The Obamas are the beneficiaries of a media whose liberal bias is beyond doubt. They also have a skillful staff that is ruthlessly manipulative and takes full advantage of social media and creative tactics. But mere bias and smart tactics don’t fully explain it. No president or presidential family has been treated by the mainstream media with the sort of deference if not reverential awe the Obamas get since John F. Kennedy and his beautiful wife were in the White House.

It almost goes without saying that it is impossible to imagine any other recent First Lady being invited to present the Best Picture Oscar. Mrs. Obama’s many fans will argue that she is the most stylish and perhaps attractive of recent presidential wives, and perhaps they have a case to make in that regard. But you don’t have to be a conservative or a Republican to realize that with the Obamas the already obvious political preferences of the arts world–and the film industry in particular–have crossed a new boundary.

While all presidents, including some of the most revered like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, have always been subjected to abuse in the political arena, popular culture had always tended to treat presidents with deference. But ever since Kennedy, that salute-the-flag way of looking at our political leaders has gone out the window. Since then all denizens of the White House have been subjected to the same cynical and sarcastic treatment accorded everybody else in contemporary American culture. Though liberals were certainly treated better than conservatives, they were not exempt. Not, that is, until Barack and Michelle Obama.

President Obama’s historic status as our first African-American president grants him the sort of edge that no other contemporary politician or any of his successors can ever hope to acquire. But the strength of his position is not just a function of a lapdog liberal media that is so easily led around by the nose by White House flacks. The Obamas are not just the leading figures in our politics; they are treated by popular culture as the uncrowned king and queen of America.

In parliamentary political systems the duties of head of state and head of government are separated. In the United States they are combined, but in the last half-century presidents have not been able to step out of their politician role in the way that their predecessors might once have done. Not so the Obamas, who are subjected to less mockery and more courtesy than even the queen of Great Britain is given in her own realm.

Part of this is seen in the way the first lady and the Obama children are held exempt from the sort of nasty criticism that has been the normal fare of every presidential family since Jacqueline Kennedy, Caroline and John-John were the darlings of the press. The children of even liberal presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were the butts of jokes–but not the Obama kids.

But the ability of the Obamas to preside over American culture like apolitical monarchs while simultaneously taking part in some of the most bitter, partisan and demagogic political warfare against their opponents gives the president an enormous advantage in everything he does, whether it is conducting a re-election campaign or bullying Congress to raise taxes.

Prior to the Oscars, it was understood that politics had torpedoed the chances of the superior “Zero Dark Thirty” from winning the top award. But Mrs. Obama’s presence in the ceremony told us more about the intersection of culture and politics than even that travesty.

Republicans have spent much of the last few months since their defeat at the hands of President Obama engaged in an orgy of introspection and recrimination. A good deal of that is justified. But as much as they need to rethink their approach to some issues, as well as their messaging, they would be foolish to think that their losses in 2008 and 2012 are unconnected to their bad fortune in being matched up against a Camelot presidency.

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Left Turns Voting Rights Into a Farce

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama sounded a battle cry at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner when she said protecting the right to vote is the nation’s most important civil rights issue. If that were true, that would mean there no credible civil rights concerns in the country. What Obama was talking about was the effort by Democrats to prevent the implementation of laws requiring voters to present a photo ID when casting their ballots. The common sense measure has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans. They understand that cheating is baked into the DNA of our political parties and see nothing unreasonable about requiring someone to do the same thing as when they wish to board a plane, a train, open a bank account or buy a beer or a cigarette: prove they are who they say there are. Mrs. Obama’s attempt to demagogue this issue is the backdrop for false liberal arguments that voter ID legislation is the modern version of the Jim Crow laws of the segregation era. Those claims are currently being adjudicated in Pennsylvania, where a judge has until Tuesday to decide whether the state’s voter ID law should be thrown out.

In August, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr. threw out the challenge when he said that while he was sympathetic to those who claimed they had difficulty acquiring a photo ID, there was no proof of disenfranchisement. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now kicked the case back to him and hearings were again held this week to determine whether the state is acting appropriately. Though the state has loosened the already lenient requirements to get a state card, the judge hinted that he might give in to pressure from liberal groups and grant an injunction to block its implementation. If so, it will undermine attempts to ensure voter integrity.

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Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama sounded a battle cry at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner when she said protecting the right to vote is the nation’s most important civil rights issue. If that were true, that would mean there no credible civil rights concerns in the country. What Obama was talking about was the effort by Democrats to prevent the implementation of laws requiring voters to present a photo ID when casting their ballots. The common sense measure has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans. They understand that cheating is baked into the DNA of our political parties and see nothing unreasonable about requiring someone to do the same thing as when they wish to board a plane, a train, open a bank account or buy a beer or a cigarette: prove they are who they say there are. Mrs. Obama’s attempt to demagogue this issue is the backdrop for false liberal arguments that voter ID legislation is the modern version of the Jim Crow laws of the segregation era. Those claims are currently being adjudicated in Pennsylvania, where a judge has until Tuesday to decide whether the state’s voter ID law should be thrown out.

In August, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr. threw out the challenge when he said that while he was sympathetic to those who claimed they had difficulty acquiring a photo ID, there was no proof of disenfranchisement. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now kicked the case back to him and hearings were again held this week to determine whether the state is acting appropriately. Though the state has loosened the already lenient requirements to get a state card, the judge hinted that he might give in to pressure from liberal groups and grant an injunction to block its implementation. If so, it will undermine attempts to ensure voter integrity.

Conspicuous by her absence from the second round in front of Judge Simpson was the lead plaintiff from the initial hearings back during the summer. At that time, opponents of voter ID heralded the participation in their suit of 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite, a woman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Ms. Applewhite didn’t have a birth certificate or a drivers license and might have been prevented from voting. But as I wrote last month, Ms. Applewhite subsequently undermined the voter ID challenge by strolling into a Department of Motor Vehicles office, explaining her problem and emerging a short while later proudly displaying her new state photo ID as a somewhat disappointed reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer looked on. The Inquirer had hoped to document the difficulties of getting an ID, but they had instead proved just how easy it was.

