Michelle Obama Enters the Race Fray

Michelle Obama spoke today in Atlanta at the Trumpet Awards, an event celebrating black achievement. After commenting on Bill Clinton's fairy tale remark she said:

We had a miraculous victory in Iowa," Michelle Obama said. "Ain't no black people in Iowa! Something big, something new is happening. Let's build the future we all know is possible. Let's show our kids that America is ready for Barack Obama right now."

....Michelle Obama's remarks were also peppered with references to Coretta Scott King and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose 79th birthday is Tuesday. She said that should Barack Obama win in November, "America will look at itself differently and the world will look at America differently."


She then wove the women issue into her comments:

She launched into her remarks recalling a meeting with Coretta Scott King, who died two years ago this month. She called the meeting "an extraordinary moment."

"That's a woman who knows what it means to overcome," Michelle Obama said to applause, and also mentioned Rosa Parks as another example. "These are women who cast aside the voices of doubt and fear, who said 'Wait. It's not your turn.' I know that my life is only possible because of their courage and sacrifice."

I don't think either race or gender should be an issue in the presidential campaign. It should be about individuals and who is the best qualified and equipped for the job.

Obama denies he's injecting race into the campaign. With his wife's comments today, I have to say they are both not just reacting to the Clintons' comments, but playing the card themselves.

Mad Kane has a new limerick up on the stickiness of the situation, particularly for non-blacks: Is Black the New Teflon. Go read her background to it, to put it in context:

Is Black The New Teflon?

Obama’s campaign has an ace:
It’s a joker, that card they call race.
Every Hill-team critique
Draws their racism-pique.
Can’t attack him: He’s black! That’s their case.

No one I have read, in the MSM or the blogs, has suggested or implied that Barack Obama is not the best candidate for President because he is black. All of the criticism I've seen (and written myself) about him pertains to his experience, his record and whether his promise of change is too generic as opposed to being supported by a substantive agenda. These are legitimate topics of discussion. So are comparisons between his record and Hillary's, and their statements about issues.

Obama is black. Hillary is a woman. Those are facts beyond change. Neither one qualifies or disqualifies them from being President. Let's accept it, welcome the diversity and move on.

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    Michelle Obama is a remarkable woman (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by bronte17 on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:02:20 AM EST
    and she's an ace up Obama's sleeve.  I'm surprised he hasn't used her skills more.  Perhaps he has...I'm just not attuned to it.

    And, as Josh Marshall has noted over at TPM, the entire issue of this subtle insertion of "blackness" into the lexicon of Clinton supporters is with intent to push Obama into a reactive mode.

    Michelle is a strong woman. Her comments aren't playing the race card. It's an acknowledgment of reality and she shouldn't be ashamed to reference strong black women.

    Hillary doesn't hold back on referencing Maggie Thatcher or whomever when she wants to make a strong point.

    To "overcome" is just a word and should mean the same thing to everyone, but it doesn't. The flavor and the texture of the meaning and the circumstances and the "how to" around that word are determined by the shade of your skin and the mirror that society holds up to you.

    I Agree with your assessment (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:09:14 AM EST
    of Michelle Obama. I have always found her impressive and said so. He's been using her skills for months and I think it's helped him immensely.

    the comments she made here (none / 0) (#20)
    by along on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 02:55:09 AM EST
    are  from a speech she gave Nov. 20 in Orangeburg, SC.

    It's a very personal speech, about growing up, trying not to be afraid. It's also very much a campaign speech for her husband. She weaves in an out beautifully. A very strong speaker.

    Marc Ambinder writes about the speech here.

    I have the feeling she would have been delivering a shortened version of this speech this week in SC anyway, given MLK day next week and the lead-up to the primary. It seems to me that this is the way she has determined she can address race. I think it's a good way to do it.

    Of course she has brought up race during this campaign, but not in relation to anyone else. Just herself and her husband. I think it's entirely appropriate to do so.

    But race has also been brought up, or alluded to, in comments by Clinton campaign surrogates, again and again, since Billy Shaheen's remarks on Dec. 12. In those cases, when race is discussed, or implied, it is always about Obama, not about the speaker him or herself, and not about Hillary Clinton. If those surrogates had anything worthwhile to say about race, I wouldn't have any problem with their comments. But they didn't.


    note, (none / 0) (#21)
    by along on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 03:38:37 AM EST
    just noticed that the Trumpet Awards ceremony was in Atlanta.

    Thanks I fixed it (none / 0) (#24)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 09:45:15 AM EST
    to read Atlanta, not South Carolina

    she began this speech talking about Clinton (none / 0) (#25)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 09:49:12 AM EST
    The article says she did talk about Clinton -- see the first paragraph:

    In her address, she was critical of those whom she said would "dismiss this moment as an illusion, a fairy tale" - a response to comments made by the spouse of her husband's rival, Bill Clinton, who said the Illinois senator was telling a "fairy tale" about his opposition to the Iraq war.

    actually, this is what struck me (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by cpinva on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 01:02:22 AM EST
    as the most pertinent part of her speech:

    Something big, something new is happening. Let's build the future we all know is possible. Let's show our kids that America is ready for Barack Obama right now."

    more meaningless blather. nothing of actual consequence, a tangible that can be pointed to and discussed.

    has anyone run for office not wanting to build a bright future for america? has anyone run for public office on a platform stating that nothing new or big is happening?

    platitudes are wonderful things, but no substitute for, well..............substance.

    meaningless blather (none / 0) (#23)
    by mindfulmission on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 09:27:46 AM EST
    If you don't think that Hillary (and Bill) have the same "meaningless blather" in their stump speeches, I am not sure what to tell you.

    It find it incredibly humorous when people attack Obama for having lofty campaign speeches with out a lot of substance.  

    They all do it.  Obama just gets attacked for it because he (and Michelle) do it so well.  


    heh (none / 0) (#30)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 15, 2008 at 08:34:32 AM EST
    So if you do something bad, say rob a bank, but do it really well, it's okay??

    not what i said... (none / 0) (#31)
    by mindfulmission on Tue Jan 15, 2008 at 11:50:01 AM EST
    first - I am not so sure that stump speeches without any real substance are bad.

    second - My point wasn't whether it it was good or bad.  My point was that every candidate has stump speeches full of "meaningless blather."  But Obama is able to give such great lofty speeches that he is criticized for it even though Clinton and Edwards use similar rhetoric, but they are not as good at it.

    My point - Obama gets criticized for doing the same things as Edwards and Clinton.  Yet no one says anything about the "meaningless blather" in their speeches.  


    I don't think Karl Rove is responsible for Obama (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by Grandmother on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:24:57 PM EST
    running for president but he has entered the Democratic primary season with his comments directed towards Senator Obama. He can't help but be laughing  every morning as he sees the Democratic Party destroying itself on a daily basis.

    Last summer I made a comment to an Obama supporter that I thought that he, Hillary and John Edwards needed to realize they were all Democrats and while we can all disagree on policy and programs and how to move the country forward, that the hate spewing, vindictive comments and name calling thatI saw on many so called liberal and left blogs towards HRC was disgusting. I mentioned that the race issue could become big and that wasn't some place Dems needed to go. I was treated to a 15 minute rant of how HRC was corrupt, took $$ from shady dealers, killed Vince Foster, shouldn't have stayed with Bill and that she couldn't get along with anyone and was a lesbian dyke on the side.

    Now it seems we are there with both race and gender being spewed out everywhere.  I admit I am a HRC supporter.  I feel her surrogates have made some mistakes and she has also.  Everyone needs to take a deep breath.  Both campaigns need to remember this is not a general election.  Clinton needs to get her people under control.  Obama needs to get the message that not everything is race baiting.

    The comments by the guy from BET were uncalled for and harmful.  The comments by JJackson Jr. about HRC and Katrina were uncalled for and harmful.

    For 40 years I have watched the Democrats destroy themselves as a party.  Part of my anger with the Obamas is that Lyndon Johnson, that southern white man, with the stroke of a pen destroyed the presidency for Democrats for many decades. He knew signing the Civil Rights act was the right thing to do and he was aware of its effect on the Party.  And anyone who knows their history knows that legislation was a collaboration between two men who were giants in their own time. To say one could have done it without the other is a lie.

    Democrats are set up again for failure. And we are all responsible.

    the comment you are replying to (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 03:01:12 PM EST
    has been deleted for a potentially libelous and defamatory, name-calling, personal attack on Al Sharpton.

    absolutely cannot (1.00 / 1) (#1)
    by athyrio on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 11:49:09 PM EST
    Keep playing that race card, cause it will strangle them and already has started....What dopes....

    I would like to think race makes no difference (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 11:54:37 PM EST
    in the primary or GE, but the update to the poll posted now says black people think it will make a difference.  

    Obama campaign becoming idiotic (none / 0) (#3)
    by diplomatic on Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 11:57:02 PM EST
    Why does the Obama campaign insist on going down this road?  It might lead them right over a cliff.

    What should they do when Kerrey and (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by bronte17 on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:04:15 AM EST
    Cuomo suddenly develop new words in their lexicon or utilize such twisted language to make a point as with Bob Johnson?

    Here's why (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by diplomatic on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:28:24 AM EST
    Realize that jumping into a race debate (however justified) at this point in the campaign is toxic to Obama's previous transcendant image of bringing American together, regardless of race.  By continuing to answer the racial jabs (whether deliberatel or not) only serves to corner Barack into a new image where he comes across more as a black candidate than as a "Great American" figure who comes around once in a generation.

    White people are now hearing about people like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson Jr., Clyburn, the BET network, etc.  If it is true, as some have suggested in the media, that a significant portion of Obama's support might be coming from young white persons who are looking to move this country toward a colorblind society then this may give them pause to say "oh crap, not this sh** again."

