Monday, May 19, 2008

Michelle Obama – Off Limits or Fair Game?

First of all, full disclosure here. I am supportive of Barack Obama for the presidency. I actually voted for Hilary Clinton in my state’s primary, and while I would support her should she become the democratic candidate, right now my vote goes to Obama.

But today in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Senator Barack Obama criticized the Tennessee Republican Party for an ad highlighting comments made by his wife, Michelle, that some say are unpatriotic. In this ad, produced by the Tennessee GOP, Michelle Obama is featured saying, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." (I recall when this statement she made surfaced months ago, and knew that it would probably end up resurfacing in some shape or form later in the campaign.)

On GMA, Senator Obama said, "The GOP, should I be the nominee, can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record…If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family…For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her I think is just low class and I think they — most of the American people would think that as well,” he said. “I would never think of going after somebody’s spouse in a campaign.”

The four-minute video (below) replays her comments many times, interspersed with comments by Tennesseans stating why they were proud of the U.S. (More commentary and information after this video, so keep reading.)

Michelle Obama has since clarified her original statement (video below) , saying she meant she was proud of how Americans were engaging in the political process, and that she had always been proud of her country. (More after video.)

OK, this situation is a little tough to call. Looking at the big picture here. Hillary Clinton has taken a lot of heat for what her husband, former President Bill Clinton has said on the campaign trail, and she’s made comments about it. It really hasn’t stopped the assault. One may argue that Bill is more actively campaigning, but where does one draw the line on how much campaigning can a spouse do before it’s fair game for attack ads? Historically, this election season is not the first time a spouse has been the target in a presidential election. Sometimes the spouse deserves the heat, sometimes they don’t. My initial impression is that Barack Obama’s statements on this issue with the attack ad on his wife has had the opposite effect – it made more people look at the ad and comment about it. And I think that since Michelle has been campaigning for her husband, her comments should be fair game. But, I say this with some conditions.

What we have to hope is that voters are willing to dig into the subject matter more deeply rather than dismiss her comments as unpatriotic. Her whole message where the statement was initially made should be put into context. Personally, I think when you have anyone working for you on the campaign trail – spouse, children, parents, anyone – who is speaking on your behalf, they should take the heat for whatever comments they make while campaigning. But, it is way out of line for the Tennessee GOP to take one line out of context and try to make it into something that it’s not. To me, it’s horribly unfair to take sound bytes and clips only, and not take in the whole context,

If anything, this ad has only made me more resolved to vote for a Democrat in the upcoming presidential election. Low blows like this ad do not project the image for a party that I want to have anything to do with.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

No comments: