Mind you Powers is a lib.
__________ Updated: Mon., Aug. 9, 2010, 8:19 AM
A foolish trip
By KIRSTEN POWERS
Last Updated: 8:19 AM, August 9, 2010
Posted: 1:53 AM, August 9, 2010
The first lady's well-publicized, expensive vacation in southern Spain last week was a PR gift to her husband's opposition.
After all, we're in the middle of a major recession, with many Americans suffering terribly. President Obama himself, in discussing American economic woes with George Stephanopolous in January, said, "Everybody's going to have to [sacrifice]. Everybody's going to have to have some skin in the game."
"Sacrifice for thee but not for me" is not a great campaign slogan.
Plus, Obama's worst political weakness has been with white-working class voters, who've viewed him with suspicion at least since the 2008 primaries. Mrs. Obama's jaunt through an expensive resort town in a one-shouldered Jean Paul Gaultier top won't help on that front.
It also plays into a favorite right-wing attack: branding Democrats as elitists who can't relate to average Americans' struggles.
In 2004, Citizens United ran a 30-second ad that called the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, "another rich liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he's a man of the people." And no one will forget the famous wind-surfing ad.
In 2008, Obama himself fed it with his comment about voters' "clinging to guns and religion." Media elements used "Joe the Plumber" to "prove" that the candidate hated the middle class. Meanwhile, John McCain -- whose father and grandfather were Navy admirals -- managed to avoid this tarnish despite being married to an heiress worth more than $100 million.
George W. Bush, the Ivy-educated scion of a wealthy political family, managed to come off as just plain folks -- despite once joking to rich supporters, "Here we have the haves and the have mores. Some call you the elite; I call you my base." Man of the people, indeed.
Yet the facts don't matter much. Earlier this year, Sean Hannity branded Obama as an elitist for putting Dijon mustard "a very special condiment" on his burger. (The monitors at Media Matters dubbed it "Dijon Derangement Syndrome.")
The Drudge Report recently linked to a story about Michelle Obama's commissioning a London designer to make her a coat.
Clearly, no issue is too trivial to support the "Obama doesn't care about you" meme. But if the right will try to use mustard as a political weapon, it's foolish to hand them a lavish foreign vacation, too.
Yes, the initial reports of Michelle Obama's traveling with a 40-person posse were wrong; it's actually two friends and four of their daughters, a couple of aides and advance staff members. But at this point, it hardly matters; the damage has been done.
Better to take a pointer from Laura Bush -- who, as first lady, continued her 15-year tradition of vacationing for a week with four girlfriends at Washington State's Olympic National Park, where they stayed in the Lake Crescent Lodge and went hiking.
Some argue that Michelle should be able to travel wherever she wants if she's paying for it herself. This is naive. She is the first lady at a time when Americans are experiencing great economic pain. There are endless great locations here at home that she could put on the map with a visit -- American hotels and restaurants that would be grateful for the business generated by such a high-profile visitor.
If it's a huge sacrifice for her, so be it. Sacrifice is actually a noble trait, last I checked.
Plus, if she keeps this up, she will be able to vacation anywhere she wants in about two firstname.lastname@example.org