Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Who will be the Next First Lady?

Michelle Obama, First Lady Wannabe
By Carey Roberts
June 27, 2008
Does Michelle Obama remind you more of Teresa Heinz Kerry or former First Lady Hillary Clinton? Read on and decide for yourself.
As we recall, First Lady wannabe Teresa had a habit of shooting first and aiming second. Remember when she wondered out loud whether Laura Bush “ever had a real job”? And the time she cut off a reporter’s questions with the rebuke, “Now shove it.”?
Likewise, Mrs. O has a penchant for freely speaking her mind on almost any topic.
Speaking to CBS reporter Steve Kroft, Michelle commented, “As a Black man, Barack can be shot just going to a gas station.” (Note to would-be gunslingers: Next time you see a white woman at the gas station, try to hold your fire.)
A few months later, she appeared on Good Morning America and recounted one of her husband’s most notable qualifications. “I’ve got a loud mouth,” she freely admitted, but Barack “is very able to deal with a strong woman, which is one of the reasons why he can be president, because he can deal with me.”
Then on to an interview with MSNBC’s Janet Shamlian to discuss her role as a mother and political wife. But things got a little testy and Mrs. Obama decided to set the record straight: “The campaign is gonna have to adjust to a mommy being involved in it. Fortunately I know the boss.”
Appearing on the Larry King show this past February, King asked whether Barack has ever changed his mind? “Absolutely. Hey, I change it every day,” came her frosty response.
She then traveled to southern Ohio to scour up votes for the upcoming primary election. Paying a visit to the Zanesville Day Nursery, she found herself talking to a group of hardscrabble moms with runs in their stockings. Michelle decided to empathize with them by sharing the tidbit that her family is “spending about $10,000 a year on piano and dance and sports supplements.”
Michelle then lectured the puzzled women to never sell their soul to the capitalist devil: “Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse.”
(Advice to Michelle: Next time you want bang on the community service drum, you may want to pay a visit to your husband’s website, which claims he is fighting for pay equity for women. If you’re going to tell women to shun the corporate rat-race, fine, but don’t whine because women earn less than men.)
And then in May Michelle reacted to a question about Bill Clinton’s use of the word “fairytale” to describe her husband’s position on the Iraq war. After a slight pause, she blurted, “I want to rip his eyes out!”
Hey there, that’s one scary woman!
But other times Michelle takes after Hillary.
No, Mrs. O doesn’t cotton to the word “feminist” like Hillary does. But she did tell the Washington Post, “if you laid out a feminist agenda, I would probably agree with a large portion of it.”
Michelle Obama is a privileged graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School who earned a cushy $317,000 salary at the University of Chicago. But that doesn’t stop her from talking the woman-as-perpetual-victim line.
In May 2007 Michelle traveled to South Carolina and bemoaned the fact that, “We have spent the last decade talking a good game about family values, but I haven’t seen much evidence that we value women or family values.”
Not valuing women? PULLEEEEASE.
Stung by media caricatures as “America’s Unhappiest Millionaire,” Mrs. Obama staged a counter-offensive, appearing on The View last week. But if that was designed to soften her image, Mrs. O has got to find a new publicity manager.
That’s because she kept lapsing into her sexism-behind-every-bush victimspeak.
“It’s only when women like her take the hits and it’s painful, it’s hurtful, but she’s taking them so that my girls, when they come along, won’t have to feel it as badly,” Mrs. Obama said of Hillary Clinton’s recent campaign.
And then she deplored the fact that “People aren’t used to strong women.” It should be noted for the record that Mrs. Obama’s closest bosom-buddies refer to her as The Taskmaster. Others would say she has a monumental chip on her shoulder.
Oh, and then the thing about Barack not taking out the garbage. One only wonders when was the last time Michelle cleaned out the gutters and changed the oil on the car.
So cast your vote: Is Michelle Obama an amusing but essentially harmless reincarnation of Teresa Kerry? Or does she herald the third term of a Hillary Rodham Clinton co-presidency?