Ms. Applewhite incurred the wrath of her erstwhile leftist sympathizers for ditching them but she has been replaced with others with their own exceptional stories to engage the judge’s sympathy. No doubt, they have also been instructed to on no account use some common sense and do as Applewhite did and resolve their problem without the help of liberal lawyers with a political axe to grind.

At stake here is a the principle that voters ought to be able to verify they are who they say there as well as being residents of the district where they seek to cast their ballots, not to mention being citizens. As an elderly African-American like Ms. Applewhite proved, minorities and senior citizens are fully capable of dealing with this challenge and the state has shown it is ready to bend over backwards to help anyone who really wants to vote.

The vast majority of Americans, including most members of minority groups, have photo IDs. Those who don’t can get them free of charge from the state. Those without them can cast provisional ballots that will not be invalidated unless they cannot subsequently prove their identity. The idea that this uncomplicated law is a new version of “Jim Crow” drains that term of any meaning. Liberals have redefined “voting rights” to mean something different from what it did half a century ago. Then it meant depriving people of the right to vote on the basis of race. Now it means defending the right of any person who can’t prove their identities or citizenship to vote illegally. Mrs. Obama and the left have turned a sacred cause into a farce.

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Rise From Poverty, Don’t Glorify It

The motto of the Republican Convention in Tampa last week was “We Built It.” Speakers repeated the line (sometimes to excess), videos were played on the theme, signs and banners lined the convention center. By the end of the week, nobody present in Tampa could be unaware that during a speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that small business owners didn’t build their businesses alone.

The GOP highlighted several speakers during the week that had inspiring stories of building small businesses out of nothing, who risked what little they had to build companies that would become employers. One speaker, Sher Valenzuela, appeared in the early evening on Tuesday and set the tone for the rest of the convention. Valenzuela and her husband (a second-generation Mexican-American), devastated by their son’s autism diagnosis, started a business in order to pay for his care.

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The motto of the Republican Convention in Tampa last week was “We Built It.” Speakers repeated the line (sometimes to excess), videos were played on the theme, signs and banners lined the convention center. By the end of the week, nobody present in Tampa could be unaware that during a speech earlier this year, President Obama claimed that small business owners didn’t build their businesses alone.

The GOP highlighted several speakers during the week that had inspiring stories of building small businesses out of nothing, who risked what little they had to build companies that would become employers. One speaker, Sher Valenzuela, appeared in the early evening on Tuesday and set the tone for the rest of the convention. Valenzuela and her husband (a second-generation Mexican-American), devastated by their son’s autism diagnosis, started a business in order to pay for his care.

Her husband learned his craft from a mail-order course while in the army, and took what he learned about sewing from this course and turned it into an upholstery  business that, fifteen years later, would employ more than 70 people in a 70,000-square-foot factory in their home state of Delaware. Her speech was inspiring and uplifting, exactly what the convention was hoping to accomplish with this relatively unknown candidate for Lt. Governor of a state they in all likelihood will not be able to win.

The next night, Paul Ryan also discussed his family’s rise from poverty. After his father passed away when Ryan was sixteen, his mother started a small business. He told the audience,

My Mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.

Many of the GOP’s speakers from the three nights of the convention spoke about their family’s humble roots and their rise not only to positions of political power, but also to the role of small business owner and employer. The latter, being an employer, was valued more than that of being a politician, and those on stage made sure the audience was aware of that fact.

Contrast this with the speeches last night from the Democratic National Convention. Two speakers, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and First Lady Michelle Obama, also discussed the poverty of their upbringings. The difference between their speeches and that of Valenzuela and Ryan was that while the Republicans spent the evening discussing their rise from poverty, the Democrats dwelled on their former poverty. Castro and Michelle Obama could have spoken about their first jobs, their struggles (and triumphs), getting through college, the successes they’ve made of their lives, but they chose not to. While they both honored their parents’ sacrifices, which enabled them to have better lives, they did not discuss how they or their parents achieved personal success. Neither Castro nor Obama discussed any experiences in business, and Castro measured his success in terms of holding public office, but never explained how he came to occupy it.

The contrast between these four speeches is remarkable and they set the tone for both parties and their conventions. The Republicans went to extraordinary lengths to showcase their commitment to small business, personal responsibility and ingenuity. Democrats spent the evening making martyrs out of the poor without ever encouraging them to reach higher than their government-sponsored lots in life. Republicans showed themselves to be the party of making the poor rich, and Democrats are the party of the poor. Which will resonate more with lower-class voters?

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Can Dems Rekindle Obama Worship?

The Democrats’ biggest problem this year is the failed economy that Barack Obama gives himself an “incomplete” on after four years in power. Their only way to overcome this is to somehow recapture the “hope and change” messianism that catapulted Obama to the presidency. In 2008, Obama wasn’t merely the Democratic alternative to the Republicans. He was the embodiment of the nation’s hopes for itself. His election was an intrinsic achievement for every voter since it reversed a legacy of racism and conferred a certain honor on everyone who took part in his elevation. More than that, he was a put forward as a near godlike figure that was above partisan politics.

Inevitably, the reality of Barack Obama collided with the messianism. Four years later, there is a noticeable drop in enthusiasm among the young voters and others who created the Obama surge. How could it be otherwise when the president’s conduct in office has been anything but post-partisan? Four years of massive government spending, liberal patent nostrums and business as usual have made his feet of clay all too apparent.

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The Democrats’ biggest problem this year is the failed economy that Barack Obama gives himself an “incomplete” on after four years in power. Their only way to overcome this is to somehow recapture the “hope and change” messianism that catapulted Obama to the presidency. In 2008, Obama wasn’t merely the Democratic alternative to the Republicans. He was the embodiment of the nation’s hopes for itself. His election was an intrinsic achievement for every voter since it reversed a legacy of racism and conferred a certain honor on everyone who took part in his elevation. More than that, he was a put forward as a near godlike figure that was above partisan politics.

Inevitably, the reality of Barack Obama collided with the messianism. Four years later, there is a noticeable drop in enthusiasm among the young voters and others who created the Obama surge. How could it be otherwise when the president’s conduct in office has been anything but post-partisan? Four years of massive government spending, liberal patent nostrums and business as usual have made his feet of clay all too apparent.

The Democrats have sought to counter this harsh dose of reality by stoking the partisan juices of their base with a first night of their convention that ignored the political center and stuck to efforts to appeal to the left. That meant a mantra of support for ObamaCare, gay marriage and abortion even though these positions are not only extreme but of doubtful utility in winning swing states where independents are key. But most of all they seemed desperate to rekindle the Obama worship that allowed their candidate to stride out in front of his 2008 convention amid fake Greek columns and promise to turn back the oceans and not be laughed out of the stadium.

That meant not just a routine pledge of allegiance to the president’s re-election from each speaker but a willingness to treat Obama as a magical figure. When keynote speaker Julian Castro acknowledged the power of individualism that Republicans celebrated last week with their “We built it” slogan, he countered on saying that such success can only be multiplied through the intercession of the godlike president.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the best speech of the evening for the Democrats but her moving stories of the first family were not meant to humanize Barack Obama as Ann Romney’s did for her husband Mitt but to do the opposite. Michelle’s husband was portrayed as not so much an ordinary guy but as a superhuman creature that cares for all. She strained credulity by claiming he listens to all and cares nothing for partisan labels — an assertion that bore no resemblance to the arrogant man Congressional Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to deal with — but it was all part of an effort to go back to the stained glass image that was crafted for Barack Obama in 2008.

The incessant flow of Obama worship played well in a hall full of party zealots. The Democrats will also have the advantage of a liberal mainstream media that assisted in the creation of that false image four years ago and may be willing to go back into the tank for the Democrat. But getting the rest of the country to buy back into the baloney and to go back to swooning over the president is a more difficult task. The Democrats had a successful night in Charlotte but it will take more than a nightlong worship service to convince a majority of Americans that the “incomplete” president is still the god of hope and change they once adored.

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Personal Attacks and Political Wives

The heated debate about whether Ann Romney said “you people” during an interview yesterday (she didn’t) was an example of the sillier controversies that tend to engulf candidates’ wives. (For another example, see: Michelle Obama accused of spending $50,000 on lingerie).

But it’s strange how much partisan vitriol is actually channeled into these debates. Take Salon’s Joan Walsh’s enraged column on the Ann Romney “you people” remark that never actually happened:

Ann Romney is too well-bred to call African-Americans “you people” in public, of course, especially after what happened to Ross Perot. But she obviously has no problem referring to other folks she holds in contempt that way. Of course Romney has displayed contempt for certain African-Americans – like when she and her husband told the Obamas to “start packing,” because in Ann’s words, “It’s Mitt’s time. It’s our turn now,” to live in the White House. As if the Obamas were troublesome tenants who’d overstayed their welcome in the home that rightly belongs to the Romneys.

She displayed her plutocratic sense of entitlement when she proclaimed Hilary Rosen’s remarks about her stay-at-home-mom status “a birthday present.” Romney’s sincere reaction wasn’t outrage but opportunism; she enjoyed the sight of Rosen being grilled on a spit over a bipartisan open flame. Good to know it’s all about you, Ann.

So Walsh mishears one mundane line from Ann Romney, and takes it as evidence that she’s an elitist, plutocratic, entitled, narcissistic, opportunist? I wonder if Walsh’s criticism would have been so personal if Tim Pawlenty, Marco Rubio, or any of Romney’s other campaign surrogates had actually used the phrase “you people.”

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The heated debate about whether Ann Romney said “you people” during an interview yesterday (she didn’t) was an example of the sillier controversies that tend to engulf candidates’ wives. (For another example, see: Michelle Obama accused of spending $50,000 on lingerie).

But it’s strange how much partisan vitriol is actually channeled into these debates. Take Salon’s Joan Walsh’s enraged column on the Ann Romney “you people” remark that never actually happened:

Ann Romney is too well-bred to call African-Americans “you people” in public, of course, especially after what happened to Ross Perot. But she obviously has no problem referring to other folks she holds in contempt that way. Of course Romney has displayed contempt for certain African-Americans – like when she and her husband told the Obamas to “start packing,” because in Ann’s words, “It’s Mitt’s time. It’s our turn now,” to live in the White House. As if the Obamas were troublesome tenants who’d overstayed their welcome in the home that rightly belongs to the Romneys.

She displayed her plutocratic sense of entitlement when she proclaimed Hilary Rosen’s remarks about her stay-at-home-mom status “a birthday present.” Romney’s sincere reaction wasn’t outrage but opportunism; she enjoyed the sight of Rosen being grilled on a spit over a bipartisan open flame. Good to know it’s all about you, Ann.

So Walsh mishears one mundane line from Ann Romney, and takes it as evidence that she’s an elitist, plutocratic, entitled, narcissistic, opportunist? I wonder if Walsh’s criticism would have been so personal if Tim Pawlenty, Marco Rubio, or any of Romney’s other campaign surrogates had actually used the phrase “you people.”

This is the strange contradiction about candidates’ wives. Should they be viewed as members of the campaign, fair game for the same criticism and political attacks as any other staff? Or should they be viewed as extensions of the candidates’ personal lives, to be treated with respect and restraint? Melinda Henneberger touches on this in the Washington Post this morning:

I’ve routinely defended women in politics, spouses included, of course, from unfair attacks — from racist “jokes” involving Michelle Obama to trivial slams on Ann Romney’s designer T-shirt. But spouses are full partners in the current campaigns, strategically and every other way, just as they ought to be.

