The Obamas' America

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Mar 05, 2008 1:11 AM

This piece in the New Yorker reports that Michelle Obama's stump speech contains some amazingly harsh rhetoric about America:

Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents.

"Downright mean"?  What country is she living in?  Meantime, in his "victory" remarks tonight, Barack had this to say:

And if that child should ever get the chance to travel the world and someone should ask her where is she from, we believe that she should always be able to hold her head high with pride in her voice when she answers, "I am an American."

That is the course we seek. That is the change we are calling for.

Were his comments inartfully phrased, or did he really mean to imply that it would require a "change" (presumably, his election to the presidency) for a child to be proud to be an American again?

With Hillary's victories tonight in Ohio and Texas -- and with late deciders breaking Hillary's way by a substantial margin -- there's no doubt both that the campaign will continue, and that Clinton will step up her recent attacks on Obama.  Everyone is aware of the risk this poses for Hillary, who hasn't got any "likability" to spare, and is likely to have even less once she finishes roughing up Obama.

But there are risks for Barack, too.   Certainly, criticism brings out a less attractive side of Obama -- an air of "how dare you" indignation that verges on arrogance -- that's not likely to wear well.  But an even greater threat is the fact that, as the campaign drags on, there will be more opportunities for voters to decide that he and his wife share a profoundly negative perspective on America that ill-becomes a presidential couple, and which differs radically from the views of the average citizen.