May 29, 2007

''He still didn't put the butter up... I was like, 'You're just asking for it, you know I'm giving a speech. Why don't you just put the butter up?''

What's the deal with Michelle Obama saying things like that to the crowd?
DePaul University marketing professor Bruce Newman, who has written several books on political marketing, sees the teasing as a strategy for Obama, through his wife, to appeal to professional women who might otherwise vote for one of his chief rivals for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

By joking about his domestic foibles, Michelle Obama is showing herself as a woman who doesn't kowtow to her husband, he said.

''It's a clever strategy. I think it's very wise,'' Newman said.

It might even earn him some points with men, said Harvard University's Thomas Patterson, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

''Men in a strange sort of way understand leaving butter out and socks laying around. It humanizes the guy,'' Patterson said.
So is this a good way to use the candidate's spouse? I think it depends on how good the delivery is. It could be tiresome and phony. We need some video:



Pretty good, I think. It could get old, but it's kind of charming for now.

IN THE COMMENTS: This is very smart, from Dan:
I think the unstated premise behind such playfulness, that is to say the implicit contrast it provides to the Clinton's something other than intimate and endearing relationship, allows it to work better than normal. A strong comparison is being drawn. I can't help but think in the back of her mind such a contrast is the conscious goal of what would otherwise be insignficant filler. If so, fairly subtle and thoughtful rhetoric, and perhaps part of the reason as to why the delivery was pretty good. These aren't throw-away comments by Mrs. Obama. Rather a great use of innuendo--i.e. the Clinton's are bad, not like us in this room. Laura Bush has also been very successful with this kind of humor directed at "George". John Kerry and Theresa Heinz Kerry being the latest and last foil. Anyway, Barack doesn't screw around, he's at home with me, but I still haven't gotten him to put away his socks.
Another take, from BJK:
I see the strategy: vote for the nagging spouse

-or-

vote for the candidate with the nagging spouse: Obama '08!

Very subtle...
From Susan:
I liked her body language. Very open. And when she put her hands on her hips, which can be an aggressive, dominant stance, it came across to me as just confident. I had never seen her speak before and I don't think I could ever vote for someone as liberal as Obama, but I was impressed with the way she came across.
Yes, she has a nice, natural, youthful manner. Quite unusual for a political wife, and I do think that modern women who believe in egalitarian relationships will get a much better vibe from the Obamas than from the Clintons. And I love the dress. [CORRECTION: It's not a dress, but a pants outfit. Looks like a dress when you don't see the full view.]

45 comments:

Jennifer said...

My (limited) impression of her up to this point hasn't been entirely positive. This helped. But, the putting-your-husband-down schtick can get very old very quick. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of her charm.

Christy said...

It also sounds straight out of the Cherie and Tony Blair scenes in The Queen

Dewave said...

It's hard to do this kind of husband-deperating humor properly, and most folks veer off into either extreme, making either themselves or their husbands look like jerks.

Michelle Obama seems to have a pretty good handle on it, however. I don't really see this causing them any trouble - it's more likely to help.

It's far more entertaining than anything Edwards or Hillary has to say anyway.

Radish said...

I'm not sure telling audiences "Oh, you all know how dumb men are!" is a smart strategy for a man whose main competition is a not a man. OTOH, people who enjoy a good husband-bashing aren't going to get it from Hillary...

Methadras said...

This type of pandering is going to grow tiresome and people will see right through it if they haven't already. What is the purpose of trying to humanize and make plain someone like Barak Obama when trying to run for president, he has neither the credentials nor the experience to do so? I have a feeling this type of thing is going to end up making them look like Abbott and Costello.

XWL said...

Should this run at President fail, they can always do one of those "shlubby hubby" sitcoms on one of the networks.

Scenario:

An upscale African American 'blue state' couple and their somewhat snooty children (I don't know that there kids are snooty, but make it a given for the sake of the comedy) are forced due to some convoluted circumstances to move in with his 'down home', 'red state' white relatives (the dad would have to be Larry the Cable Guy, with Jessica Simpson as his young hot 4th wife, cast the usual assortment of kid actors and southern sterotypes to fill in the rest) in Mobile, Alabama. Hilarity ensues.

