The First Lady of America



Regarding the First Lady's big night, Frank Rich notes the following:

I will answer uncontroversially: yes. It's hard to believe that just four years ago Christopher Hitchens was ominously arguing in Slate that Michelle Obama's Princeton thesis might link her to the black separatist radicalism of Stokely Carmichael, or that conservatives in general were portraying her as an entitled, insufficiently grateful American of questionable patriotism. Then again, the GOP right that put Bill Clinton on trial for impeachment and turned Hillary Clinton into a five-letter word at Republican conventions is now so nostalgic for the last Democratic presidency that you have to wonder if Jimmy Carter will undergo a revisionist restoration in conservative circles next.
I think (and thought at the time) that Hitchens' piece in which he misread a senior thesis as evidence that the Obamas were radical separatists is particularly shameful. He wasn't alone. One should not forget Juan Williams asserting the First Lady might somehow be "Stokely Carmichael in a dress."

The temptation is to say the Michelle Obama has somehow executed a magnificent P.R. campaign. But the truth is that the Obamas scuttled so many long standing narratives in 2008. Pundits had no idea what to do with them. Shelby Steele's book A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win should be in a museum somewhere.

So much of this country has never seen anything like this.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In