Michelle Obama’s gospel of bitterness


This past Friday Michelle Obama gave essentially the same stump speech in Charlotte, North Carolina that she had given the week earlier in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Based on the stump speech, Yuval Levin calls Mrs. Obama “The unhappiest millionaire.” Levin’s NRO column carries a link to the C-SPAN video of Mrs. Obama’s North Carolina speech. It is well worth watching.

Levin characterizes the pervasive themes of Mrs. Obama’s stump speech as the “gospel of bitterness.” Levin finds Barack Obama to be preaching a similar gospel, albeit one that benefits from “a peppier and more upbeat stump speech[.]” Senator Obama’s enormous political skills make it much more difficult to discern the somewhat repulsive views and attitudes that are nakedly on display in Mrs. Obama’s stump speech.

Michelle Obama seethes with bitterness. While she preaches the gospel according to Barack, she wears resentment and bitterness on her sleeve. It is therefore painful to listen to her. She’s apparently even still angry about her SAT scores. She didn’t test well in school, she explains. Somehow, she has overcome.

Mrs. Obama seeks to convey convey the impression — she expands on the theme at great length — that Senator Obama’s campaign is, to borrow Joe McCarthy’s formulation, the victim of “a conspiracy so immense…” It is not clear whether the Obama campaign can overcome the power of these sinister forces.

According to Mrs. Obama, the Obama campaign has been constrained by nameless forces constantly changing the rules of the game and thereby preventing Senator Obama from securing the nomination. Who are “they”? Mrs. Obama says just enough about these nameless forces for us to infer that “they” include the Clintons and their supporters. “They” seem also (incredibly) to include the mainstream media. These nameless forces have approximately the same specificity as the names on Joe McCarthy’s list.

In her North Carolina speech Mrs. Obama reiterates the condescending political sociology that she elaborated in her Fort Wayne remarks and that Barack Obama preached at his closed-door fundraiser with the San Francisco Democrats. Given the modesty of her and her husband’s family backgrounds, Mrs. Obama denies that she or her husband could be elitists.

Yet Mrs. Obama’s political sociology comfortably fits the What’s the Matter With Kansas? school of thought held by the Demoratic Party’s liberal elite. Indeed, it was an elite group of wealthy San Francisco Democrats to whom Barack Obama was preaching the gospel of bitterness in San Francisco.

Mrs. Obama mocks the notion that she and her husband are elitists. She implicitly asserts that only those born to wealth are capable of looking down their noses at their fellow citizens. She does not think highly of those of us who want to be left alone by advocates of the administrative welfare state such as she and her husband. Moreover, she finds us guilty of making our children the victims of our fears. We are raising “young doubters.” (I confess!)

But aren’t those in her audience afraid of the sinister forces struggling to hold the Obamas down? Apparently not any more than she is. If her remarks were to be believed, they would by themselves instill deep fears. Her audience seems to understand that her impassioned whining is not to be taken seriously.

She says that she and Barack were born to parents of modest means, not with “silver spoons” in their mouths. Nobody knows the trouble they’ve seen. The burden of paying for her undergraduate education at Princeton and her law school education at Harvard has scarred her. It remains a motif of her stump speech. No one is accorded a chance to ask her if she thought about attending the University of Illinois, or if she’s grateful for any of the financial assistance that facilitated her and her husband’s attendance at the finest institutions of higher learning in the United States.

It appears that no one in the Obama campaign has the nerve to speak frankly with Mrs. Obama about how her stump speech might be improved. She could benefit from constructive criticism, because she is woefully deficient in the ability to see herself as others see her. She has just enough self-awareness to omit her admonition to the Los Angeles disciples of Barack:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

As I said last week about Mrs. Obama’s Fort Wayne remarks: As long as Senator Obama won’t require us to listen to the missus, I might be willing to settle for the compulsory mental readjustments.

PAUL adds: So Michelle Obama didn’t do very well on her SATs but was admitted to Princeton? No wonder she’s sore.

One of the problems with lowering the bar pursuant to “affirmative action” is that placing the bar back where it was requires raising it.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin have more. At NRO Byron York also devotes a column to the speech.

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