The show is called, "Ohhh, 'Bama" naturally.

dan said...

I think the unstated premise behind such playfulness, that is to say the implicit contrast it provides to the Clinton's something other than intimate and endearing relationship, allows it to work better than normal. A strong comparison is being drawn. I can't help but think in the back of her mind such a contrast is the conscious goal of what would otherwise be insignficant filler. If so, fairly subtle and thoughtful rhetoric, and perhaps part of the reason as to why the delivery was pretty good. These aren't throw-away comments by Mrs. Obama. Rather a great use of innuendo--i.e. the Clinton's are bad, not like us in this room. Laura Bush has also been very successful with this kind of humor directed at "George". John Kerry and Theresa Heinz Kerry being the latest and last foil. Anyway, Barack doesn't screw around, he's at home with me, but I still haven't gotten him to put away his socks.

Bruce Hayden said...

It came across positively to me, a moderately conservative male. Too much, and it will backfire. A little shows a gentle intimacy that the Clintons seem to be missing. It also shows them as real (almost normal) people. Again, positive, esp. given the race angle.

George said...

Had never seen her on TV/video until I saw your posted clips. (Watching TV is so 20th century.)

I'd been thinking that she was going to be marketed as the new Jackie Kennedy. The hair, the figure, the beauty, the style. But, no, she's going to be the reverse of Howard Dean's wife....

The great thing about Mrs. Kennedy was that she rarely, if ever, said anything. Genius!

And she sounded just like Marilyn Monroe....

Susan said...

I liked her body language. Very open. And when she put her hands on her hips, which can be an aggressive, dominant stance, it came across to me as just confident. I had never seen her speak before and I don't think I could ever vote for someone as liberal as Obama, but I was impressed with the way she came across.

paul a'barge said...

Funny to read the difference between the takes on this of men versus women.

For many women, it's basically "hey, it's just a joke". Of course this differs whether the woman commenting is a hard core feminist or one trying to cover.

For (some) men, it's basically "hey, why is it funny when you make the joke, but if we make the joke, it's misogyny?".

I think the men have a point.

I also think that any woman who would make a major political speech and think that including a whine about the butter is the cat's meow is not someone I'd have any respect for.

Steven said...

I think it's amusing stuff, but on the other hand, my suspicion is that it's all scripted. (Not meant to be a partisan comment -- I would say the same thing about any candidate.)

blake said...

And what is the deal about not asking for directions? Can't you put a toilet seat down?

reader_iam said...

If the Obamas make it to the White House, no one in the family is going to have to put the butter up. So who gives a rat's ass?

The butter/socks/bed-making parts of the speech doesn't do a thing for me either way. If this approach becomes a regular thing, it will mildly annoy me, as has similar things in the past, but then I always have the choice to ignore speeches that are likely to go that way. Other than that, I thought her speech was OK, given at what point we are in the campaign.

Well--except for one thing: I found her arms very distracting. However, the truth is that I'm a big "gesturer" myself and have become self-conscious of it in later years, so I'm almost certain this is pure projection, thus to be disregarded.

(P.S. I couldn't care less if Bill and Hillary put up, or down, seats, butter or socks, either. Or if they're sleeping together. Same goes for the other candidates and their spouses.)

Thorley Winston said...

And what is the deal about not asking for directions?

I’ve found that most of the time when I’ve stopped at a gas station or convenience store to ask for directions the person working there is more likely to say “sorry, I’m not from around here” or “sorry, I can’t help you” than I have found someone who was actually helpful. I suspect that if my experience is the norm rather than an exception, it may not be that people are too proud to ask for help as it is that after a while they figure their odds are better trying to figure it out themselves.

BJK said...

I see the strategy: vote for the nagging spouse

-or-

vote for the candidate with the nagging spouse: Obama '08!


Very subtle...

Internet Ronin said...

Sounds to me like most people didn't watch or listen beyond the first few seconds - this was really about her family and her and what she learned from his example. And it was very effective, I think.

Susan said...

Reader,
I think her gesturing arms were more noticeable because they are long and thin and she was wearing a tight-fitting solid color dress with 3/4 sleeves.
Isn't it funny, you noticed her gesturing and found it distracting, I noticed it and found it appealing.

