Monday, July 12, 2010

FIRST LADY

What is Michelle O. doing, other than what she is doing -- being a Mom, and wife of Barack Obama? Does she check on what he wears? Review the menu with the cook? What about the guests for lunch, dinner, cocktails, the state occasion, or a social evening? What occupies her, aside from family time, and various school things for Malia and Sasha?

Is all this handled by her collaborating with Valerie Jarret, who's an old, dear friend of hers as well as Barack's, and the senior adviser and assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs?

Michelle has addressed the nation, and promoted gardening -- in the picture she's in the White House vegetable garden, showing children how to do this and that. And now, she's speaking about "Lets Move," a program that's sponsored by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Great! Swell -- good work to be doing, but how is she doing? She looks a little heavier. Last year, I enjoyed the articles about her straightening her hair, and pictures of her chic new wardrobe. I can't remember seeing her in the same outfit twice, but ... gee -- I don't remember seeing much of her for a long time.

Hillary, during the early days of Clinton's presidency attended meetings with Bill. She had ideas. She came up with a Health Care Reform plan -- boom-crash it was negated -- even now it's only referred to in derogatory way.

There was a nasty investigation about the Clinton's "Whitewater" business, talk about celebrities sleeping in the White House's Lincoln bedroom; fun and games at Martha's Vineyard, Hillary and Chelsea shopping, and then -- it seemed like all of a sudden -- they were visiting colleges. (Whitehouse.gov reminded me -- Hillary was a staunch supporter of women's and children's causes, while writing her bestseller, "It takes a Village.") And then, boom -- there was "Monica," a young "intern" who made Hillary a victim, and a heroine.

We had JFK's Jackie -- hostess supreme -- how she behaved and dressed, and what she was renovating, while turning the White House into a museum of American history, in between trips abroad as her husband's ambassador -- Jackie was constantly in the news. Then, in a widow's veil ... Who can forget her deeply touching presence at JFK's funeral?

Lyndon and Lady Bird -- she was a wifely/motherly First Lady, involved with beautifying roads, and planning her daughters' social lives and weddings. (Her activities didn't interest me, but books about Lyndon praise her participation in the "Head Start" program in his war-on-poverty.)

I remember Nixon's daughters more than his wife, Patricia -- Tricia (now Mrs. Edward Cox), and Julie (now Mrs. David Eisenhower). (Whitehouse.gov reminded me that Pat went with Nixon to China, Russia, and Peru, after their earthquake). I remember the day Nixon resigned. I felt sorry for her. and yet I admired her when she said, "I love my husband. I believe in him, and I am proud of his accomplishments."

Gerald Ford's Betty -- breast cancer, her opinions on her daughter's smoking pot and sex life -- all that fascinated and inspired many women. (That Betty supported the Equal Rights Amendment isn't as well-known as the Betty Ford Center, where celebrities as well as ordinary people go to cure their addictions.)

During Jimmy Carter's four years, Rosalyn was a strong presence, focusing on refugees, mental health, and their daughter Amy. I didn't need to do any research -- I enjoyed reading her autobiography, "First Lady from Plains," and wonder what occupies her nowadays -- Rosalyn's doing something, that's for sure.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy -- she sparked the "say NO to drugs" campaign, arranged celebrity performances at the White House, and many renovations. Her designer clothing, her powerful belief in astrology was often in the news, (and bothered me), but I was touched by her grief, her devotion, during Reagan's final years with Alzheimer's.

Then came the Bush family, and Barbara, the friendly, forthright motherly wife who mostly bored me. The White House Website told me that literacy was her special cause; also AIDS, homeless people, and school volunteer programs.

Then we got George W. and First Lady Laura, who was articulate and knowledgeable, while G.W. was floundering around.

So why aren't we hearing about Michelle? I find myself wondering if it's deliberate. With death threats, (five serious threats since 2009), and T-shirts, bumper stickers encouraging assassination, will Obama run for a second term? His presence in the White House, has produced fury, a stalemated congress, a divided nation. "A house divided against itself cannot stand" keeps echoing in my mind.

I think the Obamas have talked it over, and decided "low profile" for Michelle, so that no matter what happens, at least one of them is around for their children.

I admire Michelle Obama. I think she's brilliant -- a wise, sensitive mother, and a deeply loving, supportive wife. And it would be confusing if she were more than the woman behind the man. Perhaps she's keeping a diary, gathering thoughts for a book someday.

I hope Michelle and Barack Obama will stay on in the White House till the end of 2016.

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