    This may apply even more strongly to the independent and crossover Republican voters who may have just a few days ago been ready to embrace Obama.

    And another way to look at this risky strategy:  Let's say that Obama does manage to consolidate the black vote on his side.  Population wise there are a lot more white men, and especially white women.  In the unfortunate event that our Democratic party goes down this shameful and dangerous road of a gender/race divide... who do you think stands to benefit most from this dynamic on Super Tuesday.

    Clinton has overwhelming Hispanic support and seems to be gaining back the woman's vote.  Those are some serious numbers right there.

    I truly believe that Obama would be most wise to go back to real meat and potato issues (starting with the next debate) and stick to inspiring us with the hope of what our nation can become and not inadvertently remind us of what we are or have been in the past.

    Obama had everything going for him.  Things were clicking on all cylinders. There was no reason to change his strategy into... whatever this is.


    This is... cynicism and ruthlessness (none / 0) (#14)
    by bronte17 on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:43:25 AM EST
    Look at who came out with the language.

    Why should Obama keep quiet and ignore it.  Will it stop and just go away?

    I don't have a dog in this race, but it has pushed me into a position where I cannot keep quiet. The reverberations are ugly and it sickens me to see it. This isn't "just politics" when it cuts down to the bone of our nation and especially the Democratic Party.


    what language? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:52:26 AM EST
    did Hillary or Bill come out with that referenced Obama's race? Some have interpreted their comments to be racially motivated or biased, which they deny. Language is not the same as interpretation.  The first is objectively identifiable, the second is subjective.

    to deny... (none / 0) (#22)
    by mindfulmission on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 09:03:52 AM EST
    ... the racial undertones of many of the comments coming out of the Clinton camp is pretty disingenuous.  

    Have they (they = the whole campaign, not just Hillary and Bill) made overt comments about Obama's race?  Of course not - they are much smarter than that.  

    But if you really think that many of those comments haven't had obvious racial interpretations, I am not sure what to say.  


    yes (none / 0) (#16)
    by diplomatic on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:54:34 AM EST
    Well welcome to the Democratic President Primary of 2008.

    Listening to Michelle Obama on C-Span (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:01:16 AM EST
    last week as she addressed a rally in NH before the NH primary, I was very impressed with how straight forward she was, much more direct than her husband.  She seems to be getting caught up in campaign rhetoric now.

    So now (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jgarza on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:01:29 AM EST
    every time Obama or his campaign mentions any of the great civil rights icons it is bringing race into this?

    I don't think either race or gender should be an issue in the presidential campaign. It should be about individuals and who is the best qualified and equipped for the job.

    Isn't gender tossed in every time HRC talks about the ultimate glass ceiling, about how 90 yo women say that want to vote for a woman.

    When she said in the debate she would be the first women president, and that would be change?

    it's not a reason to vote (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:07:16 AM EST
    for one over the other. They are facts beyond change, you can't make them go away.
    Acknowledge it and be done with it. It would be historic to have a black or woman president and it would break a glass ceiling to have a woman president.  I'm saying neither is a reason to vote for President. The Presidency is too important to use as a historic marker.

    I'm not voting based on race or gender but on whom I think is best qualified for the job.


    I agree with you (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jgarza on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:10:12 AM EST
    but I have never heard anyone make the case that they should vote for BO because he is black.

    It's out there for both race and gender (none / 0) (#11)
    by joejoejoe on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:27:36 AM EST
    MJ Rosenberg at TPMCafe has talked about race being a factor in voting for Obama and none other than senior Clinton advisor Mark Penn has said Hillary Clinton's gender is a factor in attracting women votes.

    Oops, someone tell Axelrod (none / 0) (#13)
    by diplomatic on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 12:31:44 AM EST
    There are lot more women overall than African Americans in this country.  This is why I think Obama needs to look beyond South Carolina and more about Super Tuesday.  Stay above the fray, Barack -- you were on your way to victory...

    What it's about (none / 0) (#19)
    by chemoelectric on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 02:51:48 AM EST
    It isn't that Obama's Black, but that the Clintonite people want the Obaman people to put on a fit of whining and screaming at being verbally slapped. What they should have done is to say, "I didn't hear what they said; it must not have been that important." Then the Clintonites repeat and the Obamans say, "No, I still didn't get that message. There must be something about what they said that gets lost in transit. Oh, well, if it's important for us to hear it then they can try a new approach." Etc.

    Obama Camp's Memo Surfaces (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 09:52:13 AM EST
    See Huffpo, which has the memo.

    The document provides an indication that, in private, the Obama campaign is seeking to capitalize on the view - and push the narrative - that the Clintons are using race-related issues for political leverage. In public, the Obama campaign has denied that they are trying to propagate such a perception, noting that the document never was sent to the press.