Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bubble Girl

The Bubble Wife

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Politics: Barack Obama puts the little lady off-limits, imposing a new double standard on presidential politics. At least Hillary didn't say, "Lay off my husband."

Read More: Election 2008

Whatever else we've thought about Michelle Obama, we've never doubted that this outspoken Princeton- and Harvard-trained lawyer was capable of fighting her own battles. But now her husband says no. Pick on her and you're going to have to deal with him. As he told "Good Morning America" this week, "Lay off my wife."

How manly. How chivalrous. How hypocritical.

Both spouses of the leading Democratic contenders have been active on the stump, occasionally making news. Bill Clinton riled up the Obama camp early on with comments such as his claim that Obama's anti-war record was more "fairy tale" than reality. Obama's minions jumped all over him for once comparing Obama with Jesse Jackson. Clinton can give as good as he gets, and no one treats him as an innocent victim. That's how it should be.

Michelle Obama has stirred up some criticism, too. Republicans have not let her forget that she told a couple of audiences in February that she was "proud of my country" for the first time in her adult life. That line reinforced the impression that, for someone who has achieved so much, she is strangely disaffected and angry. "America's Unhappiest Millionaire," she was dubbed in National Review after one of her grim stump speeches.

But now her husband has laid down a rule: Michelle can say whatever she wants and not be called on it. He specifically went after a group of Tennessee Republicans running TV ads that compared his wife's appearance of late-blooming patriotism with the views of some other Americans.

The ads weren't kind, but they were no rougher than some of the jabs thrown by Obama and his friends at Bill Clinton and at John McCain (who is "losing his bearings," as Obama recently said of his 70-something rival).

How to treat spouses of presidential hopefuls is an old question, but it's not that hard to answer. The trick is to observe what these wives and husbands say and do. Are they acting like would-be co-presidents or are they preparing for the more traditional background role? Are they Hillary Clinton, or more like Laura Bush?

Michelle Obama's role is still a work in progress, and she may be no Hillary. At the same time, she's not shy about sharing her political thinking with the rest of us.

Barack Obama's new rule reminds us of the classic "Seinfeld" episode about the Bubble Boy. The "boy" was a grown man kept behind a plastic barrier because of some rare disease. No one dared say a harsh word to him, and he repaid this kindness by bossing everyone around. Barack Obama seems to want the same privilege for Michelle, surrounding her with a bubble that keeps criticism out while letting her say whatever she wants.

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