The popularity of First Lady Michelle Obama has declined from 64% in April of 2009 to just 50% last week, according to the NBC News survey. While her husband was unpopular, former First Lady Laura Bush left the White House with a 76% approval rating. Michelle Obama’s recent vacation in Spain was a target of criticism for those who responded to the survey.The First Lady used her own money to pay for a $2,500/night hotel room, but her air fare cost the government $375,000. Every First Lady is subjected to intense scrutiny.
Mrs. Obama’s Appearance
Mrs. Obama’s appearance has become a target of critics. It is part of the political landscape, but publicly ridiculing someone’s appearance is childish. When conservatives attack people based on looks we lose the argument, and we are no better than liberals who do the same to conservative women. It is absolutely fair to criticize her choices in dress and general bearing when she appears in public, because as First Lady she has an obligation to conduct herself in a dignified manner. I object strongly to criticizing her basic physical appearance, for several reasons:
1. Appearance is, within some limits, genetically determined, and criticizing someone’s natural appearance is at best petty. It is not Mrs Obama’s fault if she is six feet tall or has broad shoulders or a particular hip structure. She has done well with the genetic material God saw fit to give her, and has tried to work out, to have her hair and makeup professionally done, and to obtain some discreet cosmetic plastic surgery. As a result she is more attractive than most people, and few of those who criticize her looks could stand similar scrutiny. I wonder how many of those who laugh at her broad backside wear a size 2 themselves? How many would look beautiful al the time with cameras constantly recording every shift in facial expression, every less-than-graceful gesture? Not many, surely. This criticism merely makes conservatives look vicious if not racist, and diminish the validity of our arguments.
2. Compared to other first ladies like Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, or Eleanor Roosevelt she is a raving beauty. Compared to Rosalyn Carter, Pat Nixon, or Nancy Reagan she’s okay. Compared to Jackie Kennedy–well, no one should fairly be compared to Jackie.
3. There’s a certain hypocrisy going on here. I suspect that if Michelle Obama were the wife of the first black conservative president we would excuse her fashion sins as well as her awkward build and dreadful posture. We should concentrate on criticizing policy and behavior. Leave the woman’s bra size, posture, hip measurement, hair quality, skin color, height, weight, and face out of it. To do otherwise is to demean ourselves and our own natural generosity of intention.
Many negative comments were made about Nancy Reagan’s expensive wardrobe, the frequent changes in Hillary Clinton’s hair style, and Rosalynn Carter’s participation in Cabinet meetings. Former First Lady Barbara Bush often spoke of being overweight, and now Mrs. Obama’s is being subjected to the same criticism.
Libertarian Judy Hobrecht of Tarrant County, Texas calls the First Lady, “A wide load frump.”
Mike Hosch of Chalmette, Louisiana says “She needs a wide load sign on her sorry ass.”
Jeffrey McLean of Venture, California says “Why should any tax dollars be spent on her obesity campaign? If people are too stupid to eat correctly and exercise then let them die. We could use a lot less stupid people.”
McLean was referring to the First Lady’s role as Chairman of the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and its goal is to reduce this problem from 20% to just 5% of children by 2030. One of her first projects is examining the school lunch program. The First Lady is 5′ 11” and a 176 pound size 12, while the average American woman is 5’4″ and 142 pounds which is considered overweight.
In fact, two thirds of Americans are overweight, and half of them are morbidly obese. One of the largest studies to examine the dangers of abdominal fat suggests men and women with larger waistlines have twice the risk of dying over a decade compared to those with the smaller stomachs. It is not wise to ridicule someone’s weight or appearance because you disagree with them politically.
Last year then Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) tried that in his re-election campaign. Corzine, 62, was a long distance runner who participated in competitive races. His TV ad showed his challenger, then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, exiting a car in slow motion while the narrator said the Republican “threw his weight around” to get government favors.
Christie accurately describes himself as overweight and spoke to radio host Don Imus about the tactics of the Corzine campaign: “If you’re going to do it, at least man up and say I’m fat. Afterwards Gov. Corzine wusses out and says, ‘Oh no, no, I didn’t mean that, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Man up — if you say I’m fat, let’s go, let’s talk about it. . . He can call me fat, and I am fat.”
A Monmouth University poll found “fat” was the most frequent word that came to people’s minds when they thought of Christie. However, nearly 25% of New Jersey voters are overweight, and Christie’s weight had little impact on the election results. Only three of the nation’s fifty Governors are obese, or 20 pounds overweight, Haley Barbour (R-MS), Bill Richardson (D-NM), and Sonny Perdue (R-GA). President Obama won the Garden State by 15% in 2008, but in 2009, Christie defeated Corzine by 5%.
The First Lady is correct in noting that many Americans are exercising less and eating unhealthy foods. Her comments are supported by the Gallup Index which shows 63.1% of U.S. adults in 2009 were either overweight or obese. The poll was based on telephone interviews with 673,000 adults.
Beth Ann Sigworth of Pittsburgh spoke for many in saying: “I have fought the battle of the bulge my whole life, and I was not blessed with thin genes. My back side is probably bigger than Michelle Obama’s. She just doesn’t wear the right clothes for her figure. Not all of us are a size 4, but I sure wish I was. I can not stand the Obama administration’s leftist agenda, but it’s extremely mean to make fun of a person’s size. We really have more serious issues facing us than the size of Michelle’s bottom.”