And at some point – right now would be my preference – we’ve got to stop pretending that they are by definition off-limits, or ought to be.

After all, Michelle Obama is heading up a new get-out-the-vote initiative — the “It Takes One” program to encourage grass-roots turnout efforts. She’s cutting ads, and as the Post’s Krissah Thompson wrote, taking on an “overtly political role that is rare for a first lady.”

Ann Romney, meanwhile, is raising money and giving a series of high-profile interviews — answering questions about possible veep choices by saying “we” haven’t made any decision yet.”

These women are leading the charge, not sitting home asking how it went, and as they stand on stage, microphones in hand, it’s absurd and even infantilizing to claim that they should be left alone.

Henneberger makes a good point. Candidates’ wives are often deemed “off-limits” for typical political attacks. And when they are criticized, it tends to be for petty issues and infused with a disproportionate amount of animosity. But these women are active on the campaigns, and it makes sense that they should be fair game. Of course, that would also mean toning down the personal attacks and viewing these women as political figures rather than extensions of the candidates.

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Studies Find No Evidence of “Food Deserts”

“Food deserts” is a term that’s become associated with Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, and the theory holds that children in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to be overweight because their parents don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s led to initiatives like Walmart’s plan to open 300 grocery stores in low-income, urban areas.

But as the New York Times reports today, two new independent studies found no correlation between poor urban neighborhoods with high obesity rates and a lack of access to fresh produce:

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“Food deserts” is a term that’s become associated with Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, and the theory holds that children in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to be overweight because their parents don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s led to initiatives like Walmart’s plan to open 300 grocery stores in low-income, urban areas.

But as the New York Times reports today, two new independent studies found no correlation between poor urban neighborhoods with high obesity rates and a lack of access to fresh produce:

It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama, that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.

But two new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.

Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,” he said.

The research found no correlation between obesity and lack of healthy food access for a blindingly obvious reason: just because healthy food is available, it doesn’t mean people will eat it (as anyone who evaded Brussels sprouts as a child knows).

As the Times acknowledges, these are really the first two meaningful studies done on the issue. Unlike prior research supporting the “food desert thesis,” the new ones weren’t limited by methodological gaps (i.e., one older study didn’t include data on the local obesity rates). Anti-food-desert activists quoted in the article appear to be caught flat-footed by the new data, basically just grumbling that more research has to be done.

But the most priceless part of the article is when the Times wonders how the “food desert” theory became widely accepted in first place, particularly when the research on it was so flimsy:

It is unclear how the idea took hold that poor urban neighborhoods were food deserts but it had immediate appeal. There is even an Agriculture Department “food desert locator” and a “National Food Desert Awareness Month” supported by the National Center for Public Research, a charitable foundation.

For a refresher, here’s a passionate 2009 New York Times editorial petitioning Michelle Obama to take up arms against the food desert epidemic:

Michelle Obama’s recent pitch for fresh vegetables and her avowed interest in community gardens have given new life to those who are trying to replace cheap, fast foods with healthier fare. She could go one step further and greatly improve the health of the urban poor by adding her powerful voice to local efforts aimed at bringing fresh groceries into poorer neighborhoods.

There are communities across America where it’s almost impossible to find a fresh apple or an unfried potato. These neighborhoods are known as ”food deserts.” Full-service grocery stores are often many blocks away and hard to reach, and what’s left are mostly fast-food outlets or chain drug stores selling products that, while cheap today, can extract huge health costs in obesity and diabetes later on.

That must have been a pretty persuasive editorial, because the First Lady added the issue to her anti-obesity campaign shortly afterward.

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“iCarly” and the Obamas’ Camelot Treatment

If you don’t have a pre-teen female in your household, the significance of Michelle Obama’s recent appearance on “iCarly” may have been lost on you. The show, a situation comedy that depicts the antics of some wholesome and terrible likeable teenagers who have their own Internet web show, appears on the Nickelodeon cable channel. It’s a huge hit, especially with young girls. But while there was nothing particularly partisan or sinister about the episode in which Mrs. Obama guest-starred, it’s noteworthy because it shows not only the effective way the White House has managed to insinuate the first lady into children’s programming but also how differently Obama’s family is treated by the press and popular culture when compared to his recent predecessors.

The point is not just that it is almost impossible to imagine Laura Bush being treated so royally by a popular television show though that is certainly the case. Rather, it is that the Obamas and their children are given the sort of kid-glove treatment by pop culture and the media that has not been seen in this country since the days of John F. Kennedy and Camelot.

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If you don’t have a pre-teen female in your household, the significance of Michelle Obama’s recent appearance on “iCarly” may have been lost on you. The show, a situation comedy that depicts the antics of some wholesome and terrible likeable teenagers who have their own Internet web show, appears on the Nickelodeon cable channel. It’s a huge hit, especially with young girls. But while there was nothing particularly partisan or sinister about the episode in which Mrs. Obama guest-starred, it’s noteworthy because it shows not only the effective way the White House has managed to insinuate the first lady into children’s programming but also how differently Obama’s family is treated by the press and popular culture when compared to his recent predecessors.

The point is not just that it is almost impossible to imagine Laura Bush being treated so royally by a popular television show though that is certainly the case. Rather, it is that the Obamas and their children are given the sort of kid-glove treatment by pop culture and the media that has not been seen in this country since the days of John F. Kennedy and Camelot.

The Bush family as well as that of Vice President Cheney were the subject of vulgar and pointedly partisan comments that repeatedly found their way into television scripts. But even recent Democratic presidents were not treated as kindly as the Obamas. Given the abuse that was dished out to Chelsea Clinton and Amy Carter (the last two small children of presidents to live in the White House) the respectful manner with which the mainstream media has regarded the Obama children stands out.

