Pollak: Michelle Obama’s Divisive Speech Falls Short of 2016

Michelle Obama DNC (Chris Delmas / AFP / Getty)
Chris Delmas / AFP / Getty

Former First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a recorded speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention that had pundits swooning over how she attacked President Donald Trump — but fell far short of her 2016 address.

Four years ago, Mrs. Obama appealed to a sense of idealism. Her most memorable line — “When they go low, we go high” — was dishonest about Democrats’ political tactics, but at least aspired to loftier ideals.

Not so her grim, bitter 2020 speech.

Mrs. Obama began by telling us how depressed the country was, ascribing it to a lack of “empathy.” That word is crucial to both of the Obamas.

After the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, then-State Sen. Barack Obama wrote that they happened because of “a fundamental absence of empathy on the part the attackers.”

He could not, or would not, accept that radical Islam existed, that it prescribed the death of infidels and the destruction of our civilization, and that it had to be fought.

In her speech, Mrs. Obama had an odd way of describing empathy. She said “kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another.”

Empathy is a feeling; it can be shown, but it cannot be required: forced empathy would be self-defeating.

Mrs. Obama then listed several examples of that lack of empathy, including “kids in cages” — which were built when she and her husband were in the White House, and about which she had said nothing.

Amazingly, Mrs. Obama went on to accuse President Trump of turning his back on “alliances” that previous presidents had honored.

She said this just days after the president brought together two allies — Israel and the United Arab Emirates — in an astonishing peace agreement. Both countries had the common experience of being shunned during the Obama administration, which placed both of them in grave danger by by appeasing an Iranian regime with a weak nuclear deal.

When it came to her own party’s candidate, Joe Biden, Mrs. Obama damned him with faint praise. “Joe is not perfect,” she said. “But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president,” she added.

She reassured her audience that Biden has the  “ability to learn and grow.” Biden has been a national politician for nearly half a century, and will turn 78 years old before the year is through.

Obama also failed to mention Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). The reported excuse for that is that she pre-taped the interview. What was so important in Mrs. Obama’s schedule that she could not re-record?

But perhaps the worst thing Michelle Obama said was that her “message won’t be heard by some people” because “I am a Black woman.”

The idea that legitimate political differences can be reduced to racism is both false and destructive. It is evidence, shall we say, of a lack of empathy.

It was a reminder of why so many Americans are glad the Obamas are gone.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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