Michelle Obama takes centre stage

Updated: Jun 23 2008, 01:34am hrs
Barack Obamas decision to move his campaign headquarters to Chicago suggests a redesigned, tightened-up election effort aimed at Grand Old Party (GOP) nominee John McCain, with no bitter aftertaste from the Democratic primaries. It will be quite a change, for better or worse.There was a major television roll-out of a supposed new image for Michelle Obama, who shapes up as a controversial, hot GOP target for her goofy remarks about Americas presumed shortcomings. The public relations stunt didnt work very well: Michelle Obama seemingly called her husband pathetic on The View on ABC, not exactly the adoring wife model voters prefer. She quickly insisted that she had called him empathetic. To her credit she is, pardon the comparison, a little too independent and outspoken in the mould of Hillary Clinton to be palmed off as another Laura Bush. The current first lady is popular mostly because shes just a ghostly presence who stands by the presidents side and shows up in pretty clothes. She has kept her thoughts to herself and her mouth shut during most of the White House years. Only recently has she discovered trouble spots in the world, such as Burma, but all she provides is soothing words that international power brokers can feel free to ignore. By contrast, Michelle Obama is adroit at displays of outrage. But campaigning for her husband makes Michelle Obama fair game. Ironically, he expects to get some of that financial help from Hillary Clintons supporters, whom he thinks will be more generous in spirit to him than he has lately been to her. One of his direct-mail appeals cites Clintons approval and support. But Obama has shown Clinton little respect. There was the deliberate slap in Clintons face with the ostentatious hiring of Clintons fired former chief of staff, Patti Solis Doyle, as the new Obama head honcho of whomever Obamas running mate might turn out to be. Clearly now it wont be Clinton. Doyle is just another good ole Chicago girl, the Obama crowd snickered. Her selection had nothing to do with Obamas mean streak, which drives him to punish Clinton by making her squirm. The memories of the 1968 Democratic national convention linger on, featuring riots in the streets and Hubert Humphrey enduring tear gas that wafted in through the open windows of his hotel room as Democrats nominated him for the presidency. Party officials refused to return the convention to the city for a quarter century. But if Obama is elected president, all will be forgiven, and the current Mayor Dick Daley, son of the late, original Mayor Richard Daley chief villain of the 1968 convention will return the family name to its old power-soaked glory. It will all get rougher if Michelle Obama doesnt get in line with the candidates public service message. Politics, as the late Speaker Tip ONeill used to say, aint bean bag. During the primaries, Michelle Obama told an Ohio audience: We left corporate America, which is a lot of what were asking young people to do. Dont go into corporate America. What is she talking about She is clearly not someone who believes the business of America is business. Her husband says he doesn't directly take lobbyist contributions, but he is happy to take them when they come to him through third parties. Money, after all, is necessary in politics, as in the rest of life. All of us, including the Obamas, are part of the same democratic, money-fuelled system.

NY Times / Marianne Means