That is not to argue the press should be abusive to the Obamas. Any president’s family ought to be off-limits for the abuse that was dealt to the Bushes or even the Clintons for that matter. But the cynicism with which politicians are normally portrayed on television is strictly on hold when the Obamas are mentioned.

Michelle Obama has taken advantage of a welcome mat that was never rolled out for her predecessor. She has become a familiar face to kids via public service announcements on the Disney Channel about healthy food and exercise and has now capped that with her guest role on “iCarly.” There will be those who grouse that her ability to pop up in these settings is an attempt to send a not-so-subtle subliminal message to parents to vote for her husband. They’re not entirely wrong, and one might think producers would regard it as prudent to stay away from the White House during an election year. But even if you believe there’s something not kosher about this, it’s doubtful the 2012 election will be heavily influenced by “iCarly’s” fan base.

Nevertheless, this stunt is one more reminder to Republicans that their task this year is not as easy as some of them might think. President Obama not only has all the natural advantages that accrue to any incumbent, he can also count on a largely sympathetic mainstream media and the adoration of the arbiters of most of our popular culture. The Camelot treatment by these powerful influences on society gives Obama a leg up on the GOP. This stacked deck is one more obstacle that Republicans will have to overcome if they hope to defeat Obama in November.

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Bush and Palin In Strong Year-End Showing

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.

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RE: RE: Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Wehner’s point from last week about the need to make the moral case for conservative economics. The case is strong, and it has not been made well or often in general public debate in the last 20 years. The knowledge that there is such a case seems at times like the relic of an earlier era: it harks back to the argument made from the 1940s to the 1970s by a self-designated American rearguard against communism and “creeping socialism.” There was an aspect of national-security immediacy to the question then. In the wake of the Reagan years, however, when a consensus on conservative economics appeared to be in the ascendant and the Soviet Union had been put on an unsustainable defensive, the focus of debate shifted to deviations from conservative economics – and its importance to addressing crises and social problems. The basic outlines of the timeless moral case for conservative economics have largely disappeared from our set of popular understandings.

But this case cannot stand alone. Economic conservatism is intrinsically linked to political liberty, a liberty meaning not just the right to speak freely on political matters and to vote, but the right to set limits on the central government’s power and regulatory reach. This debate we have had, if possible, even less over the past two decades than the debate on the moral foundations of conservative economics. This very question is what motivated the American colonists to declare independence from the British king, but our public discourse today has fallen into a set of unexamined bromides on topics like the meaning of political liberty and the proper relation of man and the state. Read More

I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Wehner’s point from last week about the need to make the moral case for conservative economics. The case is strong, and it has not been made well or often in general public debate in the last 20 years. The knowledge that there is such a case seems at times like the relic of an earlier era: it harks back to the argument made from the 1940s to the 1970s by a self-designated American rearguard against communism and “creeping socialism.” There was an aspect of national-security immediacy to the question then. In the wake of the Reagan years, however, when a consensus on conservative economics appeared to be in the ascendant and the Soviet Union had been put on an unsustainable defensive, the focus of debate shifted to deviations from conservative economics – and its importance to addressing crises and social problems. The basic outlines of the timeless moral case for conservative economics have largely disappeared from our set of popular understandings.

But this case cannot stand alone. Economic conservatism is intrinsically linked to political liberty, a liberty meaning not just the right to speak freely on political matters and to vote, but the right to set limits on the central government’s power and regulatory reach. This debate we have had, if possible, even less over the past two decades than the debate on the moral foundations of conservative economics. This very question is what motivated the American colonists to declare independence from the British king, but our public discourse today has fallen into a set of unexamined bromides on topics like the meaning of political liberty and the proper relation of man and the state.

In this vein, I took particular notice of the following passage from Peter Wehner’s post today on Sarah Palin mocking the First Lady’s anti-obesity campaign.

… the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the “nanny state run amok”?

I understand the question is meant to be rhetorical. But there is actually a very large segment of the American population that would answer, “Of course.” The central government’s interesting itself in our obesity because that government has made the cost of our health care “its” problem – and proposing therefore to ban vending machines from schools putatively governed by local school boards and the states – can legitimately be considered at odds with the American idea of government as limited, constitutional, and federal. This arguably puts the proposition at odds, by extension, with the American idea of the citizen, the state, and natural rights.

One key reason for the Tea Party movement is that there has been no real public debate on this most fundamental of topics for at least 30 years. I believe we do not have a common understanding today of where federal intervention in school vending machines stands in relation to political liberty. It’s true Sarah Palin often expresses the more libertarian side of this question with a populist inelegance that may be unhelpful, but that doesn’t mean that the debate is over regarding how much we should let government manage our life choices. That debate must form part of the discussion on conservative economics and morality as we advance toward 2012.

All that said, I concur with Peter’s gentle and well-considered point on mocking Michelle Obama. That’s not the way to introduce this topic. Contrarianism only goes so far: it is generosity of spirit, good humor, and courtesy that will win the day for the aspiring political leader who reclaims these fundamental issues for conservatives.

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RE: Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

I agree with Pete that Sarah Palin is dead wrong on this one. Encouraging parents to monitor their children’s weight and to give them a healthy diet is one thing, mandating it is quite another.

That’s the difference between Michelle Obama and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would like nothing better than to require that parents provide a prescribed diet, devoid of anything that tastes good. This group, which could with more accuracy be called the Center for the Suppression of All Pleasure in Life, is currently suing McDonald’s in California over the toys it puts in children’s “happy meals.” As detailed by my friend Walter Olson, their argument is that the toys make the meals too appealing to kids, who then bully their parents into buying the fattening meals, the parents giving in rather than face life with pouting children. They are seeking class-action status so that other parents, helpless before their children’s demands, can join in. San Francisco and Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) have already outlawed happy meals. They certainly have a low opinion of their citizens’ parenting skills. (Personally, I can remember all too well how my mother could bring my brother and me to heel with a single glance.)

