When it comes to selling health care, it's a family affair. As one Obama struggles to sell his plan to the broader public, it appears the White House is hopeful they can enlist another Obama to help close the deal.
According to Politico: First lady Michelle Obama “plans a packed autumn that aides say will include a ‘dedicated focus’ on health insurance reform”.
Up until today, we’ve heard little from the first lady when it comes to hot button issues. They’ve covered her gardening, gabbing with kids, and walking along side her husband to and from Marine One.
Like every first lady, she chose an issue that she wanted to champion during her husband’s tenure. For Michelle Obama, it was military families, a noble and paramount concern. Now, the Obamas plan to tag team the country making healthcare priority number one.
If history is any indication, a president’s wife might not be the best salesperson. Remember what happened the last time a President enlisted his wife to sell healthcare? Hillary Clinton found herself in a national battle, further complicating the issue for Congress, for her husband, and for herself.
Though CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports that, “unlike Hillary Clinton who spearheaded the Clinton administration's early health care effort, first lady Michelle Obama will have a very different role in the president's non-stop effort to sell health care reform,” the move still remains dangerous. Sending a popular First Lady into a polarizing debate that is already turned against your favor is a gamble. Especially when that lady wasn’t always so popular.
Before we celebrated her bare arms and J Crew shift dresses, Michelle Obama has had a rocky relationship with the American people. During the campaign, Michelle was often considered a liability for her husband. She was stereotyped as “angry,” called a “militant black woman” on some blogs and most controversially, was caught in the crosshairs over comments about being proud of her country for the first time. Many joked she wore the pants in the relationship, and speculated that she harbored racist feelings toward whites.
Obama worked hard to reform that image. She stayed mostly behind the scenes, insisting she was focused on raising her daughters, not elbowing her way into Oval Office policy making. And it worked. In March 2008, her positive rating was only 32 percent, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Now, the first lady boasts an approval rating of 70 percent, much higher than her husband’s.
Dissaproval for the president's healthcare plan is at an all time low. By thrusting her into the most divisive debate the country has had since the Iraq War, The Administration faces a host of risks.
First, they’ll expend the precious political capital that the First Lady has earned from a majority of the American people. If this strategy fails, the Administration risks having two unpopular Obamas at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They may think she’s their secret weapon, but that weapon could be better used in 2010 and 2012.
Injecting Obama at this stage in the game could also throw gasoline on the race debate. Many on the left have accused anyone who opposes the President of harboring racist feelings. If they oppose both Obamas, will this further fuel the fire?
Society is generally tougher on females in the public eye than males. If Obama's advisers aren't careful, Michelle Obama could return to her lightning rod status and end up being a liability, not an asset, for her husband. She should stick to her original mission: military families, ribbon cuttings, recipes, and People magazine interviews. Helping the families of those on the front line is one thing, helping your president-husband on the front lines is another.
Andrea Tantaros is a conservative commentator and columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @andreatantaros.