First Ladies get to Learn how to do it well UPDATE: AUDIO

Hey, a great dress is a great dress. I love.

“One of the things that I don’t do well is this. . .Do you understand?”


That was our First Lady, not having one of her best moments while dealing with a heckler at (what else?) a fundraiser.

Obama was addressing a Democratic Party fundraiser in a private Kalorama home in Northwest Washington when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian activist interrupted her remarks to demand that President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order.

Obama showed her displeasure – pausing to confront Sturtz eye to eye, according to witnesses.
“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. “Do you understand?”

A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama “left the lectern and moved over to the protester.” The pool report quoted Obama as saying: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”

Obama’s suggestion that she would leave were not included in the official White House transcript.
The audience responded by asking Obama to remain, according to the pool report, which quoted a woman nearby telling Sturtz, “You need to go.”

Sturtz was escorted out of the room. She said in an interview later she was stunned by Obama’s response.
“She came right down in my face,” Sturtz said. “I was taken aback.”

It’s not that shocking, I guess, for this administration. Joe Biden once had a journalist locked in a closet when he spoke at a fundraiser. Team Obama doesn’t seem to love the first amendment, whether its rights are being exercised by people giving them money, people giving them glorious press, or people honoring them and praying for and with them. They’re funny that way.

Not funny, ha-ha. Just…funny.

Was the heckler out of line? Sure. But it’s the heckler’s nature to be out of line, and that’s when a bit of grace or wit puts things aright. Saying “I can’t deal…” that’s a deficiency the office can’t afford.

That line killed me, though: “One of the things that I don’t do well is this. . .Do you understand?”

Work on it, Mrs. Obama. Really work on it. Because free citizens are allowed to question, to mock, and even to heckle, as long as they’re not inciting violence. And you’re the First Lady of a nation that, we are told, still honors this idea. Oppressed peoples still come here, because whatever else America has been, it is still the place where even poor presidents, even disliked presidents, have experienced heckling and responded to it by either answering with substance, or grace, or wit, or by reminding the assembly that it’s alright to speak up in America, even to the biggest man or woman in the room.

Do you understand? You don’t really get to say, “I don’t handle this well” as though it’s an option — something you can leave off your First Lady plate. You get to learn how to handle it well, because it is an immense privilege to serve a citizenry that has put you into power. The service begins with listening — and in responding to people in a way that well-may-be better than they seem to deserve specifically because you, yourself, have been placed into a position so honored, so privileged, that you can afford to.

Yes, yes, the peasants are revolting. But in America, they still get to hoist up their slacks and bellow their questions. And you get to answer them like a lady. Like the First Lady.

Not, however, like the queen.

Washington Post has the audio. You have to listen closely, to hear the whole “…but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”

Ed Morrissey says nah, Mrs. Obama did alright!

Choosing Words Wisely: Insights on Improving Communication Skills

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Manny

    It’s a very likely hypothetical. You don’t think the president was in on this? You’re naive if you do. The question is whether he got his fingerprints on it or whether he’s got plausibale deniability.

  • Manny

    At least you now understand the totality of the ramificatins. You bet this is impeachable, and yes there is no love for Obama given his heavy handed method of governing. If the House of Representatives find convincing information, he will be impeached. Whether it’s sustained in the Senate, we’ll have to see, especially if there is a Republican take over in 2014.

  • leelu


  • John Rebori

    Unless you are of the opinion that over 80 low level IRS employees took it on themselves to over reach so badly, there may not be evidence of wrongdoing at the WH level yet, but there is most certainly evidence to support a continuing investigation.

  • Chesire11

    Unfortunately for the fevered fantasies of the post-modern “conservative” movement, the whole scenario is laughable.

    Yes, IF the POTUS managed to convince a GWB appointed republican to attempt to convince multiple levels of career civil servants to risk their jobs, pensions and jail time, to conspire to deny tax exempt status to conservative political groups and to audit political opponents, without any of them objecting, refusing, or then yes, that would be an impeachable offense.

    Just think, for a moment of how vast, and risky a conspiracy would be necessary to pull off such a stunt and all to delay the granting of tax exempt status for a bunch of Tea Party groups trying to exploit a provision of the IRS code. The whole thing hinges upon a cartoonish conception of how large, bureaucratic organizations operate, and uncritical acceptance of the paranoid rantings of talk radio.

  • Chesire11

    Of course I don;t think the president was involved, and not because I am naive, but because I am not. The IRS is staffed by civil servants, not political appointees in order to prevent the politicization of the organization. Lifetime civil servants, of both parties, are not going to risk their jobs, pensions and liberties en masse to serve the interest of a politician who is only going to be around for a few years.

    A president is not going to risk impeachment to try to convince civil servants to conspire with him in such a harebrained scheme.

