Michelle Obama on Vogue cover. Running for something? (+video)(Read article summary)
Michelle Obama is the focus of a new Vogue piece about the first couple. Also this week, Hillary-Michelle has been a hot search term, but there's no real news on such a front.
Michelle Obama is on the cover of the new issue of Vogue looking very much like an icon of American fashion. She‚Äôs sporting her new bangs and a cerulean sheath next to a vase of cherry blossoms that are just beginning to open. Vogue writer Jonathan Van Meter interviewed both her and President Obama, but it‚Äôs Mrs. Obama who‚Äôs the focus here. She dominates the word count of the article inside, and the cover readout is, ‚ÄúHow the first lady and the president are inspiring America.‚ÄĚ
Is she running for something? Hillary-Michelle (or Michelle-Hillary?) 2016!
OK, it hasn‚Äôt escaped our attention that ‚ÄúHillary-Michelle‚ÄĚ has been a hot search term this week. There‚Äôs no real reason why that‚Äôs so, in the sense that there isn‚Äôt a speck of news on this front. The whole notion of Hillary Rodham Clinton teaming up with Mrs. Obama in a journalists‚Äô dream team seems driven by speculation, idle and otherwise.
But what struck us about the Vogue piece was the degree to which it promoted the first lady and examined the nature of first couplehood.
Yes, it‚Äôs a fashion magazine: None of its readers want to see those old photos of the president in dad jeans or read about why the United States is hesitant to help Syrian rebels. Instead, the article inside frames the Obamas not as the first African-American first family, but as a symbol of today‚Äôs highly involved parenting style ‚Äď a husband and wife who focus after-work energy on their kids and think about how they complement each other‚Äôs personalities.
They‚Äôre helicopters parents with a Marine helicopter, in Mr. Van Meter‚Äôs telling.
‚ÄúThey are ... exemplars of a new paradigm ‚Äď the super-involved parenting team for whom being equally engaged in the minutiae of their children‚Äôs lives is paramount,‚ÄĚ he writes.
The thing we find interesting about this is the generational question it raises.
In the piece, the Obamas talk about the old Washington they‚Äôre not part of, the Georgetown dinner-party/Kennedy Center box/Middleburg weekend crowd. Actually, they talk about not being part of it because it no longer exists.
Congressional families don‚Äôt live in Washington anymore: Lawmakers face tremendous pressure to scurry back to districts and home states on weekends. Also, the president and top leaders of the other party don‚Äôt socialize because the city‚Äôs too partisan.
And then there's the broader reason: They also don‚Äôt socialize because parents in modern families don‚Äôt have time for that.
‚ÄúThe culture in Washington has changed in ways that probably haven‚Äôt been great for the way this place runs,‚ÄĚ Mr. Obama says at one point.
As anyone who‚Äôs watched today‚Äôs sitcoms knows, the center of the modern family is the mom. The dad may be president, but he‚Äôs probably still a bumbler at heart. Thus the first lady notes that the small apartment her husband rented when he was a US senator once caught on fire.
And she draws a laugh from the press handlers assembled to watch the interview when she notes that the leader of what used to be called the free world is the sort of guy ‚Äúwho still boasts about, ‚ÄėThis khaki pair of pants I‚Äôve had since I was 20.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
That‚Äôs what we mean when we say the piece almost seems to be pushing Mrs. Obama for something. What it does is place her at the emotional heart of the Obama presidency ‚Äď in a way that even Jacqueline Kennedy, despite the huge amount of coverage she got, never was.