Yesterday, both of Tennessee’s Republican Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, rebuked their state’s GOP for producing and posting a YouTube ad mocking Michelle Obama, wife of the likely Democratic presidential nominee, for her comments declaring that the success of her husband’s campaign made her proud of her native land “for the first time” (Via Instapundit).
I think they have a point. The ad allowed the Illinois Senator to gain some public sympathy by appearing the victim of an unfair attack.Â Yesterday, sitting beside his wife on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he told Republicans to “lay off his wife.”
Hugh Hewitt, however, finds it entirely relevant to bring up Mrs. Obama as she has “has made long speeches full of political content in her appearances at campaign rallies made to encourage people to vote for her husband. This makes her a central figure in the campaign.”
I agree it’s entirely fair to challenge her on what she has said, but also think it’s counterproductive to dwell on some of her more absurd comments. Aware of Mrs. Clinton’s abrasive personality even back in 1992, the GOP tried to make her an issue in her husband’s campaign. That backfired, with people wondering why Republicans were making an issue of the Democratic candidate’s wife rather than promoting their own ideas.
Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff comes up with a two-tiered strategy that makes a lot of sense, with one standard for the Republican Party and another for bloggers and other pundits:
Barack Obama has warned Republicans not to pick on his wife. As far as the Republican party is concerned, that’s probably good advice at two levels. First, Obama really should be judged on his merits, not those of his wife (it’s worth noting, though, that Obama defended his wife’s most objectionable statement to date — that, as an adult, she’s never been proud of America). Second, as a political strategy attacking a candidate’s wife might well backfire.
But for bloggers and other commentators, the calculus is different. We criticize all sorts of public figures for objectionable public comments, including comments that show the author to be demanding, whining, self-absorbed, self-pitying, and infantile. There’s no reason why the wife of a presidential candidate should be exempt, particularly one who is campaigning as aggressively as Michele Obama is.
Since Mrs. Obama has been making speeches on behalf of her husband’s campaign, her comments should be subject to the same sort of scrutiny we would give those of any public figure. But, we must always remember to limit our criticisms to her remarks and to refrain from attacking her personally.
Not only do such attacks give ammunition to our political adversaries, but they’re also just plain bad form.