CBS’s Smith Praises the ‘Raw Realness’ of Michelle Obama

Friday’s CBS Early Show continued its fawning coverage of Barack and Michelle Obama in Europe as co-host Harry Smith gushed over the First Lady: "I mean, there's a kind of just raw realness about her. That session with the schoolgirls yesterday...People were in tears." Smith made the comment while talking to executive editor of thedailybeast.com, Tina Brown, who had her own words of praise: "Michelle is so authentic, and so real, and so today, and so, you know, J. Crew, and the whole price point thing and not designer clothes..With Michelle, you can almost feel those warm arms. You know, there's a kind of real red-blooded feel to her. But there's also -- I mean she's almost like overtaking Oprah, I think, as the kind of inspirational 'it' girl at this point." [audio available here]

Later, Smith dismissed criticism that Michelle Obama had broken protocol when meeting Queen Elizabeth: "This whole touching of the Queen and everything else, in the end, the Queen says, 'let's please stay in touch.' Whatever affront, or perceived affront, was completely trumped by the fact that those two people charmed the Queen's socks off." Brown agreed: "They completely charmed them. And the Queen wouldn't have taken any offense at that...she's also, I think, getting a kind of almost Princess Di-like empathy going at this point. You know, when she went to that school yesterday and you saw this tall figure bending down to embrace these kids wearing those pearls, it was like, ‘oh, my God, it’s Di time all over again.’"

At the top of the segment, correspondent Mark Phillips reported on the Obamas arriving in France: "Finally, after having her every outfit and every gesture compared to her French counterpart while she was in Britain, Michelle Obama arrived in France this morning...One, Carla Bruni, the glamorous ex-model and pop star, the other, Michelle Obama, the striking personification of aspirational American womanhood."

At the top of the show, Smith commented: "Barack and Michelle Obama visiting France this morning as they arrive and greet the Sarkozys...Come se va, right? They're like rock stars there."

Here is the full transcript of the 7:30AM EST segment:

7:10AM TEASE:

JULIE CHEN: And Michelle Obama continues to enchant her way through Europe. The latest on the First Lady in just a bit.

7:24AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Coming up, Michelle Obama takes Europe by storm. Tina Brown to join us in a couple of minutes to talk about that.

7:30AM TEASE:

Harry Smith and Tina Brown, CBS HARRY SMITH: The Obamas in France this morning. They took England by storm. Now they meet up with the Sarkozys. We're going to talk about how Michelle Obama has been greeted on this trip in just a bit, as we welcome you back to the Early Show.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: You love saying that, don't you? Sarkozy.

SMITH: I don't have a very good accent.

RODRIGUEZ: No, it's not bad.

7:32AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are well into their short visit to France today. And the analysis of both politics and style continues. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips has the latest.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: ENCHANTING EUROPE, FIRST LADY WINS HEARTS & PRAISE OVERSEAS]

MARK PHILLIPS: Finally, after having her every outfit and every gesture compared to her French counterpart while she was in Britain, Michelle Obama arrived in France this morning. And while their husbands continued with the heady affairs of state, the two first ladies were at last face to face. And the subject of inevitable comparison of style and demeanor. One, Carla Bruni, the glamorous ex-model and pop star, the other, Michelle Obama, the striking personification of aspirational American womanhood. The English leg of this trip provided plenty of basis for comparison. When Carla met the queen, she was proper, formal, some said frosty. With Michelle, it was all hugs and let's stay in touch. That Carla attracts attention wherever she goes is undeniable. Michelle's presence, at least to these London school kids, was inspiring.

MICHELLE OBAMA: We are counting on every single one of you to be the very best that you can be.

PHILLIPS: For as long as Michelle Obama is in France, Carla Bruni may be French toast. Mark Phillips, CBS News, London.

SMITH: Tina Brown is co-founder and editor in chief of the thedailybeast.com and a long-time royal watcher and insider. Good morning, how are you?

TINA BROWN: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: First, let's look at these pictures from this morning, because this is this first sort of connection between the Sarkozys and the Obamas. And that looked pretty warm.

BROWN: That was a high-voltage encounter this morning between these two great ladies of iconic moment, you know. I think that they're very different, of course. You know, I mean, Carla Bruni is a -- is a very elegant, you know, Italian-born heiress, strums the guitar, many lovers, you know, said to have-

SMITH: A chanteuse.

BROWN: A chanteuse. And you know, quite a -- quite a sort of cool cat in her own right. But Michelle is so authentic, and so real, and so today, and so, you know, J. Crew, and the whole price point thing and not designer clothes.

SMITH: Right.

BROWN: This is a kind of wonderful contrast.

SMITH: An amazing juxtaposition.

BROWN: Yeah, I think myself that Carla was smart not to go to London, because now she's on her own home territory, French-speaking and she feels a little more in control.

SMITH: In other words, she could not have been able to stand the comparisons.

BROWN: No, she could not. I think she was smart. She understood that she wouldn't come off as well in that big Michelle moment.

SMITH: It's interesting, because in the last couple of pieces you wrote on the Daily Beast, you talk about Michelle's authenticity.

BROWN: Yes.

SMITH: I mean, there's a kind of just raw realness about her. That session with the schoolgirls yesterday.

BROWN: Absolutely. You know, with Michelle-

SMITH: People were in tears.

BROWN: Absolutely right. With Michelle, you can almost feel those warm arms. You know, there's a kind of real red-blooded feel to her. But there's also -- I mean she's almost like overtaking Oprah, I think, as the kind of inspirational 'it' girl at this point.

SMITH: Right, right.

BROWN: It takes going abroad sometimes to kind of refine your image back home.

SMITH: Mm-hmm.

BROWN: And she's gone up a whole notch on this trip. It shows how she can connect.

SMITH: This whole touching of the Queen and everything else, in the end, the Queen says, 'let's please stay in touch.' Whatever affront, or perceived affront, was completely trumped by the fact that those two people charmed the Queen's socks off.

BROWN: They completely charmed them. And the Queen wouldn't have taken any offense at that. You know, the Queen gets very frosty if she's disrespected. But there was no sense of Michelle disrespecting her, there was a sense of kind of sisterly response, because it was the Queen who first touched Michelle, and Michelle then responded in her extremely warm way. But she's also, I think, getting a kind of almost Princess Di-like empathy going at this point. You know, when she went to that school yesterday and you saw this tall figure bending down to embrace these kids wearing those pearls, it was like, 'oh, my God, it's Di time all over again.'

SMITH: The other thing that you wrote about, and I thought that was so interesting, because people respect her, especially in Britain, she looks like the clothes came out of her own closet. She's not tried to reinvest herself.

BROWN: Well, that's another reason that the Brits love her. I mean, for a start, she seems very exotic to them as this beautiful, you know, African-American, high-achieved, a dynamic woman. That's not usual in English public life at all.

SMITH: Right.

BROWN: But secondly, she looks like she did, as you say, pay for her own clothes. The Brits like that because they're not into showiness and brands and all that. And the fact that Michelle in this desperate economy looks like she could afford the stuff she's wearing on her own back, it's-

SMITH: From J. Crew.

BROWN: It's very appealing. It's the right thing. She's smart. She got it right.

SMITH: There you go, Tina Brown, nice to see you.

BROWN: Thank you.

SMITH: Congratulations on the Beast. For more information, go to our website, earlyshow.cbsnews.com.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC