I learn today—belatedly—that Michelle Obama took a trip to Spain with her daughter. This is apparently controversial. Megan McArdle writes “What Was Michelle Obama Thinking?” And of course this is a topic tailor-made for Maureen Dowd.
Let me be clear. It does not matter where presidents or their wives go on vacation. IT DOES NOT MATTER. Presidential approval, election outcomes, support in Congress—nothing that does matter depends on where presidents go on vacation. It did not matter when Clinton apparently polled to figure out where he should go. It did not matter when Bush decamped to Crawford. It did not matter when the Obamas went to Martha’s Vineyard. It does not matter now.
In politics and pop culture, optics are all.
By that she means, “In politics and pop culture, optics are all that matters to me.”
You could not ask for a better distillation of why so much political commentary is so completely and utterly detached from what actually affects political outcomes. War and peace, economic prosperity and hard times, real scandals—these things pale beside the fact that the Obamas once went to New York City on a date!
If doctors were like Maureen Dowd, they would look at a patient who was unconscious, not breathing, and bleeding profusely, and say, “Oh my god, his shoelace is untied!”
David Axelrod tells Dowd: “not everything is political theater.” One thing that the Obama administration seems to realize—to its everlasting credit—is that the Beltway gossip that is Dowd’s and so many other’s fixation is of zero interest to the vast majority of Americans.
An unrelated postscript. Dowd suggests that, by taking this trip, Michelle Obama is somehow failing to support her husband:
The inimitable columnist Mary McGrory once said that if a first lady simply made her husband toast, that was enough, given how hard his job was.
And because his predecessor mucked things up so royally, President Obama’s job is ridiculously hard. But at moments when you think Michelle might make her husband toast, or better yet a martini, she’s often off on a girls’ trip…
…During the campaign, Michelle tried to offset her husband’s existential detachment with familial warmth. Now that he holds the world’s loneliest office, he needs that more than ever.
This is galling on many levels, but let me choose one. I will suggest to Maureen Dowd and others equally convinced of such insights that by now Barack and Michelle Obama probably know what they’re doing with this whole husband-and-wife thing. Indeed, if anything is worse than the political advice offered by the likes of Dowd, it is the marriage counseling.