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and such organizations, it seems to me, are staffed and supported by the philosophical descendants of New England Puritans. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill and, to do so, were only too happy to run everyone’s life for them.

I agree with Pete that Sarah Palin is dead wrong on this one. Encouraging parents to monitor their children’s weight and to give them a healthy diet is one thing, mandating it is quite another.

That’s the difference between Michelle Obama and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would like nothing better than to require that parents provide a prescribed diet, devoid of anything that tastes good. This group, which could with more accuracy be called the Center for the Suppression of All Pleasure in Life, is currently suing McDonald’s in California over the toys it puts in children’s “happy meals.” As detailed by my friend Walter Olson, their argument is that the toys make the meals too appealing to kids, who then bully their parents into buying the fattening meals, the parents giving in rather than face life with pouting children. They are seeking class-action status so that other parents, helpless before their children’s demands, can join in. San Francisco and Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) have already outlawed happy meals. They certainly have a low opinion of their citizens’ parenting skills. (Personally, I can remember all too well how my mother could bring my brother and me to heel with a single glance.)

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and such organizations, it seems to me, are staffed and supported by the philosophical descendants of New England Puritans. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill and, to do so, were only too happy to run everyone’s life for them.

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Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

The Wall Street Journal has an intelligent editorial, “Palin’s Food Fight,” which begins this way:

President Obama’s indiscriminate expansion of federal power has inspired a healthy populist rebellion, but his opponents sometimes seem to lose their sense of proportion. Take Sarah Palin’s mockery of Michelle Obama’s childhood anti-obesity campaign.

Michelle Obama has encouraged parents to make sure their children exercise and eat healthy and has emphasized more nutritious school lunches. Ms. Palin seems to view this as an attack by Leviathan against individual liberty and parental authority. “What [Mrs. Obama] is  telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat,” according to Palin. “Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.” And at a visit to a Pennsylvania high school, she handed out cookies to students. The reason, she wrote on Twitter, was to “intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire” amid a “Nanny state run amok.”

This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive.

For one thing, nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. The annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic issues constitutes fully 16.5 percent of all U.S. spending on medical care ($168 billion). And if a child is overweight between ages 10 and 15, he or she has a 70 percent chance of still being overweight/obese at 25. Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in America, second only to smoking. So the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the “nanny state run amok”?

The Journal rightly compares Mrs. Obama’s effort to President Kennedy’s Presidential Fitness Award and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign on drugs, both of which were successes. So was Laura Bush championing of reading. Having people in positions of leadership use their authority to draw attention to national problems and positive solutions is a laudatory thing. In this instance, Mrs. Obama’s effort is providing parents with an ally instead of an adversary.

Mocking the First Lady and portraying her anti-obesity campaign as several steps on the Road to Serfdom is exactly the type of thing that will turn the public against the legitimate efforts by conservatives to rein in the reach and scope of government. Ms. Palin might consider this before she takes yet another unfair shot at Mrs. Obama.

The Wall Street Journal has an intelligent editorial, “Palin’s Food Fight,” which begins this way:

President Obama’s indiscriminate expansion of federal power has inspired a healthy populist rebellion, but his opponents sometimes seem to lose their sense of proportion. Take Sarah Palin’s mockery of Michelle Obama’s childhood anti-obesity campaign.

Michelle Obama has encouraged parents to make sure their children exercise and eat healthy and has emphasized more nutritious school lunches. Ms. Palin seems to view this as an attack by Leviathan against individual liberty and parental authority. “What [Mrs. Obama] is  telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat,” according to Palin. “Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.” And at a visit to a Pennsylvania high school, she handed out cookies to students. The reason, she wrote on Twitter, was to “intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire” amid a “Nanny state run amok.”

This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive.

For one thing, nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. The annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic issues constitutes fully 16.5 percent of all U.S. spending on medical care ($168 billion). And if a child is overweight between ages 10 and 15, he or she has a 70 percent chance of still being overweight/obese at 25. Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in America, second only to smoking. So the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the “nanny state run amok”?

The Journal rightly compares Mrs. Obama’s effort to President Kennedy’s Presidential Fitness Award and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign on drugs, both of which were successes. So was Laura Bush championing of reading. Having people in positions of leadership use their authority to draw attention to national problems and positive solutions is a laudatory thing. In this instance, Mrs. Obama’s effort is providing parents with an ally instead of an adversary.

Mocking the First Lady and portraying her anti-obesity campaign as several steps on the Road to Serfdom is exactly the type of thing that will turn the public against the legitimate efforts by conservatives to rein in the reach and scope of government. Ms. Palin might consider this before she takes yet another unfair shot at Mrs. Obama.

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Man of the Left vs. America

Shelby Steele’s must-read column in the Wall Street Journal correctly notes that there is more going on in the country than a rejection of Obama’s “grandiose, thoughtless, and bullying” policymaking. It is a reaction to Obama’s pose as distinct from, and often in opposition to, fellow citizens and American values. At home, he treats fellow citizens as sociological case studies. On the international stage, he views his job as rising above provincial interests (i.e., ours and those of our closet allies). Steele explains that while there is an “otherness” about Obama, it has nothing to do with his birthplace or religion:

Barack Obama is not an “other” so much as he is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new “counterculture” American identity. And this new American identity — and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned — is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America. So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he is not displaying “otherness” but the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement.

Obama is, as many of us on the right have argued, a cookie-cutter leftist, enamored of the mindset cultivated in universities and among liberal intelligentsia, among whom he repeatedly chose to work and live. The telltale signs are all there — an aversion to projection of American power, a hyper-critical stance toward America’s record on civil rights, a disdain for Wall Street, and, most of all, a fair amount of contempt for average Americans. Or, as Steele puts it:

Among today’s liberal elite, bad faith in America is a sophistication, a kind of hipness. More importantly, it is the perfect formula for political and governmental power. It rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil — I will use the government to intervene against the evil tendencies of American life (economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment and so on), so I need your vote.

