Michelle Obama is a woman of her word. In July, she made a drive-by through the Gulf coast region and urged people to "do a few things [to] help this community." Emphasis on the word “few.” She even recorded an ad inviting Americans to “come on down” to the Gulf as she herself then headed back to Washington to collect her family to head to a holiday in a national park in Maine. At least Maine is in America.
With her recent holiday junket to Spain, she has now officially spit in the eye of Gulf coast residents. Rather than vacation in the spill-ravaged region, her family headed overseas. Does Spain's economy need stimulating? Perhaps so.
On vacation now, the Obamas will execute another 24 hours on the ground drive-by in the Gulf coast before heading to Martha's Vineyard for 10 days. What gives? Why encourage Americans to stand by Gulf coast residents in solidarity and with vacation spending while you fail to do so yourself? In a word, hypocrisy. Like the chain-smoking parent telling the child, “Do as I say not as I do.” This lack of integrity may pass for average parenting, but it makes for extraordinarily poor leadership as a national icon.
In fact, Michelle Obama's vacation to Spain raises all kinds of questions about judgment and leadership. I begrudge no one a vacation. The Obamas live under a microscope, and the office demands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Feel free to vacation as often as you like. The requirements of the office will follow you. But use a little prudence in deciding how and when to vacation. Thus far, prudence is lacking in this White House couple, and hypocrisy abounds.
Second, as mentioned above, the stunning lack of Obama vacation time and money invested in the Gulf coast region leads to the obvious conclusion that the Obamas see themselves as different from the Americans they were elected to lead. “We'd like YOU to vacation in the Gulf and help these poor people. Meanwhile, WE will be in Spain. Please write us. We'd love to hear how it is going down there.”
Spending money (personal or public) on Mediterranean villas is beyond frivolous in an economy you yourself have described as the “worst since the Great Depression.” Mediterranean villas look frivolous to the 10% of Americans who are out of work. That's because villas are frivolous, and they lead naturally to the comparison already drawn by media outlets: you are behaving like Marie Antoinette. “Let them eat cake,” although we know Michelle would never say that, given her strident efforts to rid the world of desserts and fatty foods.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, President Obama instructed the American people in January that we would all need to “sacrifice” and “give a little” as we make our way out of this recession. Fair enough, but where is the Obama sacrifice and giving? On the Mediterranean? Their record of personal charitable giving, as documented on their tax returns over the last decade, is the lowest of any presidential family in the last thirty years. Take away the Nobel Prize money, and their giving is embarrassingly small. In other words, the Obamas verbally champion their concern for the poor but choose not to give much of their own money to advance that cause. “While we vacation in Spain and at the Vineyard, please ask the peasants to populate the Gulf coast and to sacrifice a bit. Oh yes, and be sure someone takes care of the poor. See you in September.” Hypocrisy.