- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Comments uttered by Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, in Wisconsin on Monday have led some conservative bloggers and pundits to question her patriotism. The Obama campaign said her remarks were misinterpreted.

During a rally in the Milwaukee, Mrs. Obama said that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am proud of my country, because it feels like home is finally making a comeback.”

Later in the day, during a rally in Madison, Mrs. Obama altered the phrase’s meaning by adding the word “really” — “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama said any assumption that Mrs. Obama hasn’t always been proud to be an American is false.

“In the context of her remarks, her point is clear — of course Michelle is proud of her country,” Katie McCormick Lelyveld told reporter Sean Lengell of The Washington Times.

“What she meant is that she’s really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who’ve never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grass-roots movement for change.”

Political strategists and pollsters contacted yesterday said the incident will have little or no negative impact on the Obama campaign.

David Winston, a Republican strategist and pollster, said because Mrs. Obama had made no controversial statements previously, voters will pay little attention to her comment.

“Once is an incident; twice is a pattern,” Mr. Winston said.

Bud Jackson, a Democratic media consultant, said only political foes of Mr. Obama will infer that his wife is not a proud American.

“They are going to agree with the spirit of what she is saying that they are especially proud that the country appears more engaged than ever and ready for a change,” Mr. Winston said.

‘Very revealing’

Michelle Obama [on Monday] said that ‘for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction,’ ” John Podhoretz notes in a blog at www. commentarymagazine.com.

“Really proud of her country for the first time? Michelle Obama is 44 years old. She has been an adult since 1982. Can it really be there has not been a moment during that time when she felt proud of her country?” Mr. Podhoretz asked.

“Forget matters like the victory in the Cold War; how about only things that have made liberals proud — all the accomplishments of inclusion? How about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991? Or Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s elevation to the Supreme Court? Or Carol Moseley Braun’s election to the Senate in 1998? How about the merely humanitarian, like this country’s startling generosity to the victims of the tsunami? I’m sure commenters can think of hundreds more landmarks of this sort. Didn’t she even get a twinge from, say, the Olympics?

“Mrs. Obama was speaking at a campaign rally, so it is easy to assume she was merely indulging in hyperbole. Even so, it is very revealing.

“It suggests, first, that the pseudo-messianic nature of the Obama candidacy is very much a part of the way the Obamas themselves are feeling about it these days. If they don’t get a hold of themselves, the family vanity is going to swell up to the size of Phileas Fogg’s hot-air balloon and send the two of them soaring to heights of self-congratulatory solipsism that we’ve never seen before.

“Second, it suggests the Obama campaign really does have its roots in New Class leftism, according to which patriotism is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the first refuge as well — that America is not fundamentally good but flawed, but rather fundamentally flawed and only occasionally good. There’s something for John McCain to work with here.”

Weak spot

“The area where Obama is vulnerable is his record, as brief as it is, and his stated positions,” Peter Wehner writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“Sen. Obama is a completely orthodox liberal — the most liberal person in the Senate in 2007, according to National Journal — in a nation that is not. Why hasn’t this fact hurt Obama so far? Because his two main opponents in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, haven’t advertised Obama’s liberalism. They are essentially as liberal as Obama is, so that political arrow has been removed from their quiver. …

“Making the case against Obama’s liberalism will bring howls of protest from reporters and columnists who once held McCain up as a courageous ‘maverick’ and who took particular delight when he antagonized conservatives. John McCain’s days as the mainstream media’s favorite Republican are about to end. One can already anticipate the avalanche of columns denouncing McCain as a flip-flopping, unprincipled panderer,” said Mr. Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President Bush and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

“The mainstream media will insist that using the liberal label is so 1980s. Such name-calling, we will be told, is anachronistic, ‘old and tired,’ simple-minded, and a sign of desperation. It may have worked against Michael Dukakis in 1988, they will argue, but we are a better and wiser nation now.

“McCain should reject such counsel.”

Gore to the rescue

Eleanor Clift, writing in a Newsweek blog, champions the idea of Al Gore becoming the Democratic nominee at a deadlocked convention, the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker reports at www.mrc.org.

“A scenario that a few weeks ago seemed preposterous is beginning to look plausible to some nervous Democrats looking for a way out of the deadlock between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” Mrs. Clift writes.

“What if the super delegates decide not to decide, denying either candidate the requisite number of delegates to secure the party’s nomination. Democrats want to win. The new rallying cry: Gore on the second ballot.”

She added: “A Gore-Obama ticket would be unstoppable, the thinking goes, matching the presumptive Republican nominee, McCain, on national security and experience, while embodying a powerful message of change.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@ washington times.com.

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