And Obama, the liberal intelligentsia never tires of telling us, is as sophisticated and as hip as they come. The results of all this are inevitable:

The great weakness of bad faith is that it disallows American exceptionalism as a rationale for power. It puts Mr. Obama and the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation, rather than leading a great nation. They bet on America’s characterological evil and not on her sense of fairness, generosity, or ingenuity.

When bad faith is your framework (Michelle Obama never being proud of her country until it supported her husband), then you become more a national scold than a real leader.

And what is more, it puts the president in the position of assuming that opposition stems from ill motives, nefarious funding sources, racism, Islamaphobia, and ignorance. We don’t appreciate him because we are confused and scared. We are, in this view, recalcitrant children at best and an unhinged mob at worst.

No wonder he didn’t care what we thought about ObamaCare. What do we know? There’s just one hitch in his approach: Americans get to vote.

Shelby Steele’s must-read column in the Wall Street Journal correctly notes that there is more going on in the country than a rejection of Obama’s “grandiose, thoughtless, and bullying” policymaking. It is a reaction to Obama’s pose as distinct from, and often in opposition to, fellow citizens and American values. At home, he treats fellow citizens as sociological case studies. On the international stage, he views his job as rising above provincial interests (i.e., ours and those of our closet allies). Steele explains that while there is an “otherness” about Obama, it has nothing to do with his birthplace or religion:

Barack Obama is not an “other” so much as he is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new “counterculture” American identity. And this new American identity — and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned — is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America. So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he is not displaying “otherness” but the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement.

Obama is, as many of us on the right have argued, a cookie-cutter leftist, enamored of the mindset cultivated in universities and among liberal intelligentsia, among whom he repeatedly chose to work and live. The telltale signs are all there — an aversion to projection of American power, a hyper-critical stance toward America’s record on civil rights, a disdain for Wall Street, and, most of all, a fair amount of contempt for average Americans. Or, as Steele puts it:

Among today’s liberal elite, bad faith in America is a sophistication, a kind of hipness. More importantly, it is the perfect formula for political and governmental power. It rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil — I will use the government to intervene against the evil tendencies of American life (economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment and so on), so I need your vote.

And Obama, the liberal intelligentsia never tires of telling us, is as sophisticated and as hip as they come. The results of all this are inevitable:

The great weakness of bad faith is that it disallows American exceptionalism as a rationale for power. It puts Mr. Obama and the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation, rather than leading a great nation. They bet on America’s characterological evil and not on her sense of fairness, generosity, or ingenuity.

When bad faith is your framework (Michelle Obama never being proud of her country until it supported her husband), then you become more a national scold than a real leader.

And what is more, it puts the president in the position of assuming that opposition stems from ill motives, nefarious funding sources, racism, Islamaphobia, and ignorance. We don’t appreciate him because we are confused and scared. We are, in this view, recalcitrant children at best and an unhinged mob at worst.

No wonder he didn’t care what we thought about ObamaCare. What do we know? There’s just one hitch in his approach: Americans get to vote.

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Leave Us Alone

Andrew Malcolm, one of the few reasons to read the Los Angeles Times, has an amusing photo display of Obama’s decidedly un-Michelle eating habits. Malcolm writes:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.

Obama, who has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity her favored causes, addressed the National Restaurant Assn. … She, of course, has her own personal chef brought in from Chicago and took full parental responsibility for guiding her daughters’ diets because parents are crucial habit-formers and role models, even in food choices.

I don’t much care if the president smokes or pigs out on fast food. In fact, I think it’s a poor idea to take away emotionally comforting habits from the man with his finger on the button. I don’t care, because these are personal choices, and he is an adult, a well-educated one with superb medical advice. What does grate on the nerves is the incessant nagging — don’t eat those fries, inflate your tires – that suggests that Americans are too dim to figure these things out for themselves. Moreover, it assumes it is the government’s job to screech at us.

And yes, it is a matter of perspective. Laura Bush was concerned with the women of Burma who are raped and murdered by a fascistic state. Michelle is growing — actually having the hired help grow — an organic garden. It’s the sort of thing that bored housewives from the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills would obsess about. It lack gravitas and perspective. But then that’s pretty much what the Obamas are all about.

Andrew Malcolm, one of the few reasons to read the Los Angeles Times, has an amusing photo display of Obama’s decidedly un-Michelle eating habits. Malcolm writes:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.

Obama, who has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity her favored causes, addressed the National Restaurant Assn. … She, of course, has her own personal chef brought in from Chicago and took full parental responsibility for guiding her daughters’ diets because parents are crucial habit-formers and role models, even in food choices.

I don’t much care if the president smokes or pigs out on fast food. In fact, I think it’s a poor idea to take away emotionally comforting habits from the man with his finger on the button. I don’t care, because these are personal choices, and he is an adult, a well-educated one with superb medical advice. What does grate on the nerves is the incessant nagging — don’t eat those fries, inflate your tires – that suggests that Americans are too dim to figure these things out for themselves. Moreover, it assumes it is the government’s job to screech at us.

And yes, it is a matter of perspective. Laura Bush was concerned with the women of Burma who are raped and murdered by a fascistic state. Michelle is growing — actually having the hired help grow — an organic garden. It’s the sort of thing that bored housewives from the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills would obsess about. It lack gravitas and perspective. But then that’s pretty much what the Obamas are all about.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Immoderate. Imam Abdul Rauf’s partner is a 9/11 “truther.”

Unhinged. The left is convinced that the entire country is nuts. (Coming from the blogger who spent countless hours researching Sarah Palin’s pregnancy, this is rich.)

