On this page, Kathleen Parker comes to the defense of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been criticized for a number of things — from her dress on occasions, her large staff and most recently her “spring break” trip to China.
It is not unusual for a first lady to be criticized.
Yes, the media always is looking for a story about anybody in the public eye. That’s why the public figures have to be careful in all of their activities and in what they say.
Politics plays a part in the motivation to criticize. The Big Media ignores some activities and private-life adventures of some of our highest officials, but to ignore is not universal. With so many news outlets today, the scrutiny is at a much higher pitch.
Getting back to Michelle. She hasn’t had it near as bad as some other first ladies. Hillary took a lot of hits with her actions and high visibility as secretary of state. While there was some criticism of the criticism of Hillary, she wasn’t a target that was constantly being hit and overall she escaped without apparent permanent damage. Because of her political ambitions, going way back, there was a strong and long- standing effort to protect her. She also has always been a self- image protector. She has done a pretty good job of it.
The thing about that trip to China by Michelle that has been galling to many people is the tremendous cost to taxpayers. We don’t know what the total cost was. It has not been released. But it had to be sky high. We also have never seen any figures on what the taxpayer cost is for the large staff Michelle has. It has been reported that her total staff is the largest ever for a first lady.
Parker argues that the China trip really was worth it because of the “human” touch it had. Michelle not only brought her two daughters along, but her mother also made the trip. We don’t know how many of Michelle’s staff tagged along, but we’d bet it was more than a couple. Parker said good will was created with the Chinese with the visit.
It is hard to determine the amount of good will because the press was left out of the picture. “Mrs. Obama’s no-press stipulation is problematic, to be sure, but I can confidently report that the Obamas are recognized for their superior attention to protocol,” Parker wrote. The point that is problematic is the cost to taxpayers for the amount of good will produced. It’s tough to pitch good will to the Chinese.
We don’t think that Michelle has been treated too harshly. The vastly pro-Obama big press has been good to Michelle and to her husband. One television commentator once said Michelle was the most beautiful lady ever to be first lady. Overall, her press has been positive. Because of that, we wonder why Parker would devote an entire column to defending her.
It’s not easy being the first lady. But the scrutiny goes with the territory. Bess Truman was criticized because she didn’t hang around the White House that much. She preferred to be home in Independence. Bess Truman would never have taken daughter Margaret and her mother on a big trip at taxpayer expense. Harry’s mother-in-law never cared much for him and didn’t think he ever would amount to anything. Even when he was president, she wasn’t impressed.
As the saying goes, “It takes all kinds.” That applies to first ladies. If one can’t stand the heat in the White House, the building has many doors.