Friday, March 25, 2011

Royal outing for Michelle Obama in Spain confuses US image of First Lady

Verne Strickland Blogmaster

Already we've admitted that we don't know who or what President Obama is. We don't know where he's from (if Donald Trump wonders, how can we be sure?), we don't know what our Maximum Leader wants to do in Libya, and we don't even know if he eats soul food for breakfast! But now the plot thickens. Who do we think Michelle Obama really is? Is she a modest little lady who likes tending her personal vegetable garden back of the White House? Or is she a flamboyant jet-setter who relishes expensive designer gowns and cavorting with royalty -- with the U.S. taxpayer picking up more than a little of the tab for the glam and glitz? Or a little of both? Well, the real question becomes -- who does she think she is? The next question may be -- do I ask this question because I am a bigot? And the third question is, since I'm not answering that, so whatever do you think? And -- bottom line, who cares? One wag puts us all in our carping place with this: "Michelle Obama is an intelligent, accomplished woman. You, obviously, are not. Maybe you'd prefer the First Lady of the United States spend her vacation time at a monster truck rally!" Good one. Here's the story, and I like it, for those who want some gossip to lighten up the mood in the chaotic arena of public affairs.



By Andrea Tantaros / Torres/AP

Thursday, March 24, 2011

* Michelle Obama's popularity plummets following Spain vacation
* Michelle Obama is a hit with locals on Spain vacation
* State Dept. brushes off travel warning as Michelle Obama visits Spain
* Tantaros: Michelle Obama is modern-day Marie Antoinette on glitzy Spanish vacation


When images of Jean Paul Gaultier-clad First Lady Michelle Obama on a $75,000-a-day Spanish holiday hit the wires, controversy was bound to erupt back home. Her carefully crafted image as "everywoman" was blown.

In addition to the high cost, the evolving justifications for the trip offered by the White House's flack were just as dizzying.

First it was a private, mother-daughter trip that press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to comment on.

Then, the White House said she was paying for most of the trip, but that the taxpayers would pay for some of it because she'd be meeting with the King and Queen of Spain. The East Wing's final justification was that the First Lady traveled to Spain to comfort a friend who'd lost her husband.

The spin revealed that the White House had a public relations problem: After attempting to further the notion that she was just the woman next door, it couldn't help that the First Lady looked positively royal. That only cemented the suspicion that she is far fancier and higher maintenance than she, or her handlers, would like us to believe.

"The First Lady is doing her part - and then some - to be an ambassador of total glam when she travels. Have you ever seen a First Lady looking quite so now?" Glamour magazine asked.

I don't know about Glamour's perception of now, but currently 14.6 million people are unemployed. Now is a time when people are losing their homes. Now should be an era of restraint, a time to spread the wealth around, according to the First Lady's spouse.

The backlash from her vacation also showcased an antithesis to the story line of moderation and humble roots that Michelle Obama has sought to perpetuate.

"We like to joke that the South Side of Chicago is our Kennebunkport," she said to Vogue in 2008. Months later, she stepped out in $540 Lanvin sneakers to volunteer at a food bank. The disconnect was obvious.

In April 2007, she told a crowd that "my life now is not really that much different from many of yours. Every woman that I know, regardless of race, education, income, background, political affiliation, is struggling to keep her head above water."

Staying above water on the luxurious Costa del Sol junket must have been a real challenge. And now, while we eat cake, she eats her words.

Fashion magazines have long displayed two competing theories in their profiles on the First Lady. While they're more than willing to advance the narrative that she's just a down-home gal, some can't help but play up her penchant for the highlife, revealing the persona as fiction.

Andre Leon Talley, an editor for Vogue, wrote after the 2008 election, "She almost seems like any other mom recently relocated to a city because of her husband's new job."

Almost. Until the wardrobe references: Isabel Toledo, Narciso Rodriguez, Jimmy Choo.

Oprah Winfrey has said Obama is "bringing a sense of connection and accessibility to that position that no nation has ever witnessed."

That's what they wanted the country to think. Spain, however, revealed the reality: Obama isn't an average mom and wife, and she doesn't think so of herself, either.

That's why the Marie Antoinette comparison is apt: The trip evokes a similar contempt for the plebeians.

We might expect such detachment from celebrities, but not public servants. A leader shouldn't be living like a monarch when the rest of the country feels like paupers. At least Antoinette was being candid about it. Now it's the First Lady's turn.

"I think that's what's special about Michelle - she maintains a normal life in an extraordinary time," Jill Biden once said.

More like an extraordinary lifestyle in abnormal times.

andrea@andreatantaros.com
http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/08/12/2010-08-12_royal_treatment_for_the_first_lady_obama_claims_working_class_roots_but_her_styl.html?obref=obinsite
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