Friday, August 6, 2010

Notes on Politics: Michelle in Hot Water, 'Time's' Cover Girl and Kagan to Court

Michelle Obama in Hot Water

While President Obama was celebrating his birthday in Chicago, his wife and their 9-year-old daughter Sasha were traveling abroad in Spain. When the Obamas' Spain itinerary was released, there wasn’t much of an outcry.

Until the photo of our First Lady, looking glamorous and chic while walking through the streets of a southern Spanish town, started getting circulated, most prominently on the Drudge Report. Until reports about the hefty vacation price-tag and the details of the trip were revealed: They were staying at a ritzy, five-star hotel -- where the rooms go for “up to . . . $2,500” -- with 40 of Michelle Obama’s friends on a get-away vacation, to which the Obamas took Air Force Two and brought along 70 Secret Service agents, costing taxpayers major bucks, reported the New York Daily News.

Given the dire economic climate in the United States – including a new report out today saying that the jobless rate is just under double-digits nationwide – this is bad timing. And Michelle Obama’s taking a whole lot of crap for it. The Daily News’ Andrea Tantaros likened the First Lady to a “modern-day Marie Antoinette on a glitzy Spanish vacation” while the peasants beg for an extension of unemployment benefits because they can’t find jobs because no one’s hiring.

Tantaros wrote:

“I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime – the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders. Toning down the flash would humanize the Obamas and signify that they sympathize with the setbacks of the people they were elected to serve.”

All of this hullabaloo reminds me of the kind of flack directed at Nancy Reagan back in the day with her pricey china. Nancy certainly got rhetorically smacked around quite a bit for appearing clueless about the obvious contrast between struggling Americans weathering the early 1980s recession and her regal “Reagan red” designer duds and high-end taste.

Time’s Cover Girl

Time Magazine did something daring. It placed an 18-year-old Afghan woman on the cover this week. What’s so button-pushing about the photo is that the woman has no nose. (She also has no ears but that fact is covered by her hair and a veil.) Why no nose? Because her husband – from whose family she had fled because they severely beat her and treated her like a slave – cut it off. He also removed her ears and left her to bleed to death.

Next to the jarring image on Time’s cover are the words, “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan.” “. . . Afghan women fear that in the quest for a quick peace, their progress may be sidelined,” wrote Aryn Baker. Baker quoted an Afghan parliamentarian as saying, “Women’s rights must not be the sacrifice by which peace is achieved.”

The juxtaposition of the photo alongside the headline -- the if-the-United States-leaves-we'll-subject-other-girls-to-this-fate sentiment -- hasn’t set well with some folks who say that the United States didn’t embark on a war in Afghanistan to “nation build,” but now, somehow, building and fashioning this nation into something more democratic and western has become the U.S. military’s charge. The cover, with its accompanying headline, has been lambasted as manipulative pro-war advocacy. Either way, I can’t get that photo out of my head. It’s damned haunting.

Kagan to Court

After she’s sworn in as the 100th associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Roberts this weekend, Elena Kagan will join two other female justices on the Supreme Court, giving this court more estrogen than it’s ever had.

“Will three finally be the magic number that effects real change for women in terms of pay parity, access to education and sexual harassment in the U.S.?” asked Meghan Casserly in

She continued:

“A study from Catalyst in 2007 suggests it will. In their study of the U.S.’s 500 largest companies, Catalyst found that the point where women effect change on corporate boards is three. Three women on the board proved to be the point where return on equity, return on sales and return on investment capital saw the biggest improvement. The bottom line: stronger than average performance results when at least three women serve.”

I’m just hopeful that there will soon be a day when a woman being nominated to the Supreme Court -- or to a corporate board for that matter -- won’t be something historic. It’ll just be a run-of-the-mill PR announcement.

Image credits: Torres/AP via the New York Daily News and Jodi Bieber/Time Magazine.


Cooley Horner said...

I’m just hopeful that there will soon be a day when a woman being nominated to the Supreme Court -- or to a corporate board for that matter -- won’t be something historic. It’ll just be a run-of-the-mill PR announcement.

I had a similar thought yesterday! Still, it's awesome news that she got added. I think it'll be interesting to see what she does after taking office.

The TIME magazine is certainly jarring. They were interviewing her on the news last night, and I watched while I was on the treadmill. I felt like a bad person, though, because I honestly had to turn away when they showed the girl speaking. She was so lovely, but it's really uncomfortable to come to terms with what's been done to her face. I felt very small when I caught myself looking away and tried to focus on the screen for the rest of the segment. Still, I agree that the TIME cover is rather manipulative; the US has gotten into loads of trouble in the last few years by trying to police/parent the world, and we can't be responsible for every nation's ethical problems. At the same time, however, there are real ethical implications for us if we become involved in a country and then turn away from the injustices being wrought. It's a real lose-lose situation, in my opinion.

john bord said...

Bush was blasted for nation building, now it appears he was on the right track with the Time story.

We have elevated the presidency to the level of royality. It's no wonder so many sleeze balls want to go to DC. Political patronage is a growing disease, both side of the fence.

WorkingMom said...

I agree that folks deserve a vacation, but ALL of Washington, that is, both sides of the aisle, seem so out of touch with what everyday Americans are going through to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table (um, something here about John Kerry and docking a yacht in Rhode Island comes to mind). They need to be reminded that they work for US, not the other way around. As for Mrs. Obama, I cannot even go there. Modern day Marie Antoinette is a very appropriate description, considering his annual salary is $400,000, and their NYC date night alone ran taxpayers $73,000. Would love to see a cancelled check reimbursing us for that one. Does anyone else's employer pay for their vacations????

As for the Supreme Court, if I felt as though Ms. Kagan truly had the necessary experience, I'd believe change may be on the way. Again, though, politics seems to get in the way of almost anything coming out of Washington that will benefit the middle-class American.

Belle said...

No matter what vacation or out of town date the Obamas go on it will cost a lot of money. They have to be protected from terrorists and lunatics. What should they do, stay home all the time?
As for using Air Force One, I believe that is also for security reasons. The expensive hotel? I'll bet they paid for that themselves.

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