Michelle will be a fine feisty First Lady

A friend saw Laura Bush recently and told me how “poised” our First Lady was: “petite” and “gracious”, a “listener”, not a talker. These are the traditional qualities we are supposed to admire in a First Lady. Feisty Democratic women have had a harder time fitting the mould than their Republican counterparts, except for Jackie Kennedy.

So now poor Michelle Obama is confronting the media speculation of how she will fare in the White House. The odds are already stacked against her, thanks to charges of anti-patriotism, radical racism, and – most absurdly, because of her fistbump with her husband – the notion that she is a secret terrorist. Even Hillary Clinton, who as First Lady played the role of political dartboard sans pareil, never faced hostility on this scale.

But Michelle Obama with her good looks, her lucrative job, her opinionated views on race – and other things – is a lightning rod for controversy. So she’s playing the game that all potential First Ladies have to; appearing on TV shows aimed at housewives, and trying to show a “softer” side.

Not everyone is buying it. A columnist in the conservative New York Post described her as looking “bored and superior” on The View, a morning show.

Of course she looked “superior” – she was the tallest woman on screen. Bored? She’s a Harvardeducated lawyer being forced to prove her girliness in the equivalent of an on-air sewing circle.

Michelle Obama has no need to spell out her femininity, or her wifely assets: she is brimming with both. Her affection for her husband may have been their winning weapon on the campaign; he appeared to be the only candidate with a sex life.

If the Right-wing press keeps stooping to outdated pettiness in criticising Michelle, it will hand the Obamas the election. The point is that the Obamas are about change: polls show America wants this.

So we expect Mrs Obama to modernise the traditional role of First Lady. We know she is clever, so her reforms will be carefully calculated. She has watched Hillary’s missteps as First Lady and she now has Clinton’s ex-campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, to help her avoid any clunky repetition.

That Laura Bush wrote to Michelle last week, commiserating with her, showed great personality and generosity of spirit from the present First Lady. It was also a reminder that the key to being a successful First Lady, no matter what the critics say, is to stay true to who you are. V

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