© 2008 Carey Roberts - All Rights Reserve
Cindy McCain: Myth vs. RealityThe wife of presidential hopeful Senator John McCain speaks to Bazaar about adoption, addiction, and the American dreamBy Nancy Collins
Cindy McCain is her husband's secret weapon — which John McCain might have sensed when he first laid eyes on the pretty blonde teacher 28 years ago at a cocktail party in Hawaii.
"I was standing at the hors d'oeuvre table, young, shy, not knowing anybody," recalls Cindy, then 24 and vacationing with her parents, "when suddenly this awfully nice-looking Navy captain in dress whites was kind of chasing me around the table. I thought, What's going on here?"
Only love at first sight — "instant chemistry," she confirms. "I loved his intelligence, humor, completely different perspective. Having seen the bad side of life," she says, referring to the five and a half years McCain spent in the late '60s and early '70s as a POW in North Vietnam, "he didn't take it too seriously. And my parents liked him instantly. John was absolutely an original." He was also 42, 18 years her senior, a difference Cindy "never noticed" until a year later, when, applying for their marriage license, "we discovered we'd both lied. I'd made myself three years older, he four younger. Having a strong father, I wanted an older man, though John is 70 going on 30. Last summer he and our son Jack hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim. Just try keeping up with him."
Cindy McCain — smart, resilient, compassionate, gutsy — has not only tried but succeeded, quietly and on her own terms. An only child, determined to have a big family, she suffered several miscarriages ("a couple were very far along") before producing Meghan, now 22, a 2007 Columbia graduate; Jack, 21, a Naval Academy junior; and Jimmy, a 19-year-old marine being deployed to Iraq. "John was with me the first time I lost a baby," she recalls, "but not for those after, which was hard."
Elected to Congress in 1982, Arizona congressman McCain was gone a lot — in Washington during the week, returning on weekends to his family in Phoenix. "We didn't think Washington offered the healthiest lifestyle for kids," explains the slim, attractive, jeans-clad 53-year-old, relaxing into a swing chair on the serene rolling lawn of the family's getaway home, a spectacular ranch compound near Sedona. "And we always made the decisions together, so mostly it worked out great because John's a good, strong dad." (He is also, as he playfully admitted earlier, his wife in earshot, a bit of a handful. "Am I hard to live with? God, yes," Senator McCain conceded before zooming back to the campaign trail. "It's frenetic, there's always commotion, something going on. Cindy will get her reward in heaven.")
Of course, sometimes I was overworked," she continues about her semi-single-mother status, eased somewhat by her parents, James, a wealthy, self-made Arizona businessman, and Marguerite Hensley — "married 55 years and my best friends" — who lived across the street. "When the kids were young and I was alone with all these babies, by Thursday I'd have a pity party, and John would walk in, see me hanging off the ceiling, and calm things down. Did I get angry? Sure, I'm only human, but always at the situation, not him."
That wrath was reserved for Bangladesh's minister of health and human welfare, who in 1991 tried to stop her from leaving his country with two sick, abandoned baby girls, one of whom is now the McCains' 15-year-old adopted daughter, Bridget. In Bangladesh for a month with the American Voluntary Medical Team (a nonprofit founded and funded by Cindy), she arrived at Mother Teresa's orphanage in Dhaka to find "160 baby girls who'd been dumped. And I just came upon this one baby — though I absolutely believe Bridget picked me — with a cleft palate so severe that, if it wasn't fixed, she'd die because the nuns couldn't feed her. Each time we returned, I'd hold her, play, marvel even then at her tenacious strength. Finally I wound up getting medical visas for her and another baby with a heart condition — not thinking about adoption — just getting them help."
As she was leaving for the airport, Cindy got a message from the minister of health, "wanting to see me and the babies. I went, and there were all these men talking to each other while I sat with two infants, not understanding a word. Finally one said, 'We can do surgery on this child.' But they had no intention of helping her, and I had to make a plane, so I just slammed my fist on the table, shouting: 'Then do it! What are you waiting for?' They were so stunned, he immediately signed the papers. I don't know where I got the nerve. I could've been arrested."