Fen said...

I just watch most of it. Found her to be very endearing. Also liked the way she plays advisor to Barak re issues the public brings to her [instead of the "two for one" Clinton nonsense]. Nice contrast between the Obamas and the Clintons. Its too bad Barack is a lightweight and that Hillary will destroy him in the primaries. Maybe after he's been seasoned a bit, 2012 or 16. He's still young.

I understand why some are irritated with the putting-your-husband-down schtick in general, but I think it was a wise move by the campaign. One of Barack's weaknesses is that the media has elevated him onto a pedestal. Michelle does a good job of humanizing him. He's not perfect and will make mistakes.

Joan said...

I learned a long, long time ago not to use my boyfriend (it was that long ago) as the target for witty remarks, a lesson which I of course continue to apply to my husband and other loved ones.

I don't think it's funny for her to say, "Yes, he's a great man, but he's just a man," or "I'm smarter than that guy." If she's smarter than he is, why isn't she the one in public office? (Or perhaps the fact that she isn't in public office demonstrates that she is, in fact, smarter -- there's that politics-is-a-self-selecting-profession issue again.)

I don't like man-bashing in general and while this could've been a lot worse, I didn't like it. You can be funny without making your husband seem like a domestic idiot. And what do the kids think when they hear that their Dad can't make the bed any better than a five-year-old? When kids hear their moms ragging on their dads, they think that it's OK for them to disrespect him, also. It sets a very bad example, no matter that it is a staple of sitcoms and late-night comedy routines. Ick.

Internet Ronin said...

OOps! Left out father in the sentence: This was about her family and her father and what she learned from his example.

Harkonnendog said...

She is a very pretty and charming woman, and I think she'll do nothing but help her husband's chances.

She opened with a few genuinely funny jokes, and then gave a sincere and pretty wonderful speech, at least until it cut out. If people contrast her directly with Hillary the Clintons won't have their dynasty.

Harkonnendog said...

Er, does it make me a racist if she reminds me of a grown up version of Vanessa Huxtable?

Fen said...

Nah. Nice callsign btw.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You'd think she was the wife of one of the Republican candidates.

reader_iam said...

I always liked Vanessa Huxtable.

Didn't notice that, but now that you mention it, I see what you mean.

I'm not sure why your noticing and mentioning that would be racist. Am I missing something? Why would it be?

Beldar said...

Intelligent, articulate, self-confident, but normal normal normal.

An enormous contrast to Theresa Heinz, or to either Clinton spouse vis-a-vis the other.

Therefore: Extremely formidable (as a political asset to her husband's campaign).

Theo Boehm said...

So far this has been one of the nicer and more thoughtful political threads I've seen around here in a while.  I'll have to rethink my vote if the Obamas have this effect on people.

Dan's 1:07 PM comment is excellent.  But of course Althouse noticed first.  It would be nice to hear more from him.

Also, Susan, what a great business you're in!  And your blog is charming.  In the words of an old song, "Rain on your herbs, and may all your weeds lack dew."

RHodnett said...

Michelle Obama's thought to herself about being smarter than "that guy" was about her older brother, who was going to Princeton when she was considering going there herself. She wasn't making a comment about her husband.

I wouldn't vote for Obama on policy grounds myself, but Michelle's performance took a little of the edge off the "Saint Obama" image. Of course it was scripted, but if nothing else it shows that Obama has competent advisors.

George said...

Iran is running 1,312, centrifuges, up from 164 in 2006, will have 3,000 next month, and may have 8,000 operating by 2008, says the Wall St. J. "That's enough to produce one bomb's worth of uranium every year," says the paper.

The US is rearming the Lebanese gov't to fight Fatah Islam, whose leader Shakir Abassi has attracted hundreds of fighters from around the mideast, also says the WSJ. Syria denies any involvement, still denies involvement in the Hariri assassination, and it, along with Iran, backs Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, the scary Syrian traveling musicians who terrified travelers on a 2004 US domestic flight were conducting a dry-run for a hijacking, sez a recently released gov't report. (Sorry, no link.)

