Michelle Obama, just like her ubiquitous husband, is all over your TV. Since she became First Lady, she has appeared more than 40 times on television shows ranging from “Sesame Street” to Jay Leno and David Letterman.
This dwarfs the number of appearances former First Lady Laura Bush made during the first three and a half years of her husband’s first term, when she was on 12 shows. Even Hillary Clinton, whose husband never missed an opportunity for a photo-op, only made 19 television appearances from 1993 to 1996, and those were more for presidential events or non-fiction television series that didn’t involve Clinton’s reelection.
But it is not only the frequency of Michelle Obama’s appearances that are unusual — it is the manner in which she uses her position to diminish the respect for the White House itself. Appearing on “The Biggest Loser,” Obama used the historic East Room of the White House to videotape an exercise segment with sweaty bodies sprawled all over the floor. For a bit of historical perspective, the East Room was the site of such events as the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, the signing of the Civil Rights Act, presidential press conferences, and presidential awards of military and civilian honors.
Michelle Obama is only imitating her husband, who has interrupted virtually every major televised sporting event with his appearances in order to make himself as well-known to Americans as humanly possible. But this is all part of a plan to make it appear as if the Obamas are your friends; part of the Obama campaign’s rhetoric is designed to make Americans feel they would protect a chum like Obama from the cold, heartless Republicans. The emails the Obama campaign has recently sent emphasize a chummy attitude Americans should have with the president, with the First Lady asking us to “help Barack” and “get his back.”
The Obamas might do well to remember a warning from Aesop’s fables: familiarity breeds contempt. With their own contempt for the sanctity of the White House, they deserve no less from us.