Michelle Obama was on the "Larry King Live" television show last week. I'm no expert on body language, but she looked to me like she'd rather be sitting at the island in the kitchen of a nice upper middle-class suburban home, washing arugula, watching Oprah on the TV, and waiting for her kids to get off the school bus so they can make cup-cakes together for the evening's movie time.
I detect in Michelle Obama a longing to be able to hit the town without a squad of taxpayer-paid people primping and dressing her so close to the bone that her teeth hurt. I see in her a longing to drive her kids to Wal-Mart, dressed in ratty sweats, to buy paper plates for one of her daughter's birthday parties, without needing a convoy of black, armored SUVs to keep them safe. I see her wishing her kids could share a teeter-totter, minus the U.S. Secret Service staked out in the sandbox.
Every time I see the lovely Michelle Obama I think, oh yeah, she wants to be wearing that straight jacket of a dress with her hair piled and turned into the shape of a balloon animal, propped atop her head, her feet jammed into fancy shoes while she's being filmed by a digital nerd who'll edit shots of her-bad angles and all-into a nine-second videoclip that's to be fed to a world full of people (who'll believe most anything she says for no reason other than she's an Obama and the First Lady of the United States of America).
I see Michelle wishing she wasn't raising her family in the echoey international tourist attraction that is the White House. What a cavernous cold place to be living, albeit one with webpages numbering well into the hundreds.
Far back when Barack started his run for the Democratic nomination, I had a feeling Michelle wasn't too awful thrilled about the idea. My feelings were conjured listening to news reports and reading articles that, if you cared to notice, spoke rather clearly of Michelle's hesitations about the run. The report that stood out as much as any was about Michelle's saying she'd let him run if he quit smoking. It sounded like a cute made-for-the-media story, but I took it as a serious story; I think she was totally serious.
If he quit, he could run. Well, the story goes, he did quit-for a while-and now he's back at it. From what I've heard and read, Michelle was a hard sell regarding Barack's running for president (when quitting smoking is a deal breaker, you're reaching, no?)
If Barack ran, let alone won, Michelle's interest in raising her family-around-the-dinner-table, would be threatened by a dad on the road 24-7.
I suspect Michelle feels the best, most interesting, and important developmental years of her family's life are passing too fast-as if in a dream-tempered and blanketed by the otherworldly odd and freakish structure that a First Family lives. What a waste of the best years of your family life it is to be stuck with your husband, and your children's father, being president. What a mess. What a mess. I see Michelle Obama thinking these kinds of things and more.
I never felt this way about Laura Bush or Lynne Cheney or, God almighty knows, Hilary Clinton. Not that I didn't care about how those ladies were feeling when their respective husbands were president and vice president-it's just that it didn't occur to me that they might be feeling anything but fine about the position's they were in.
I think Hilary was aware her daughter faced interesting challenges being brought up as a First Kid; I think history shows they dealt with those challenges well. I just don't think Hilary was wishing for a lifestyle other than the one she was living as the president's wife in the White House. Hilary saw challenges in the lifestyle; Michelle sees burdens.
We're programmed to think life on the top, such as living as the First Family in the White House for gosh sakes, is the cat's meow. Maybe it's not. Maybe Michelle is riding around in the presidential motorcade wondering what the hell is going on?
Ask Michelle if she'd like to see her husband reelected; if she was able to tap her gut core for the answer, I would not be surprised if she'd say something like, "Not really, no." But I may be way off.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com