Rarely in public life has there been a more successful image overhaul than that given Michelle Obama.
The team that handled her in the White House, Communications Director Camille Johnston, who is leaving, and Press Secretary Katie McCormick Lelyveld, have taken a woman who was viewed during the campaign as somewhat angry and aloof and turned her image into that of a warm and compassionate first lady.
Remember this? Seems a long time ago.
The trip to Marbella, Spain was such a bad idea for so many reasons that I can only think her public relations counselors, who have done so well so far, either were afraid to speak up or opposed the idea and were overruled.
America is suffering grievous economic pain. The country is at war. The thousands spent to coddle the first lady on this trip should have at least been spent at home. The photos of her traipsing through splendid Spanish alleyways are so unbelievably incongruous with the reality of life at home that it is hard to imagine that she has any sense of the problems here, or that she cares.
Her image will be dutifully revised in the minds of Americans.
It might seem ironic that Michelle and Barack, people who present themselves as having emerged from the ranks of common folk to lead us, would suddenly seem so distant.
But it’s not.
Barack and Michelle have always been among the artistocracy, he in the Ivory Tower, she within Chicago’s African American elite.
What’s different now is that they have money, and they can’t wait to spend it and finally live in a style equivalent to their longstanding social status. And they’re overdoing, which is normal for people who have just come into money. It’s an old story for which the term Nouveau Riche was invented.
The problem is they’re supposed to be setting an example. They are the ones who chose to lead the country, and leaders can’t simply behave any way they please. But the Obamas want it all, right now.