Leading conservatives are the greatest asset President Barack Obama could ask for. They help his cause each and every day.
In a country of rising fuel and food prices, unpopular foreign wars, high unemployment and hope for change at an all-time low, the president and first lady should be in political turmoil. They’re not.
Instead of defending themselves against the dismal state of the country, and the general mood of misery and fear, the first family is weathering critics on the right who are all in a fuss about breast pumps and a birth certificate. It’s as if Obama is succeeding and his opponents need to manufacture nonsensical concerns.
First lady Michelle Obama came under fire this week after two leading conservatives heard that she will champion breast-feeding as a path to reducing childhood obesity. It’s hard to think of a more wholesome health campaign than that. Breast-feeding is the most natural and traditional (read: conservative) approach to feeding an infant. It lends itself to stay-at-home mothering — the kind of parenting wise conservatives advocate.
Instead of applauding the first lady and quickly moving on to criticize her husband’s economic policies, conservatives fell in a trap. They took the first lady to task in a way that can only help the White House. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., pounced within moments. On a mainstream conservative talk show, Bachmann said she breast-fed five children and didn’t need the nanny state to pay for her breast pump. She conflated the first lady’s proposed campaign with a recent decision by the Internal Revenue Service to allow a medical tax deduction for breast pumps. In the collective mindset, this will morph into Bachmann stating opposition to breast-feeding. That’s how these things go.
Score another one for Michelle Obama. She comes off looking like the traditional-values,
stay-at-home mom. Her conservative foes are left to attack a message they would embrace, if they were more shrewd. It appears shallow at best, desperate at worst.
Meanwhile, the president enjoys an ongoing distraction that’s more valuable than anything he or his advisers could have contrived. While the president pretends to cut spending — telling a whopper about proposing a balanced budget — a chunk of his most-impassioned opponents are trying to find out where he was born. The “birther” conspiracy theorists believe that Obama is a foreigner, who cannot reveal a valid American birth certificate.
It’s the perfect political chaff, drawing the enemy’s rage to the wrong target while Obama has his way with policy.
For Obama, it’s the gift that keeps giving. Money could not buy this political advantage.
President Obama could be the right’s new Jimmy Carter, who campaigned on lowering the “misery index” and saw it climb to an all-time high under his watch. Obama promised hope and change, but presides over misery and despair in his third year. Gas and food prices are almost certain to continue their climb. Obama should be easy to beat in 2012. Fortunately for him, no one approaching the caliber of Ronald Reagan is trying to take his job. The conservative movement has become a caricature of the Reagan Revolution.
As it stands, leadership on the right can be easily distracted by breast pumps and birth certificates. It’s beginning to look like six more years of Obama, thanks to the right.