Had you approached me with this idea 3 or 4 years ago, suggesting that I would be writing something positive about the now-former First Lady Michelle Obama, I probably would have laughed myself silly.
Then I probably would have questioned your sanity.
I have said it on so many occasions that the Obamas were an arrogant, self-absorbed, entitlement-minded pox on the nation’s history.
Let’s not kid ourselves about who Michelle Obama was. Early on in the Obama phenomena, she came across as strident, harsh, and uncomfortable.
At some point, advisers and stylists did their thing, taming her speech, giving her a regal makeover, and allowing her the red carpet, celebrity treatment in pop culture formats.
In my own partisan bubble, I wasn’t buying it. Many of us remembered some of the more obnoxious things she and her husband had said about conservatives, and Republicans, in general. They were indelibly etched into our brains.
We would not forget. We would not forgive.
And then Donald Trump happened, and he was as gross, if not more gross, in his incivility towards others.
In fact, the man was (and is) more hateful to members of his own party than he is the Democrats.
Having a man like Donald Trump become the nominee of the Republican party forced me to examine my own partisanship. I didn’t like what I saw, so I gave it up.
I’m not part of a tribe. I’m an individual, and we’re better off by judging others for their merits or flaws, rather than defending anyone, based on their political party affiliation, or attacking someone, based on theirs.
So with that said, today I want to give kudos to Michelle Obama, for her words in an interview aired earlier Thursday, as she appeared on “The Today Show.”
While speaking with the hosts, Mrs. Obama discussed with them the importance of returning civility to public discourse.
She’s right. We’ve become an unruly, hateful society, allowing political tribalism to cause us to resort to the nastiest, most unhelpful rhetoric.
But Susan, the Obamas…
Yes. I know. I loathed what I saw as the arrogance of the Obama brood. And I use the word “brood” because of a conversation I once had with an Obama supporter, who said the word was “racist.” It is not, so I’m using it in defiance of that misguided soul.
All that aside, every day we wake up is a new day to try to do better. Everyone who is still above ground has that opportunity, and I’m going to extend that grace to Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama was asked about that viral moment from the funeral service of Senator John McCain, where we see former President George W. Bush hand her a piece of candy.
(It turns out, it was cough drops.)
Something about that moment captured the feel of civility, in spite of political differences.
There have been, in fact, many such moments between Mrs. Obama and the former president. The two seem to genuinely like each other.
How bizarre does that sound, given our current state of Republican vs. Democrat harshness?
Speaking of that moment, the former First Lady said:
“I didn’t realize at the time that anybody noticed what we were doing,” the former first lady told NBC’s “Today” show.
“President Bush and I are forever seat mates because of protocol, that’s how we sit at all the official functions,” Obama said. “So he is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather.”
“I love him to death,” she said of the former president. “He’s a wonderful man. He’s a funny man.”
Former President Bush has also expressed genuine affection for Mrs. Obama, as well, saying she “gets” his sense of humor, and anyone who gets his sense of humor, he automatically likes.
To be honest, this isn’t even the first or only show of bipartisan camaraderie between recent, former presidential players.
George W. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush formed a bond with the man who beat him out of a second presidential term, former President Bill Clinton.
The two found common ground in charitable efforts for Haiti, working together with a nonprofit group to raise rescue funds after the 2010 earthquake devastated the island.
Ok. We could say a lot about what actually happened to the money from the Clinton Haiti Fund, but that’s for another article. For today, I want to point out that the relationship between Bill Clinton and the first President Bush grew to the point that it was almost like a father-son relationship. Bush 41 became like a surrogate father to Clinton, whose own father died before he was born.
Nonpartisan, unpolluted, respect and friendship. It’s possible.
Mrs. Obama went on to point out the simple things, like that viral moment between she and Bush 43.
“He was getting a cough drop from [his wife] Laura and I looked over and said, ‘Hand me a cough drop,'” Obama explained. “And he was like, ‘Oh, ok.'”
“And I will add that they were old cough drops,” she said, noting that they were still in a White House box.
“And I was like, ‘How long have you had these?'” Obama said. “They said, ‘A long time. We got a lot of these.'”
“Party doesn’t separate us, color, gender, those sort of things don’t separate us.”
It doesn’t appear so.
If the divide was so deep, so uncrossable, so treacherous, we wouldn’t be having these moments to talk about.
So am I a fan of the Obamas, now? Has my awakening to the realities of society-killing partisanship made me forget the policies and mistakes of the Obama presidency?
Not at all.
It has simply freed me to separate the policies from the humanity of those involved.
The Obamas are not my enemies. Democrats are not my enemies, any more than Republicans are either enemies or friends.
There are policies I disagree with. There are issues I feel strongly about, and I will speak up, regardless of which side I’m perceived to fall on.
Maybe if we reach a point where we don’t have to consider political parties as tribal markers, the climate will settle enough for us to work through these issues with mutual respect for the people across the table.
“I didn’t realize at the time that anybody noticed what we were doing… He is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather… I love him to death.” @MichelleObama talks about George W. Bush handing her a cough drop (an old one at that!) at McCain's funeral pic.twitter.com/hS9fV0DHjB
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 11, 2018