Michelle Obama’s Spain Trip Worth the Cost

I am a political professional, in the sense that I have been paid to work on campaigns for mayor, state legislature and statewide office.  Right now I’m in state government in an appointed position.

In my experience, one of the hardest things for most politicians to do is to understand how their words and actions look to the average Jane, who doesn’t live in the bubble that envelopes even high state-level officials, much less Presidents and members of congress.  Despite the fact that most upper-level politicians are pretty intelligent, at least in the sense of having an IQ of over 100, they seem to be remarkably prone to “Do you know who I am,” “Senior discount drama,” personal intervention in aide’s domestic violence incidents, etc.

A few, like Ronald Reagan, totally “get it” and enjoy enduring popularity across a wide segment of the electorate, even those who disagree with some of their policies.   Reagan knew in his marrow that we don’t have titles of nobility in this country, and the public never saw him acting as if he was their “better.”

Our current President is a curious case.  I watched his 2004 Democratic convention speech live, and was struck by his saying all the right things about red states, blue states, and so on, with a note of conviction.  I thought there was at least a possibility that he actually believed it.  The course of his campaign and his Presidency have shown anyone with eyes to see that he does not.

Michelle’s Excellent Spanish Adventure may not have been quite the Marie Antoinette moment that it seemed to many, but even a low-level operative like me would have seen in two seconds that the timing was lousy and the perceptions would be the worst.  The First Lady is a political figure whether she likes it or not, and she did it anyway, because she could.  You may recall that’s the reason Bill Clinton gave for diddling the intern.  I don’t know whether Barack Obama asked his wife not to go and she went anyway, or was afraid to ask, or figured it would all be just ginger-peachy, but in any of these three cases it is for some folks a final nail in the coffin of a one-term presidency, because they will not vote for Obama again, in which case we might consider well worth the cost to the taxpayers.


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