Envious? Martin Frost on Newt Gingrich’s latest: “I agree with those who say that Newt is suffering from a serious case of Palin envy. He is likely to say anything to get attention, no matter how crazy.” It’s as good a theory as any. But Newt sure does make Palin seem disciplined.

Busybody. Really, is there nothing more important she could be doing? “First lady Michelle Obama is challenging the nation’s restaurants to add more healthy options to menus, label those items more prominently and market nutritious foods to kids.”

Predictable. The Hill reports: “Watchdog groups expect the upcoming ethics trials for Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to take place after the November election to avoid political fallout.”

Sleeze. A state GOP audit has turned up evidence that Charlie Crist “inappropriately spent money on travel, consultants, meetings and other items not related to party business.” The total may be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Runaway. “Republican Bill Brady earns his highest level of support yet against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial contest, moving this race from a Toss-Up to Solid GOP in the Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state, with leaners included, finds Brady picking up 50% of the vote, while Quinn earns 37% support.”

Unfair. “New Campaign Ad Depicts Nancy Pelosi as The Wicked Witch of the West.” C’mon guys — she flies only the finest military aircraft.

Immoderate. Imam Abdul Rauf’s partner is a 9/11 “truther.”

Unhinged. The left is convinced that the entire country is nuts. (Coming from the blogger who spent countless hours researching Sarah Palin’s pregnancy, this is rich.)

Envious? Martin Frost on Newt Gingrich’s latest: “I agree with those who say that Newt is suffering from a serious case of Palin envy. He is likely to say anything to get attention, no matter how crazy.” It’s as good a theory as any. But Newt sure does make Palin seem disciplined.

Busybody. Really, is there nothing more important she could be doing? “First lady Michelle Obama is challenging the nation’s restaurants to add more healthy options to menus, label those items more prominently and market nutritious foods to kids.”

Predictable. The Hill reports: “Watchdog groups expect the upcoming ethics trials for Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to take place after the November election to avoid political fallout.”

Sleeze. A state GOP audit has turned up evidence that Charlie Crist “inappropriately spent money on travel, consultants, meetings and other items not related to party business.” The total may be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Runaway. “Republican Bill Brady earns his highest level of support yet against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial contest, moving this race from a Toss-Up to Solid GOP in the Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state, with leaners included, finds Brady picking up 50% of the vote, while Quinn earns 37% support.”

Unfair. “New Campaign Ad Depicts Nancy Pelosi as The Wicked Witch of the West.” C’mon guys — she flies only the finest military aircraft.

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Liberals Surprised Again

Liberals continually expect that conservatives will match the cartoonish image that the left has concocted. They were shocked that Christian conservatives didn’t run Sarah Palin out of town on a rail because of her pregnant unwed daughter. Aren’t conservatives prudes and intolerant misogynists? Umm, no. Now, they can’t believe conservatives are so accepting of  Ken Mehlman, who publicly announced he is gay. You can sense the disappointment and surprise on the left — aren’t conservative going to repudiate him? No, nor do most of them even care.

I think the problem is this: liberals have more friends who are gay than friends who are conservative…  or evangelical… or gun owners. They often accuse conservatives of living cloistered lives, but it is urban liberals who congregate in homogeneous communities ( e.g., San Francisco, West L.A.) and may live their entire lives without forming a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their laundry list of inviolate truths (e.g., global warming is real, abortion-on-demand is sacred, government creates jobs). They don’t much bother to understand conservatives’ rationales for their positions — so much easier to assume they are rooted in ignorance or bigotry. Or as Michelle Obama put it, “meanness.”

This is why liberal media outlets try to hire reporters to cover the “conservative” beat. Like Margaret Mead, they are supposed to go trampling in far-off lands and report back on the natives’ habits and customs. If they really understood and knew conservatives, they would have no need for a special-assignment reporter.

It has been and remains a great advantage for conservatives — they understand their ideological opponents far better than their opponents understand them. That is why Harry Reid is amazed Hispanics can be Republicans, the left can’t imagine there is an explanation for Ground Zero mosque opposition other than Islamaphobia, and Obama treats his gun- and Bible-clinging countrymen as if they were aliens. Actually, to him and many of his ilk, they are.

Liberals continually expect that conservatives will match the cartoonish image that the left has concocted. They were shocked that Christian conservatives didn’t run Sarah Palin out of town on a rail because of her pregnant unwed daughter. Aren’t conservatives prudes and intolerant misogynists? Umm, no. Now, they can’t believe conservatives are so accepting of  Ken Mehlman, who publicly announced he is gay. You can sense the disappointment and surprise on the left — aren’t conservative going to repudiate him? No, nor do most of them even care.

I think the problem is this: liberals have more friends who are gay than friends who are conservative…  or evangelical… or gun owners. They often accuse conservatives of living cloistered lives, but it is urban liberals who congregate in homogeneous communities ( e.g., San Francisco, West L.A.) and may live their entire lives without forming a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their laundry list of inviolate truths (e.g., global warming is real, abortion-on-demand is sacred, government creates jobs). They don’t much bother to understand conservatives’ rationales for their positions — so much easier to assume they are rooted in ignorance or bigotry. Or as Michelle Obama put it, “meanness.”

This is why liberal media outlets try to hire reporters to cover the “conservative” beat. Like Margaret Mead, they are supposed to go trampling in far-off lands and report back on the natives’ habits and customs. If they really understood and knew conservatives, they would have no need for a special-assignment reporter.

It has been and remains a great advantage for conservatives — they understand their ideological opponents far better than their opponents understand them. That is why Harry Reid is amazed Hispanics can be Republicans, the left can’t imagine there is an explanation for Ground Zero mosque opposition other than Islamaphobia, and Obama treats his gun- and Bible-clinging countrymen as if they were aliens. Actually, to him and many of his ilk, they are.

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