While President Obama and his international counterparts were hard at work discussing important economic issues at Camp David's G8 summit over the weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama invited the world leaders' wives and girlfriends to the White House for a tour of the executive mansion and to "do lunch."
In attendance were France’s Valerié Trierweiler, the European Commission’s Margarida Barroso, Italy’s Elsa Antonioli Monti, the European Council’s Geertrui Windels Van Rompuy, Japan’s Hitomi Noda, and Canada’s Lauren Harper.
The AP reported:
White House curator Bill Allman led the tour, which included stops in the East Room, where the visitors viewed portraits of George and Martha Washington, and the State Dining Room.
During a walk through the Grand Foyer, Mrs. Obama, wearing a purple sundress, explained how the president walks through the long hallway into the East Room for news conferences and other events.
Following the tour, Mrs. Obama and the G-8 spouses gathered in the White House Blue Room for a lunch prepared by renowned chef Jose Andres.
I personally think it's odd that the Obama White House -- which openly accuses Republicans of waging a "War on Women" and of not respecting "women's issues" -- has relegated Mrs. Obama to such a passive role in her husband's administration. So far, the First Lady's leading example for women has included tending to a vegetable garden and maintaining toned arms while her husband tackles more complex issues like national security and the economy.
In fact, this muted role for Mrs. Obama is part of the president's reelection strategy:
As the presidential campaign ramped up earlier this year, Michelle Obama presented poet Maya Angelou with an award and a hug at the BET Honors award show. Two days later, she danced on an episode of iCarly, a tweens sitcom.
In late January, the first lady began a tour of the late-night television circuit that culminated in mid-April with a visit to Stephen Colbert’s show to promote her work with military families. She has appeared on the talk show “Ellen” twice this year, doing push-ups and joking about her high school photo, and made a cameo on “The Biggest Loser.” She is on television almost as much as her husband.
But as ubiquitous as the first lady has become, she also has carved out a distinct role in President Obama’s reelection campaign and in the country: innocuous cheerleader, steering clear of the tough, hot-button issues and carrying no hint of political liability that occasionally worried the campaign in 2008.
It seems that the Obama campaign sees an opinionated and outspoken woman by the president's side as a liability. And they call Republicans "anti-women"?
Despite the national debate over policies affecting women, Mrs. Obama has been silent. Despite being a Harvard-educated attorney (like her husband) and a former hospital executive, Mrs. Obama has kept her distance from weighing in on the pending Supreme Court decision on her husband's health care overhaul. And although President Obama insists that he and his wife share "evolving" views on gay marriage, the First Lady has left it to her husband to discuss such details in public.
How "pro-woman" is an administration which muzzles the nation's leading lady on all things policy-related? Instead, the Obama campaign cares more about maintaining the First Lady's popularity than her opinion:
After a rocky start to the 2008 campaign, when she was cast by Obama critics as overly opinionated and strident, Obama campaign aides helped remake her into a beloved, noncontroversial first lady with almost no political liabilities. She has not been at the center of a controversy since August 2010, when she was widely criticized for taking a vacation to Spain with her daughter Sasha.
She is overwhelmingly popular — seven out of 10 Americans have favorable views of her — and the campaign is determined to maintain that popularity by keeping her away from the ugly polarization of modern politics.
The message is clear: In the Obama White House, a woman's role is to keep quiet, look pretty and smile for the cameras. Is this what being "pro-women" looks like? If so, I'll take an "anti-women" conservative like Sarah Palin any day of the week.