Media Covers Obama’s Wife, But Questions on His Experience Are Not Forgotten

The Chicago Tribune has a lengthy feature on Michelle Obama today, referring to her as Barack’s Rock.

One of its most formidable tasks, after all, is to win over Democratic-leaning women tempted to help make Sen. Hillary Clinton the first woman president, and Michelle Obama figures prominently in the promotion strategy. She’s a charismatic public speaker, an accomplished professional whose life as a working parent looks familiar to all kinds of women.

More than just a spokeswoman, she’s a crucial part of the Obama package itself, complementing and shaping her husband in ways that are both politically and personally significant.

The daughter of a tight-knit nuclear family, she’s an anchor for a spouse who grew up all over the world and barely knew his own father. Her background, deeply rooted in a working-class South Side neighborhood, lends credibility to her husband, who has consistently battled questions from some African-Americans about whether the son of an African father and a white American mother is authentically black.

While her South Side background might lend credibility to Obama among more traditional Democratic groups, there is an increasing number of professionals such as myself who do not fall into such categories, but who are voting Democratic in response to the Republican Party’s move to the far right, as well as the GOP’s willingness to undermine our national security for political gain. Michelle Obama also has characteristics which might appeal beyond traditional Deomcratic groups, such as her professional successes which include becoming vice president of The University of Chicago Medical Center. This experience may also be of value in formulating Obama’s ideas on health care:

In the portrait activists often paint to illustrate the problem, the uninsured patients are the victims of the system. While Obama agrees with that, she also places personal responsibility on the individuals.

“It’s mutual responsibility,” she explained in the interview. “Whatever health-care solution we bring to the table, people have to use it. People have to put good food in their bodies. People have to take their medication as directed. People can’t sit and completely blame outside forces.”

It’s a perspective reflected in her husband’s viewpoint on health care and other issues.

“This is how he thinks about the problems that we face,” she said. “You can’t just talk about improving education without talking about improving pay for teachers or making sure that parents are doing their part. … People have to change their behavior in addition to systems and institutions changing.”

This story is probably more helpful to Obama’s campaign than the AP story this weekend which reminds readers of Obama’s lack of experience. While Obama’s lack of experience is a real question, the story doesn’t help matters as it says very little about the experience Obama does have, including as community organizer, Constitutional law professor, and member of the state legislature. Obama could help overcome this question himself by providing more specific answers as to how he would deal with national and international issues. I have been impressed by many of the ideas raised by Obama, but ultimately we are looking to elect a chief executive, not a Philsopher King.

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