    It just doesn’t even begin to pass to the smell test.

  • Chesire11

    My personal opinion is that someone at a supervisory level either anticipated, or reacted to a sudden spike in the number of applications from political groups for tax exempt status as social clubs under 501(c)(7) of the IRS Code, and issued guidelines identifying Tea Party groups as likely to try to exploit the loophole. It was thoroughly inappropriate, scandalous, and should absolutely be investigated. The likelihood that it was the product of nefarious machinations by the White House, though, I just do not see as a credible explanation.

    This is a real scandal, but it is being inflated into something it is not, for partisan political motives by…well…partisan politicians.

  • Donjuvi

    Well Said.

  • Chesire11


  • John Rebori

    The GWB appointee was not a republican. There is an on line listing of peoples political donations. Check for yourself, that “republican” has a history of donations to the Democratic party, and no history of contributions to the Republican party.
    GWB made a number of bipartisan appointments, this was one of them.

  • HappilyCatholic

    Chesire, the problem is your personal opinion is factually wrong. There was not a spike in the number of groups applying justifying the snooping; there was actually a decline in the number of applications, as the IRS’s own records show. Now in my opinion, it is hard to inflate this scandal because it is so egregious. Did you see the testimony of those whose lives were negatively impacted? Have you seen how widespread it is, including targeting Catholics for speaking out against Obamacare?

  • HappilyCatholic

    The former IRS employee who was appointed by GWB was a Democrat who contributed to Democrats; he was appointed to show GWB’s “bipartisanship.”

  • HBanan

    I’m sick of obnoxious hecklers, and I’m glad when speakers shut them down. People turned out to hear the speaker, and they can wait for the Q&A period. It’s rude to co-opt someone else’s speech. I don’t generally like her, but I’m glad she just cut through the baloney. We all have the right to free speech, but other people can respond as they please. Mrs Obama responded to someone else’s speech by making the audience choose: her or the other speaker, and they chose to stick by the speaker they’d come to see rather than the random person who wanted to yell something and steal the spotlight. Good for her!

  • HappilyCatholic

    Sigh..she also got a huge raise when her husband was elected state senator and part of her job at the hospital was to direct poor people to other places for care so as to help her hospital’s bottom line; maybe her work ethic was ok, but her moral compass seems a bit off. And, since you bring up her education, I became very weary and irritated having to hear her husband whine about how long to took him and her to pay off their student loans, after they were privileged to attend the top tier schools in the country. No one held a gun to their head, I assume, to force them to choose those schools. If they didn’t want those big of loans, go to a cheaper school, like the rest of the population. Apparently, they ran their personal finances like they are running the country’s — borrow and spend recklessly without really assessing the consequences.

  • Chesire11

    That’s all very nice, but irrelevant to my point that there is no rational basis for questioning the First Lady’s work ethic.

    I would hardly call their comments about their student loans “whining.” They are using personal experience to illustrate how important a good education is and what tremendous advantages it yields while pointing out that the benefits to the individual and society are threatened by the unsustainably high costs involved.

    Also, the “borrowing and spending” is to stimulate the economy and generate jobs that were destroyed when the radically irresponsible economic policies of the republican party inflated, and then collapsed a credit bubble. You might also be interested to learn that the deficit has been reduced by just over 40% from last year, due to increased tax revenues resulting from successful stimulation of economic growth. You see, the lion’s share of the deficit was caused by falling tax revenues when the economy contracted, not by profligate spending. As the economy recovers, revenues increase, and the deficit contracts.

  • Chesire11

    No actually, if you go back and read what I wrote you would notice that I supposed that a supervisor either ANTICIPATED or observed a spike in applications. (Indeed, it is quite possible for a short term acceleration to produce a spike during periods of overall decline.)

    I have heard that a Catholic critic of the administration was audited. I have also read the individual claim that the audit was politically motivated. What I have not heard is one shred of evidence to support her claim. All we have heard is the personal speculation on the part of a person who didn’t like being audited being uncritically accepted as fact by people who want to believe they are being persecuted. There is actually less evidence offered to suggest that her audit was politically motivated than there is to advance the claims that the CIA assassinated Kennedy, the moon landings were filmed on a sound stage, or that 9/11 was an inside job.

  • Chesire11

    And you seriously imagine that Bush in his nod toward bipartisanship, Bush selected a hyper-partisan Democrat??? Don;t get me wrong, I don;t give Bush many points for intelligence, in fact, I attribute the correct pairing of his shoes and feet to Laura’s diligent intervention, but even HE wasn’t so stupid as to hand the keys of the IRS over to a radical partisan!

    No, bipartisan appointees tend to be selected for their bipartisanship – it’s sort of implied.