If she plants a garden, someone complains. If she wears expensive shoes, someone complains. If she speaks at a college commencement, someone complains. And when she wasn’t doing anything policy-wise I heard COUNTLESS complaints (many from Bonnie Erbe) about the First Lady not being more active in policy making.
Well, now Michelle Obama is sticking her toe in the policy waters and guess what? Folks are complaining.
Michelle Obama wants a bigger role in her husband’s administration, according to The Washington Post. Unlike Laura Bush, who focused on a few peripheral issues, Obama wants a seat at the table when key policies are made.
Obama’s new chief of staff, Susan Sher, is part of the crucial 8:15 a.m. White House staff meeting. The first lady’s team of more than 20 has been told to think “strategically” about how to make her a player on policies she cares about.
This could be a very bad idea.
Washington insiders haven’t seen a first lady this ambitious since Hillary Clinton, without question the most powerful holder of that unofficial office.
Clinton put herself in charge of her husband’s plans to radically reform health care, and the nation is still paying the price for her mistakes.
While the failure of the Clinton administration’s health care agenda had many causes, she made some missteps that a more experienced Washington policymaker would not have made. And because she was the spouse of the president, it was very tough for anyone to tell her husband that things were going badly.
Oh no! Hillary was active and it was so terrible that OF COURSE it can only be terrible for Michelle too! Of course! Because all First Ladies are THE SAME. Either Michelle is Laura Bush or Michelle is Hillary! She can’t be both or, worse, her OWN PERSON! Heaven’s to Betsy! Doesn’t she KNOW that?
Clinton was a Yale-educated lawyer and, without a doubt, a brilliant woman (and she has learned a lot since then). And much the same could be said about the double-Ivy League-degreed Obama.
But if you throw a pebble up in the air at rush hour in Metro Center, you would very likely hit someone with an Ivy League degree. Succeeding at policy development and advocacy at the highest levels of government takes a lot more than that.
Marrying a top policymaker doesn’t magically grant you the rare skills necessary for your spouse’s profession, any more than marrying Serena would enable you to win Wimbledon.
I know few music fans who believe Yoko and Linda improved the music of John and Paul with their contributions.
Yet even if Obama is a natural and immediately grasps how Washington works, there is something troubling about the whole concept of a presidential spouse with a multimillion-dollar staff.
One. Can we wait for her to eff up before we start the hysterics? Two. Really? This is concerning to people? What do they think Michelle Obama is doing up there? Prancing around the White House wielding a saber knighting people while reciting lines from MacBeth? I know that some like to paint her as a dragon lady super villain, but as that has yet to materialize, all we can do is mull over her, and the rest of meritocracy, carving out their policy pieces in the Obama Administration.
Let’s see how it goes first, shall we?