By the time she landed in the United States, Cindy "realized I couldn't give up this child" and called her husband, telling him about her charges and asking him to meet her at the airport. "When I disembarked carrying Bridget, John said, under his breath, 'Where's she going?' I said, 'To our house.' He laughed. 'I thought so.'" She chuckles. "I brought home a baby without telling him, and he not only took it in stride but loved it, immediately embracing Bridget, who shares John's very dry sense of humor, so she and her dad do pretty well together. If I hadn't taken Bridget out, I think she would have become a prostitute or, worse, died." (The other infant was adopted by another family.) Her children, meanwhile, completely accepted their new sister. "They saw no difference; they never did. Nor did she, until recently."
Googling her name, Bridget learned for the first time of the salacious rumor, allegedly spread by the Bush camp leading up to the 2000 South Carolina Republican presidential primary, that Senator McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. "Over the years, I was always afraid that someone at school would say something, but they didn't," says Cindy, clearly still bruised. "It just never clicked that she'd look herself up on the Internet. She was so upset, took it so personally. John and I tried to make Bridget understand that people who say things like that are very wrong; it's not what we — nor most people — are about. Fortunately, she's an awfully strong girl. When the family gathered to decide if we were going to run, she asked the campaign managers such specific, good questions, I thought, Whoa, okay!"
Cindy, meanwhile, had her own reservations, initially saying no to both of Senator McCain's presidential runs. "If I agreed, I wanted to do the best job for my country, and this time — it's been such an emotional year — I was balancing so much: My mother died in October...my son going to Iraq...having just recouped from my 2004 stroke" — a recovery she handled with customary grit. (The stroke was a result of Cindy's having stopped taking her blood-pressure medication.) "I could have died. It was scary. It was very scary. To get well, I knew I had to be alone, stop taking care of everybody else. So I rented a house in California, announcing, 'I'm parking there until I put myself together.' And for four months, I slept, walked to build up my stamina. Eventually my speech returned. Eight months after my stroke, I ran in a marathon."
When it came to the 2008 presidential marathon, however, it was Senator McCain who sealed the deal. "John said something so lovely," she recalls, adding quickly, "from his perspective, I don't believe it myself. He said: 'I think you could bring style, grace, and elegance back to the White House.' Those words had never come out of his mouth before," she laughs. "And I thought, That's how he sees me. Knowing he believes in me that way gives me a great deal of strength.
"And he'd be the best president. Every day in his heart and mind, John lives the code of conduct — duty, honor, country — which I admire. I always told the kids: 'Daddy's on a mission, serving his country. We have to be supportive.' And he's never been neglectful of our family. Naturally, there were times I wish, like every wife, he'd been home more...that he'd sit down, hold my hand, say, 'I'm sorry, honey,' but I respect his dedication. John's a real patriot."
The downside of that focus became apparent in 1994, when Cindy publicly admitted she had once been addicted — unbeknownst to Senator McCain — to the prescription painkillers Percocet and Vicodin, originally taken following 1989 back surgeries. "When people think of drugs, they envision some guy in the street with cocaine, which, quite frankly, was my arrogant attitude as well.... That was the darkest period of my life. I was in pain, took too many pills, and, like many women, just fell into it," she says slowly of her three-year struggle. "I knew I was slipping into addiction but couldn't get out. Finally, my mom, tears in her eyes, confronted me: 'There's something wrong with you.' I told her exactly what it was and never again put another pill in my mouth." For her husband, meanwhile, it was a wake-up call. "It wasn't only hard to tell John, it was hard for him to admit he didn't know — even though I explained, 'It was my job not to let you know.' In the end, it strengthened our marriage."
