Mrs. Obama's Catch 22

Valery Nechay's picture



         Yesterday marked the commencement of Mrs. Obama’s trip to the bay area, which began with a breakfast at Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel, hosted by the renowned food industry pioneer, Chef Alice Waters. Another luncheon during her trip is scheduled to take place at the Merchants Exchange Building, bringing the average cost of a plate to $2,500 at both lavish events. Predominantly Republican critics allege that the First Lady’s trip is a ploy in order to fund her travels at the taxpayers’ expense.  These critics, however, have given little acknowledgment about other events she is attending or what the focal points and discussions are going to be during her visit. Lady Obama’s trip to Spain after the death of her father was criticized in the same fashion; critics propagated that the trip was paid for with tax dollars, which was entirely not true and not surprisingly, since the Obama’s had a sizable income prior to his presidency.

          Many supporters contend that the biggest focus of Michelle Obama’s trip is promoting Let’s Move! Childcare, while increasing her commitments surrounding issues such as healthy children and families, and military services. She is undoubtedly working hard to collect funds for her husband’s reelection campaign during the two galas as aforementioned, but it seems that Republican groups have strategically used this as a personal and political ambush on the First Lady, whom is often hailed for her frugality. It would be laughable to suggest that Barbara Bush and her First Lady predecessors did not support their husbands’ endeavors while promoting their own goals in public policy on government funded travels. The criticism has been increasingly selective- with right wing media nitpicking at Mrs. Obama, while ignoring a plethora of truly costly issues and remaining relevantly silent on lowering the defense budget(the single most burdensome national expenditure on the taxpayers over the course of the last two wars).

            It is imperative that all government expenses should be discussed and given considerable re-evaluation in light of a skyrocketing national deficit and recent campaign controversies and abuses, which have certainly stirred mistrust and provoked resentment for officials in public office. One incident namely springs to mind about former Presidential nominee, John Edwards, and his illicit use of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to cover up an extramarital affair.  Although the federal government and nearly every news outlet have strictly condemned this incident, there are many situations that appear to have a very different net result in action then ideology, but do not illicit strong responses from the public or the media.

         It is ironic that while Republicans build their platform on an exceptionally fierce criticism of government spending, House speaker John Boehner did not hesitate to dish out half a million dollars for the Defense of Marriage Act, which would continue to define marriage between a man and a women. Soliciting a private firm to violate millions of peoples’ constitutionally protected rights at the taxpayers expense makes the cost of security personal for the first lady’s brief trip to California miniscule, if not entirely irrelevant and ridiculous in the conversation of government spending. In addition, Michelle Obama is an iconic and popular figure among many groups, especially in California and although she may draw many crowds of Obama supporters and enthusiasts, she is championing important issues such as the vital importance of proper nutrition and education.  So let’s face it, if the conversation should be about political finance reform, financial transparency, or lowering the deficit, then we should have it. However, the criticism that the First Lady is receiving for her trip to the Bay Area illuminates the prevalence of political demagoguery to distract the media and the public from the real issues that matter. 

Phil Ting's picture

Smoke Screen Politics

Typically, when one point of view doesn't want to debate the merits of an issue, they merely create a smoke screen or diversion to take attention away from those issues in order to distract the public.  One of the First Ladies' major issues is children's obesity stemming from the our diet and the food we eat.  A debate on this issue would then have to address some of the most powerful interests in our country - ag and food, beverage and hospitality corporations.  These discussions are incredibly important but would challenge a significant portion of how we function as a country.  So its much easier to avoid this debate - say everything is fine and focus our energies on the First Lady and her travel arrangements.  How unfortunate since our nation's health is a major issue!

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