Tuesday, August 26, 2008

'Prince' columnists hold court on Michelle '85's convention remarks

If her husband is elected, Michelle Obama '85 will be the first Princetonian to live in the White House since ... well, Woodrow Wilson.

Tonight was Michelle's big moment in the Democratic convention's spotlight. How'd she do? Six 'Prince' columnists weigh in after the jump.

A full text of Michelle's speech is here. Miraculously, it is also already on YouTube.

Quick, help, somebody's kidnapped Michelle Obama and replaced her with a bland, political automaton! And the culprit kinda looked like David Axelrod!

All kidding aside, Michelle Obama used to speak her mind. This was something of a problem, because just like Joe Biden she needed a mental editor to keep her from blurting out cringe-worthy anecdotes and quotes. For instance, phrases like "for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country" should never be uttered by a politician or political spouse no matter what the context.

This summer, however, somebody seems to have given her a memo that she'd have to change her image lest she cost Barack the election. Since then, we've seen a much different side of Michelle; mind numbing appearances on the The View and insipid profiles in supermarket tabloids now abound. So as we prepare for her speech tonight, I'd expect more of the new Michelle and less of the early firebrand. And if she does start to go off message, I can't wait for the camera to pan to Axelrod waiting in the wings, wincing as he prepares a taser.

-Barry Caro '09 (written before the speech)

Four hours before Michelle Obama's speech, CNN commentators were already briefing TV audiences about the planned contents of her talk. They told us it was going to focus more on Senator Barack Obama's family side, perhaps illuminate his dedication to his family in order to show that he's not just driven by political ambition. Indeed, personal anecdotes featured heavily in Michelle Obama's kick-off speech, but the effect was to give her - not her husband - a softer image.

Her references to being a sister, wife, mother, and daughter respectively, was certainly an attempt to highlight her femininity. Then there was the obligatory coming-home-with-firstborn-in-arms story. Obama is not only a good woman; she is also a good American. After all, she was able to achieve a "piece of the American Dream" and "love(s) this country" just like the rest of us.

As Barry said, Michelle Obama has certainly gotten coaching or learned to say more politically correct things. But the problem is, is America going to accept this new version of Mrs. Obama? Her speech clearly consisted of just the "right" things to say. Perhaps the American public isn't ready for a strong woman who doesn't mention family or her husband's ambitions in every public appearance. But for strength and inspiration, I prefer the uncensored Obama.

-Cindy Hong '09

Tonight was the first time I ever heard Michelle Obama speak. To be honest, I was a little nervous about what she'd have to say. After all, this is a woman who didn't like Princeton. And I had also heard she hates America. Hating America, by the way, is not cool.

You know what is cool? Michelle Obama. No, more than cool: baller. She doesn’t want you to know it, though. Michelle is comfortable enough with herself that she would rather you focus on her inner suburban mom / uninsured urban values-fighter / karate sensei / unemployed coal-mining everyman. Booooooring.

Don't be fooled. Not by how she dresses like the stylish mom down the block; not by the "Isn't She Lovely" stage entrance lifted straight from a Bat Mitzvah choreographer's book; and not by the way she pretends her family is just like your family, and like every other family in America for that matter.

They're not. The Obama family is inescapably cooler than your family. Did you know that Michelle Obama left a fancy-pants law firm to make the world a better place? Well pay closer attention; it was mentioned like three times. While she and Barack were busting their humps servicing the public, what were your parents doing? Working for the man? That's what I thought. Losers.

I was caught a bit off-guard by the utopian mumbo-jumbo towards the end, but definitely am ready to put confusion aside in exchange for hope. Because in case you were wondering, that's what America is built on -- No! Not fear. Why would you say fear. UGH. Hope, people. Hope.

So, basically, I hope you guys realize how cool Michelle is. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that she might be as qualified as her husband to lead the country. I know she's got my vote.

-Matt Kandel '09

I was surprised to hear that the Democrats would be opening their convention on Monday night with Barack Obama’s “bitter half.” But her speech at the convention was, to speak bluntly, “conventional.” No mention was made of her Princeton background, though the penury of her parents and grandparents was repeatedly touted. She tried to sell herself as that most mythical creature, “the ordinary American,” and insofar as anybody ever succeeds at that task, she did.

She showed a vivacity on stage which was only matched by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s earlier address, and although her remarks could have been written by a machine she delivered them with vigor and feeling. At the end her husband showed up by satellite and stole the show as usual; in a few sentences he produced more laughs than all the previous speakers combined. Michelle Obama did not impress me with her content, and her husband can beat her at style, but I think she accomplished what she set out to do: mitigate the image of her as an aloof, angry liberal with a grudge in her heart and a chip on her shoulder, and instead cast herself as a caring lady of compassion and strength.

She still wouldn’t get my vote if she ran for public office, and probably many Americans will want to see a little more love from the would-be First Lady, but tonight she set herself on a new course, and one which will be more likely to put her husband in the White House.

-Brendan Carroll '11


I love how Fox News opens their fair and balanced post-speech analysis with the two top editors from the neoconservative standard bearer, The Weekly Standard.

Michelle knocked this one out of the park. She was warm and yet concise. She blended in Reagan-esque vision of a hopeful, open America with a measured emphasis on the hard truth that many have very good reason to disregard such a vision. Like they do to many professionally-oriented black woman, conservative white Americans have unfairly branded Michelle as an unpatriotic, hard and angry woman who would improperly represent America. Her speech tonight should destroy any such notion and prevent future critics from nasty personal attacks. The focus should remain on purely policy-based critiques.

Michelle wisely emphasized her role as a mother versus her role as a professional or as Barack's wife. We shouldn't be surprised given the fact that she is a highly skilled lawyer, but she was well-spoken and emotionally connective in all of the key points of her speech. The most touching aspects of the speech for me was the story about her father, and I liked the story near the end about a nervous Barack Obama driving home Michelle and their newly born baby. The cynics will label such a story as an obligatory heart warmer, but I interpreted the story revealing how even the Great Barack can be quite vulnerable at moments. He does not float along in life, but has a firm grasp of the tasks ahead of him.

I loved Joe Biden's reaction to Michelle's shout out (that's why we love Joe), but the shout out to Hillary seemed forced, as if it was recently shoved into the speech in light of the past few days of Clinton-Obama tension. The only other awkward moment in my mind was the satellite hook up with Barack Obama afterwards. He didn't seem able to fully hear Michelle and daughters while he was speaking. The screen showed him as he spoke about his gracious hosts, but I don't think the camera actually gave them any face time. The little girl was shouting "Daddy what city are you in tonight?" which was kind of cute but I guess could also signal a certain disconnect between him and his kids. I'm over-reading this probably. ☺

Oh, and Michelle was looking GOOD.

-David Smart '09

Michelle Obama’s speech was well-written and -delivered, but, unsurprisingly, not very special. There were a few prominent themes to the speech, all of which could have been foreseen by even the least adept political prognosticator. The entire introduction and about the first half of the speech were dripping with the language of family and relationships: mother, daughter, sister, wife. There were the tales of the Robinson household and the humbling portrait of Barack Obama as infatuated wannabe boyfriend. It was sometimes charming, but often transparently cheesy.

She also continuously stressed the ideals and values of the working class. In describing the “values” around which she and her husband oriented their lives, she used cliché tropes. Her description of her husband’s accomplishments in the Illinois State Senate could have been delivered at the RNC: moving welfare recipients to work and lowering taxes on the working class, interestingly passing by his stance against legislation to protect babies who survive botched abortions. And, of course, there was the great moment at the end with Sen. Obama in Kansas City: the portrait of the American family.

But in the end, it was all an exercise in political theater designed to humanize the Obamas and targeted at average working class Americans. And herein lies the irony of the speech. The liberal elite in the media and beyond eagerly lapped it up, hailing how Michelle and Barack are just an average couple living the American Dream. They, along with the Obamas and the entire liberal wing of the Democratic Party, think that all it takes to string along these mainstream voters is a bit of well-orchestrated theater. But the blue-collar voters in my home state of Pennsylvania and all over the country are not going to vote for a candidate who only says he shares their values but who denigrates them in more candid moments. And so although it was a fine speech, it’s not going to reassure those Kennedy and Reagan Democrats who will decide this election.

-Brandon McGinley '10


Anonymous said...

the prince staff is full of themselves. nobody cares about what you hacks thought of her speech.

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama is a brilliant politician, and don't nobody doubt that. But Michelle Obama, on the other hand, is much more like your typical affirmative-action acceptee. For one thing, she failed the extremely easy bar exam: http://www.halfsigma.com/2008/02/michelle-obama.html

Pungent commentary on Mrs. Obama's puerile "thesis": http://isteve.blogspot.com/2008/02/michelle-obamas-thesis-unblockaded.html

Anonymous said...

When OBAMA is reversed it is AMABO. That happens to be a Latin verb meaning "I SHALL LOVE!!"

There is great worth here--both coming and going.