Sunday, February 7, 2016

Michelle's Night at the Movies

The First Lady announcing "best picture" on Oscar night was new, different and, I suspect, offensive to many.

Michelle's Night at the Movies


While I'm generally in the journalistic camp that thinks spouses and families of presidents, senators, governors, whoever, should be off the dart board until and unless they paint bullseyes on themselves, I can understand those -- and I suspect they are many -- offended by First Lady Michelle Obama's role in Sunday night's Oscar show.

If you went to bed early, the president's wife, dressed in a sparkly silver gown, announced from the White House the winner of this year's best picture, "Argo."

She was begowned because the White House hosted the nation's governors at a formal dinner because what better way to keep spending in the face of yet another economic crisis than feeding people already living on large taxpayer-funded salaries (the menu included seafood cocktail, seasonal salad, Aged Beef Ribsteak and chocolate opera cake).

On one level, I expect outcry from the right along the lines of `see, here's the White House once again aligning itself with godless Hollywood, joining the self-absorbed culture that is movieland because it contributes so generously to Democratic causes and candidates.'

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Not that the right is immune from the lure of star power. I hope I need not remind you of Clint Eastwood's performance with an empty chair at last year's GOP convention.

But here's the thing. When the people we the people elect -- and hand such power and resources to -- do things so out of the reach of ordinary citizens who pay for all the glamour and glitz that high office in America provides, it gives me reason to growl.

Not a full, snarling growl, I'll grant you. More like a low-throated rumble. But a growl nonetheless.

The president likes golf so he golfs with Tiger Woods. The First Lady likes movies so she announces the year's best picture.

And I get that in the light of commitment to public service these are but moments of self-indulgence easily overlooked as perks of an impossible position. Still. I worry that they can plant or help nuture feelings of unease, even anger as America remains at war and as too many remain unemployed and/or living in poverty and as government continues to demonstrate its unwillingness or inability to act on behalf of its citizens instead of itself.

And I fear that black-tie banquets for those fully capable of feeding themselves, or golfing with golfing legends or publicly playing with the upper crust of the entertainment industry at a time we're told to prepare for further ecomonic suffering comes a bit too close to a show of who won't be touched by any such suffering, and rubbing it in our face.

Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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