Michelle Obama's Trip to Spain Draws Fire

There's a limit to how much glamour some columnists want to see in a first lady during a recession

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Michelle Obama's trip to Spain--complete with shots of the first lady touring town in a swoon-worthy Jean Paul Gaultier top--is not playing too well in the media. Though the first lady, her daughter, and the first lady's friends assembled for the vacation are traveling as "private citizens," as Press Secretary Gibbs has emphasized, and paying their own expenses, a few columnists aren't wild about the optics during tense economic times.

  • 'Modern-Day Marie Antoinette'  Andrea Tantaros at New York Daily News is the first to make the call. The problem for her, though, is not so much the excess  itself as the excess on the public dime, as well as the hypocrisy:
[Sacrifice] was a key theme in President Obama's inaugural address to the nation ... But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing  summer sojourns--or forgoing them altogether--the Obamas don't seem to be heeding their own advice ... To be clear, what the Obamas do with their money is one thing; what they do with ours is another. Transporting and housing the estimated 70 Secret Service agents who will flank the material girl will cost the taxpayers a pretty penny ... I don't begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime--the First Family included. It's the extravagance of Michelle Obama's trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama's demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy
  • 'Let Them Eat Arugula'  The Charleston Daily Mail's Don Surber comments on Matt Drudge's choice to run Michelle Obama's Spanish sojourn next to a headline about the number of Americans receiving food stamps. "Participation has set records for 18 straight months," says Bloomberg News; "Obama has been president for 18+ months," comments Surber, and, meanwhile, Michelle Obama is going on about a kitchen garden.
  • 'First Ladies Often Go on Vacations,' acknowledges the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, and Michelle Obama and the friends with whom she is seeing Spain pay for their personal expenses, though not the security. "The issue," says Sweet, "for Mrs. Obama may be how many" vacations she is taking:
New York in March; Chicago, over Memorial Day; Los Angeles in June; Camp David -- sort of an extension of the White House -- in July; Maine in July, to highlight Acadia National Park, and now Spain. Mrs. Obama is glamorizing Spain's coastal resorts before her Aug. 14 first family weekend visit to Florida's Gulf Coast, to encourage tourists scared away by the oil spill. Starting Aug. 19, the Obamas will spend 10 days in Martha's Vineyard.
  • The Way to Do This Right  "Way, way back in 2004," writes Nick Gillespie Reason, "... the accomplished doctor-wife of insurgent candidate Howard Dean got it right when she pulled a Dennis Thatcher and refused to be a public player in her spouse's campaign." This, he says, should be the model: "there, for a brief, shining moment, was an idea that rulers should live like the people they govern because, after all, they weren't any different."
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