As for what's made their near-three-decade union work, "Just when I think we're complete opposites, it turns out we're not, that we've had a common goal, first the children and now this," she says of McCain's presidential campaign. And if elected? "I'd continue championing the causes I always have: CARE [which fights global poverty], Operation Smile [which treats children with facial deformities], and HALO Trust, the landmine organization." There's one thing, however, she won't do: "I would not go to a Cabinet meeting. I don't deem it appropriate."
She pauses. "I almost can't believe I'm having this conversation," she muses, starting to laugh. "I grew up in Phoenix, went to Central High School, got my master's degree in special education — never, ever thinking I'd be sitting here talking about possibly living in the White House. But then, this is America."
Watchdogs make it harder for politicians to stretch the truthCindy McCain's past is the latest to be questioned after errors were found.By Alexandra Marks August 20, 2008 edition
Gilding the lily is nothing new to politics. From the 1840s when William Henry Harrison claimed to have been born in a log cabin (it was actually a Virginia plantation) to Ronald Reagan’s reminiscing about flying over Germany in World War II (he did, but only in a movie), politicians have taken perfectly good stories and embellished them.
This campaign is no exception. During the primaries, Hillary Rodham Clinton had to back away from claims she “ducked sniper fire” in Bosnia in 1996. Mitt Romney found himself having to explain how he “saw my father march with Martin Luther King,” when it turned out his father never marched with the Rev. Mr. King.
The latest embellishments come from the McCain camp. Cindy McCain has repeatedly referred to herself as an “only child.” This week came news that she actually has two half sisters, although apparently she had very little contact with them.
The McCain campaign had also put out the story that Mother Teresa “convinced” Cindy to bring home two orphans from Bangladesh in 1991.
Mrs. McCain, it turns out, never met Mother Teresa on that trip. (Once contacted by the Monitor, the campaign revised the story on its website.)
Such exaggerations may simply be the product of a faulty memory or a desire to be “better” than one is in a political culture that requires larger-than-life idols. But with the advent of the fact-checking obsessed blogosphere – and a media racing to keep up – such self-aggrandizement doesn’t last as long as it once did.
“It’s all about myth-making,” says Darrell West, the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Politicians love to turn their stories into great epics, and sometimes they have to embellish to smooth out the story line.”
“But now there are too many professional and amateur fact-checkers,” he says. “And there are hundreds if not thousands of bloggers who have detailed knowledge on specialized information, so you really can’t get away with stretching the truth anymore.”
The story about Mother Teresa “convincing” Mrs. McCain to bring home two children from an orphanage in Bangladesh has been retold many times. Initially, the “About Cindy McCain” page on the McCain campaign website read: “Mother Teresa convinced Cindy to take two babies in need of medical attention to the United States. One of those babies is now their adopted daughter, 16-year-old Bridget McCain.”
The media picked up the theme. A story earlier this year on ABC’s “Good Morning America” stated, “With Mother Teresa’s encouragement she brought her fourth child, Bridget, home.” An April 2008 Wall Street Journal profile states that Mother Teresa “implored” Cindy to bring the girls to the United States. Other articles say Cindy did it “at the behest” of Mother Teresa.
But a source who was with McCain on that 1991 trip, and who asked that his name not be used because of prior legal dealings with the McCain family, says that Mother Teresa was not at the orphanage when Cindy decided to bring the two girls home.
A 1991 article in the Arizona Star at the time of the adoption only mentions that the children were from an orphanage that was started by Mother Teresa. It does not mention a meeting with Mother Teresa or her asking McCain to bring the girls to the US.
According to biographies of Mother Teresa, in 1991 she was in Mexico where she developed medical problems. From there, she went to a hospital in La Jolla, Calif.
A McCain source acknowledged that Cindy McCain did not meet Mother Teresa during the 1991 trip to Bangladesh but said McCain did meet her later on, although the source could not say when or where. The campaign has since reworded the reference to the adoption on its website. [Read entire article at: http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2008/08/20/watchdogs-make-it-harder-for-politicians-to-stretch-the-truth/]