Michelle Obama is one accomplished woman. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, she’s worked for a top-notch law firm and for the city of Chicago. Now she’s a high-powered hospital executive, a firebrand on the stump, and a fixture of various magazines’ “Most Influential” lists—in short, she’s someone to be reckoned with. Why, then, does she need special protection from her critics? Ever since Michelle declared, “For the first time in my adult lifetime I’m really proud of my country,” conservatives have been questioning her patriotism. This week her husband, Barack, announced that they were way out of line. “These folks should lay off my wife,” he said. “If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful—because that I find unacceptable.”
I’m afraid that Obama is in for a rude awakening. For better or worse, political wives have always been fair game. Back in the 19th century, Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel, was pilloried mercilessly, possibly even driven to an early grave, for marrying Old Hickory before her divorce was final. In more recent times, Eleanor Roosevelt was caricatured as a busybody, Nancy Reagan as a profligate spender, Hillary Clinton as a ruthless shadow president, and Teresa Heinz Kerry as a loose cannon. And Michelle Obama isn’t being singled out this campaign season; Cindy McCain is also coming under fire, for refusing to release her tax returns. So relax, Barack; your wife is in good company. Besides, if she doesn’t get used to taking her lumps now, how will she ever survive in the White House?
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
Subscribe to the Week