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.
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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.

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