I have already argued that Barack Obama is the right guy at the right time to lead the redemption of America. Here’s another reason to vote for him: he’s married to a kick-ass women.
Michelle Obama rocks. She’s smart, solid, and (despite being nearly my age), retains a degree of vestigial hipness. She is a well-informed, articulate advocate on a wide range of social issues – and an effective supporter of her husband on the stump – but does not presume to offer America the two-for-one deal the Clintons promised in 1982 and never quite successfully distanced themselves from in 2008. “I’m not here as a senior advisor,” she has said, “I’m here as a wife.” She is, by all accounts, a wonderful mother and a competent professional. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that she is extremely attractive and stylish.
None of this, of course, matters a bit.
First Ladyism is one of the most pointless sideshows in politics. The fact that Laura Bush seems to be smart, knowledgeable, and possessed of good judgment, for example, in no way makes up for her husband’s acute deficits in those regards. Sure, Eleanor Roosevelt was a vastly impressive public figure, but her husband would have been adjudged a great president even had she the charm of Barbara Bush, the sobriety of Betty Ford, the parental skills of Nancy Regan, the emotional stability of Mary Lincoln, and the candor of Hillary Clinton.
No, when I say Michelle kicks-ass, I mean she (almost literally) kicks ass: Barack’s ass.
This could be a crucial asset to an Obama presidency.
Consider the syllogism arising from the following postulates: (A) successful presidencies entail the exercise of good judgment; (B) arrogance imperils judgment; (C) presidents are prone to arrogance. Makes you wonder how any of these guys managed to succeed.
Is there any doubt about the presidential tendency toward overweening egotism? Once in office, they are surrounded by sycophants and supplicants, people who tell the president he’s great in the hope that presidential favor might fall their way. The president is constantly reminded that he is “the most powerful person in the world”; and while this should have a humbling effect, the evidence is quite clear that the opposite occurs.
These guys all have a pretty good head-start on overconfidence and self-importance, long before they get to the White House. No one runs for President of the United States without, at the very least, a strong self-image. Remember that Gerry Ford (“I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln”), who broke the mold of presidential arrogance (promptly restored by Jimmy Carter), had both the vice-presidency and the presidency dropped in his lap.
This is where Michelle comes in.
She has always insisted that Barack comport himself first as a decent human, and second as a politician. And she has never been shy about taking him down a peg, even in public. During the campaign, she has repeatedly spoken against the adulation Barack sometimes garners. “Barack is not the next messiah who’s going to fix it all. In the end, he’s just a man,” she reminded voters during the democratic primaries. In New Hampshire, she teased her way through an introduction of her husband, telling the crowd, “I’m the better looking one. And I’m smarter too.” She has the reputation of being the “enforcer” in the family, not allowing Barack to evade his domestic responsibilities simply because he holds a seat in the U.S. Senate. She was, after all, able to successfully negotiate the end of his smoking habit in exchange for her support on the campaign trail. When asked if Mr. Obama was using a nicotine patch, one campaign aide famously replied that Michelle could supply all the behavior modification required. She is the closest thing we have to an insurance policy against the kind of delusional imperiousness and infallibility fantasies that characterize the current regime.
Michelle Obama might be a presidential spouse who could actually keep the arrogance of the president in check. Now that’s change I can believe in.