Michelle Obama ‘a liability in Barack’s President campaign’ as wife deemed ‘too forceful’
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The 57-year-old has established herself as one of the inspiration women in the world, as she used her charisma and confidence to support Barack while in office. Since leaving the White House, she has become her own entity, and is arguably more popular than ever, as she carved out a multi-million pound career through her books and speeches. Her presence soared particularly after the release of her 2017 autobiography Becoming, which became one of the biggest selling books on the planet.
The Chicago-born lawyer is renowned for the hope she offers people of all backgrounds, and has regularly used her position to install these values.
Yet, before becoming the force she is now, Michelle sparked widespread anger among Democrats, after she was embroiled in a series of damaging moments while Barack campaigned for the presidency.
Speaking on 2020’s Amazon Prime show Michelle Obama: Life After the White House, Professor Natasha Linstaedt, a government specialist from the University of Essex, examined the risk many inside Barack’s camp felt she posed to his campaign.
She said: “When Michelle was originally campaigning with Barack in 2008, what is impossible to think of now is that she was thought of as a liability because of several things that she had said.
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“She was being interviewed by a reporters in early 2008, and she had mentioned that this is the first time in my adult life that I am proud to be an American.
“This really didn’t play well. People didn’t like the fact that she was emphasising race too much. Then her dissertation was published from when she was a student which emphasised how difficult it would be to be an African-American at a white university. That also didn’t play well.
“And there were caricatures of her as this angry black women who was militant.”
According to a 2008 Newsweek report, there was panic that Republicans would use her comments against Barack, and this came true almost immediately.
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Cindy McCain, the wife of Republican nominee John McCain, told reporters that she “will always be proud of my country”, in a move to continue the anger directed towards Michelle.
Others, including Mickey Kaus – a contributor for liberal online magazine Slate, said it appeared Michelle had “a non-trivial chip on her shoulder”, while the National Review’s Jim Geraghty said her comments were “strikingly ungracious”.
In the aftermath, Barack himself took to the Texan airwaves to defend his wife, adding: “What she meant was, this is the first time that she’s been proud of the politics of America.
“She has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she’s encouraged.”
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Professor Linstaedt detailed that Barack’s campaign wanted to shift opinion of Michelle by giving her “a complete image makeover” as she was “coming across as too forceful”.
Her new look was unveiled at the Democratic Convention that same year, and was described as being “really successful” as support for Barack began to grow.
Part of this move saw Michelle focus on her maternal role, which “exuded a lot of warmth” and was really natural with the electorate, Professor Linstaedt claimed.
Writing in Becoming, Michelle detailed how she wanted Barack to “defer his election ambitions until 2016” amid a fear that if he ran and lost her husband could quit politics altogether.
There were some concerns regarding Barack’s candidacy, as political experts questioned whether he had enough experience to govern one of the world’s most powerful nations.
Michelle was also concerned that a presidential bid could hinder his chances at building a relationship with his two children Sasha and Malia – who were five and eight at the time of his election campaign.
She wrote “if he’d lost, he’d move on from politics and find a different job”, citing a role as the “head of a foundation” as something that would interest him.
Before his bid, Michelle said: “Just for once, I wanted him to be content with life as it was.
“I didn’t understand how he could look at Sasha and Malia, now five and eight, with their pigtailed hair and giggly exuberance, and feel any other way.
“It hurt me sometimes to think that he did.”
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