Sunday, February 8, 2009

Something (else) Michelle Obama and HRC have in common?

A story by Rachel Swarns in today's NYT reports that Michele Obama is raising eyebrows in Washington by weighing in on some policy issues. The headline is "'Mom in Chief' Touches on Policy, and Tongues Wag." Swarns characterizes Mrs. Obama's plan to visit all cabinet-level agencies as "a notably different approach" than Laura Bush's, who tended not to discuss legislation and policy, like most First ladies before her. Yet, Swarns reports:
Some observers praised Mrs. Obama’s foray into the legislative debate, saying the new first lady, who is a Harvard-educated lawyer and a former hospital executive, was eminently qualified to promote the president’s policies.

Others expressed surprise, saying they had expected Mrs. Obama to focus on her daughters and on the traditional issues she had emphasized in the presidential campaign, like supporting military families and working parents.
Swarns quotes a scholar who studies first ladies, Myra Gutin:
"She went to some lengths to say she was going to be first mom in chief . . . . I don’t think we ever really imagined her edging toward public policy like this. It’s not like she’s making public policy. But it’s a little less neutral than some of the other things she’s talked about focusing on.”
Swarns suggests that Mrs. Obama's recent forays into policy still don't rise to the level of the role Hillary Clinton played in her husband's administration, and she may be right. But tongues certainly wagged about Mrs. Clinton's role as something other than White House hostess. (See these 1994 columns here, here and here by Anna Quindlen about HRC).

Perhaps Mrs. Obama will evolve into a more HRC-esque role, which wouldn't bother me. After all, we are occasionally (often?) reminded by the media that Mrs. Obama is a Harvard-educated lawyer coming off a high-powered career as a hospital executive. We would not want her intellect and experience to go to waste, would we? And what's so controversial about her supporting her husband's policy positions -- maybe even having some independent positions of her own--and making those heard? Why shouldn't she add her influence to debates about issues of the day?

1 comment:

Musiclover14 said...

More power to Michelle Obama. I don't think I can say that enough. Though she did tell us she would mainly be the "mom-in-chief," which is obviously important, I'm very glad she's delving into other areas of work as First Lady. I agree, with an education from Harvard and all of her impressive past experience, it would be a shame if she didn't contribute politically in the White House. I'm sure that she will continue to be a caring and supportive mother, but I also know that we will see change coming from Michelle Obama.