And the Chinese stock market has tripled in two years and is up more than 40% this year. I wonder what the Chinese character is for 'bubble'?

And the US housing sector is still falling into the abyss.

And I'm supposed to vote for Barack Obama because his wife is witty, telegenic, wears nice dresses, and is creating a counter-image to the Clintons.

God help us.

Harkonnendog said...

Take it easy, George. :)

Totally agree with Mortimer and Breezy... She's normal and the values she cited are cited by republicans more than dems.

Reader_iam... Maybe you're a racist just for not understanding why it makes me a racist. Hmmm...

reader_iam said...

I asked the question, Harkonnedog, because I was sincerely interested in the answer.

If there's a game being played, why not clue me in?

I meant this: What am I missing?

reader_iam said...

Harkonnendog, of course.

reader_iam said...

Theo:

I've had Susan's blog in one of my blogreaders for a while now. It's one of the very few I've drawn attention to offline, offblog people, in recent times. Truly a delight. Go, Susan, go!

PatCA said...

"...but he' still a man." Eeeuw, but that was the only eeuw point for me. She could take over for Oprah when she tires of her show!

The headline, for me: two-parent family, respect for education and values=successful kids.

amba said...

She's natural and poised, and she wipes out any lingering racial divide by making her story into more a working-class story than a specifically black one.

Now listen to this short clip and get a load of how Barack talks to a black audience. He has actually acquired a black accent (obviously not native to him, but natural after his years of organizing in Chicago) and those Southern preacher-like cadences. Quite the chameleon, he is able to soothe both black and white audiences -- but how will each audience take to hearing him talk to the other, on YouTube?

amba said...

I'll speculatively answer my own question: black people won't feel betrayed because "talking white" is a mode so many shift into for the workplace and mixed company. But the white southern farmers who find themselves so comfortable with the race-neutral Barack might be a little unnerved.

amba said...

reader: is it that if one black person reminds you of another black person, it must be because you think they're all alike?

Beth said...

amba comments "But the white southern farmers who find themselves so comfortable with the race-neutral Barack might be a little unnerved."

I'm not so sure, Amba. I'm speculating based on living in the Deep South most of my life, and thinking about the elections I've watched over the years. They probably don't use the term, but white southern farmers I've known are familiar with code-switching. White southerners do it themselves, between work or school and home, between public and private discourse. The white southerners that won't vote for him because he's black wouldn't be any more more comfortable with him because of his speaking voice. And those that are open to voting for black candidates will be looking at what he's telling black voters, not how he's saying it.

LoafingOaf said...

If we're gonna over-analyze these first superficial impressions of Mrs. Obama, what kind of socialist presidential candidate's wife makes an entrance at "The Reverand" Jesse Jackson's birthday party wearing a disgusting mink coat? What kind of young woman of any stripe in the 21st century prances around in mink? Sorry, Michelle Obama ruined her first impression with me.

Even Richard Nixon knew that mink isn't cool for political wives: "Well, that's about it. That's what we have. And that's what we owe. It isn't very much. But Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we've got is honestly ours. I should say this, that Pat doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she'd look good in anything."

hdhouse said...

it could be that we are just witnessing a very verbal and smart household that talks well amongst themselves and thus have one "look" to the outside world. it appears she is every bit as bright as he is and doesn't mind showing him or anyone that is the case.

Frankly i've had enough of the "slightly above average" factor to last me a lifetime.

George said...

Harkonnendog--

I left out our immigration problem. We seem to lack the willpower to find and evict any of the millions of illegals who've flocked here.

Some years from now, a future Presidential candidate will write a book titled, "Why America Slept."

Probably too much of that Arraki spice.

AllenS said...

Hillary! would never tell a story such as this. When was the last time Bill took off his clothes in front of her?

Harkonnendog said...

Reader I_am,
It was just a comment on the idea that whites can't tell blacks apart.

George,
Or not engouh. :)

amba said...

I often see resemblances between people of different races (I know a Japanese karate teacher who looks just like Donald Rumsfeld), and in fact Michelle's features remind me of someone cute and blonde, a TV actress from way back, maybe, but I can't put my finger on it.