Michelle Obama: How Did She Do?

Beats me. She needed to say she loves America, to talk about our servicemen and to praise Hillary Clinton. She did those things. The style wasn’t smooth; she often seemed rushed and edgy, but I don’t think many people will hold that against her.

What mostly struck me was how over the top the finish was, with Barack appearing on video and talking to his very cute daughters. I doubt whether any Republican could get away with such a cloying scene, but everyone seems to accept that the Obamas need to convince voters that they are normal Americans. Did it work? No doubt by morning we’ll see polls that at least purport to give us the answer.

PAUL adds: Stuck as I am working in what she would call corporate America, I was unable to listen to Michelle Obama’s speech to the convention tonight. From the transcript, though, Ms. Obama seems to have undergone a partial make-over. Previously, she has said that, as an adult, she was never proud of America until the “blue” portion of it elevated her husband to the verge of the presidency. Substantively, she didn’t really abandon that position tonight. Her husband’s ascension (or “journey,” as she would have it) and “so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight” is still “why I love this country,” she said.

Expressed this way, it’s unlikely that many viewers picked up on Ms. Obama’s self-referential regard for America. But even when carefully scripted, she remains decidedly of the “ask what your country can do for you” persuasion.

Ms. Obama’s make-over was more extreme when it came to her account of her life. We saw her growing up on the South Side of Chicago with her family (including Princeton basketball legend “Super Craig” Robinson, now the basketball coach at Oregon State); we saw her fleeing corporate America to “serve her community;” and we saw her and Barack with their small children. We did not see her at the Ivy League institutions where she spent seven years of her life (four at Princeton and three at Harvard Law School). In tonight’s account, she was merely “able to go on to college.” Nor, of course, do we learn just how well Ms. Obama is doing financially by “doing good” in her community.

Plainly, Ms. Obama wishes to be viewed as an “ordinary” American. To the extent that her real biography is known, or emerges over the course of the campaign, some voters may conclude she was a bit phony tonight.

Ms. Obama also took liberties with her husband’s biography when she asserted that his grandparents “were working class folks just like my parents.” In the Robinson family, the father was the “rock,” working despite illness, while the mother stayed home with the children. By contrast, as Obama tells it in his autobiography, grandma was the main breadwinner in his family, traveling by bus every day to the bank where she worked. When grandma asked grandpa for a ride after being hassled by a vagrant at the bus stop, grandpa became upset, sensing racism on her part because the bum was black.

Yup, just ordinary working class Americans, those Obamas.

UPDATE: More here and here.

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