Let’s pretend that there are two women who might potentially be the next First Lady of the United States.
Lady A is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, and until her husband started running for president, she had a successful career as a corporate lawyer and a hospital vice-president. She has never had a drug problem, is her husband’s first wife, and to all appearances, looks pretty much perfect. Lady B, the heir to a beer distributor fortune, took up with her husband (18 years her senior) when he was still married to his first wife. (Oops!) Lady B attended the University of Southern California and has a degree in teaching, and had a drug problem. (Double oops!) She used her inherited money to set her husband up in his political career.
One lady is profiled in a high-profile magazine whose reputation as either interesting or authoritative has, well, slipped in recent years, to put it charitably. In this article, the author writes that her “lack of pretense has made her popular with the portion of the electorate.” However, she also points to her “tendency toward deflation” and “dismissiveness” of other people and their efforts. She quotes a local newspaper columnist who said he [heard] “rumbles a mink coat reportedly belonging to [this lady], wife of [this candidate], may have gone missing following [a local politician's] birthday bash.” The author also notes that because in her job this lady made $121,910 four years ago then made $316,962 three years ago, a random letter-writer to a local newspaper complained that “Mrs. X is extremely overpaid.” In sum, the author writes, “Some observers have detected in [this lady] an air of entitlement.” Which lady was it, Lady A or Lady B? Answer here.
The other lady is profiled on a cable news program in a segment called “Can [this lady] really be that perfect?” The lede of the summary on the web reads, “She’s always dressed in a killer suit and never has a hair out of place.” A friend and former local official in her home state describes her as a “fun down to earth person with a great sense of humor.” Which lady was it, Lady A or Lady B? Answer here.
(p.s. Here’s the full quote from the last part of the summary of the The New Yorker article linked above: “Some observers have detected in Obama an air of entitlement. Her defenders attribute these charges of arrogance to racist fears about uppity black women. While it’s a stretch to call the suggestion that Obama projects an air of self-satisfaction bigoted, it may at least reflect a culture gap: last April, after Maureen Dowd wrote a column criticizing Obama for undermining her husband’s mystique, a blog riposte, circulated widely on the Internet, was titled ‘The White Lady Just Doesn’t Get It.’” Does anyone understand how the last sentence describing a supposed “culture gap” refutes the earlier “charges of arrogance” due to “racist fears about uppity black women?” How does refuting a dumb Dowd hit-piece make one “uppity?” Why do successful African American women seem to make people totally insane when trying to write or talk about them?)
UPDATE, 3/7/08: I should remember never to publish a post after 9 p.m., when it’s sleepytime for Historiann! I think I understand better now what that writer was suggesting in that paragraph–not that I think she’s correct. She’s still insane, but for different reasons than I thought. The writer insists that it’s legitimate and not “bigoted” to say that Michelle Obama “projects an air of self-satisfaction,” but acknowledges that there may be a “culture gap” (although I think she really means, black people and white people seem to have different reads of this accusation.) Well, how many Princeton and Harvard Law grads do you know who are very successful professionally and personally at the age of 44 and who don’t “project an air of self-satisfaction.” Why isn’t that allowed, as Susan points out in the comments below, if you earn your own money instead of inheriting it from a rich daddy?
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