Michelle Obama has made a lot of news with her now infamous soundbite about how America is “downright mean” and that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.”
But the mainstream media feel that they must defend the potential first lady and show her “softer side.”
During the 1 PM hour of Monday's MSNBC News Live, host Andrea Mitchell interviewed Susan Page, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief, about the newspaper’s interview with Michelle Obama. During their discussion of Obama, Mitchell gushed: “She’s Princeton, she’s Harvard, she’s so smart and so beautiful and, you know, a mom and a wife and a partner and yet people get caricatured.”
Page followed up with even more gushing:
She’s an imposing woman both physically and intellectually. And Americans, I think the task for her is harder than for Cindy McCain because we have a good sense of John McCain, he’s been around for decades in Washington and in the public eye, the national eye. That’s not true for Barack Obama and it’s not true for Michelle Obama so people look perhaps at small things and make big things out of it because they don’t know very much about her. That’s one thing interviews like this, I think, try to address.
The transcript follows:
ANDREA MITCHELL, host: Michelle Obama says she does not want to distract from her husband’s campaign. She instead wants to be part of the solution. This in an exclusive interview with USA Today. Barack Obama’s wife says that one of her biggest balancing acts is keeping the focus on the campaign while staying true to who she is. Here with us now is Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief. Susan, really interesting, that she would even do this interview. What did you think was the most important thing about it?
SUSAN PAGE, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief: I think the most important thing was that she did the interview. You know this is only the second newspaper interview she’s done since Senator Obama clinched the Democratic nomination. I think they’re trying to do something which is very hard in politics which is to get a second chance at making a first impression. You know, you see that with Senator Obama today. He’s making a speech about patriotism. The fact that he stopped wearing a flag pin last fall led some people to question his patriotism. He’s trying to say to them, “you don’t really understand who I am, let me introduce myself.”
MITCHELL: And doing it in Independence, Missouri, which is Harry Truman-
PAGE: It’s like Unity, New Hampshire. It’s a great dateline for what you’re trying to do. I think Michelle Obama is trying to do the same thing. She’s trying to say, you know, “I made some comments that have caused a great furor in the blogosphere, but let me tell you who I am. I’m a mother of two daughters. I’ve got a softer side. I care about the issues that you care about.” I think that’s what the campaign is trying to do.
MITCHELL: And this is in line with doing the “View.”
MITCHELL: And appearing as one of the women on the “View” and-
PAGE: Doing the fist bump.
MITCHELL: And all of these things that make her much more approachable. Is this what we do to our women? You know. She’s Princeton, she’s Harvard, she’s so smart and so beautiful and you know a mom and a wife and a partner and yet people get caricatured.
PAGE: Five foot eleven and she’s tall. She’s an imposing woman both physically and intellectually. And Americans, I think the task for her is harder than for Cindy McCain because we have a good sense of John McCain, he’s been around for decades in Washington and in the public eye, the national eye. That’s not true for Barack Obama and it’s not true for Michelle Obama so people look perhaps at small things and make big things out of it because they don’t know very much about her. That’s one thing interviews like this, I think, try to address.
MITCHELL: Here’s a little bit of her husband talking about her. Let’s listen.
BARACK OBAMA: She doesn’t need to be retooled. She’s, she’s fabulous as she is. The only thing I think we wanna make sure of is that when she’s attacked, she’s defended because the other side hasn’t had any qualms about trying to mischaracterize her or attack her in ways that I find very offensive.
MITCHELL: And coming to, to her support and doing it in a, you know, a really personal and strong way. This is what she said in your interview. She said, “I’ve had to clarify points that were misconstrued. But they’re usually the same couple of points. I’m not different from Hillary Clinton or anyone else who has been a political target. There is strategy involved. It’s not personal… But if I change too much, people will see that and it won’t ring true.” I think back to 1992 when Hillary Clinton not only had to define herself and redefine herself and two for the price of one but then was really one of the chief strategists in the war room defending her husband from the so-called, the way they defined it, Betsy Wright, the bimbo eruptions and all of that, this is a completely different issue. But spouses really have a very tough job don’t they.
PAGE: They do. And, you know, one interesting things she said in the interview which was with my colleague Jill Lawrence, um, one of the things that Michelle Obama said was that she wasn’t gonna try to change who she was. That authenticity was important, too. And it’s a tough, it means that while you try to present your soft side, it’s not as though she’s gonna pretend. She’s not an Ivy league educated, lawyer, hospital administrator-
MITCHELL: She’s all of that.
PAGE: She’s, she’s all of that and I think she’s right that you can’t really come across as something that you’re not but you can try to come across as a three dimensional person rather than a one dimensional person.
MITCHELL: Rather than the caricature. Well, as long as we don’t see her putting on or taking off headbands we know we’re okay. We women. Susan Page, congratulations to you, to the USA Today and to Jill Lawrence. Great interview.
PAGE: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Thanks for joining us.