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Michelle Obama's 'proud' remarks draw conservative fire

Michelle Obama graces the cover of the latest Newsweek (headline: "Barack's Rock"). And right on cue with her escalating public profile, a mini-tempest was sparked by comments she made Monday as she headlined a rally for her husband in Wisconsin.

The Newsweek profile noted: "As a political spouse, she is somewhat unusual. She isn't the traditional Stepford booster, smiling vacantly at her husband and sticking to a script of carefully vetted blandishments."

That proved prescient -- she's taking heat today from some conservative commentators and bloggers for telling her crowd: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm proud of my country."

[UPDATE: We missed a word in this quote, due to a blip in the replay of it we viewed. And, as a reader points out below, it's an omission that could change reactions to the comment. The correct quote is: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country."]

Obama, 44, went on to say that her feeling stemmed not only from the success of her husband's presidential quest, but also from the yearning for change she detects in the vox populi. "And I've been desperate to see our country moving in that direction ..." she added.

You can check out the pertinent portion of her speech here, along with a blog posting taking her to task. (Sample rhetorical question: she's not proud of "the fact that she and her husband were able to go to Ivy League schools before embarking on extremely lucrative careers?").

On MSNBC, Joe Scarborough and ... 

his morning-show partner, Mika Brzezinski, argued for several minutes about what to make of Obama's comment.

Barack Obama's campaign issued this statement on the flap: "Of course Michelle is proud of her country, which is why she and Barack talk constantly about how their story wouldn’t be possible in any other nation on Earth. What she meant is that she’s really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who’ve never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grassroots movement for change."

-- Don Frederick

Comments () | Archives (79)

The comments to this entry are closed.

About the following, posted by Mr. Frederick:

[UPDATE: We missed a word in this quote, due to a blip in the replay of it we viewed. And, as a reader points out in a comment below, it's an omission that could change reactions to the comment. The correct quote is: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country."]

Your blog needs another update. Mrs. Obama said two very similar things on two separate occasions in Wisconsin. On the video with the "blip," she did indeed say, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." However, on the video of her other speech, the one with no such "blip," she said, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm proud of my country." I don't think the difference is particularly important in view of the fact that she said both.

I also think it should be noted that because she said two so similar things, her speech was almost certainly prepared. Let us all also remember that she is a gifted, extraordinarily intelligent, highly articulate and extremely well-educated person who graduated from both Princeton and Harvard Law. The likelihood that in a prepared speech given on at least two occasions that the very capable and articulate Michelle Obama said anything for which she is not responsible and that she somehow did not mean is approximately zilch, or so it seems to me.

It would be very wise of the campaign, I believe, were she to come forth, publicly speak on the record with reporters, and clarify exactly how she feels and what she thinks on this issue. Having someone else from the campaign attempt to do it really doesn't cut the mustard. She either wishes to retract or clarify her remarks or she wishes to let them stand, meaning what they apparently do. Whatever the truth is, she should tell us.

I am tired of reading everyone's translation of what she meant or not meant. Why doesn't she come out and tells us what she really meant and then, move on. The longer it takes for her to respond the longer Hillary and others will keep the story from dying. By not addressing this issue in a timely manner the Obama campain shows me they may be inept for the presidency.

Weren't normal Americans proud when Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and said to cheers, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?"

Weren't real American proud when the wall was being chipped to pieces by ecstatic Berliners?

Weren't normal Americans proud when the nation pulled together in the aftermath of the Twin Towers massacre?

Weren't real Americans proud when the US military swept in to relieve the victims of the Southeast Asian Tsunami?

Apparently Ms. Obama felt nothing. She lacks the natural instincts of an American.

For her life is all resentment and petty grudges.

I hope to see her in the White House in her rightful place -- in line as a visitor.

So, are the conservatives calling Mrs. McCain, Barbara Bush, Pat Nixon Stepford Wives?

Frankly, I don't care what she said. Screw it. They're picking over the teeniest pebbles and using it as a subterfuge to avoid talking about what ails us as a nation.

Screw the conservatives. I really hate 'em, and I'm one of them.

I can't see how Michelle can be criticized for her comment. I'm over 70 years old, served in both Korea and Vietnam and I can't ever remember saying: "I really Love America!" I will say I love my country proudly. What's the name of the song that was written about the USA? In that song, the words were: "I love the USA". Has anyone ever criticized the song because it didn't say "I really love my country." I don't think so!!

Oh come on! I cannot believe we are even discussing this! Imagine yourself having to stand up in front of many, many people time and time again, hoping all your words please everyone...its impossible. Give her a break. I don't see what the fuss is...

Give me a break! I was born and raised in the good old U.S. of A. and for the past 10 years I have not been proud of Americans or those in a 'position' to make and decide policies that affect me. Michelle Obama keep on stepping my sister and shake off the dust of these naysayers. If this is the best that they can come up with then how pitiful. It was 25 years ago that some tried to make a big deal of Marvin Gaye's rendition of the national athem and let's not forget Jimi Hendrix's rendition. So people stop trying to force your opinions, morality or patriotism on others. In memory of Lawrence King, r.i.p.

I will give Mrs. Obama the benefit of the doubt, but the way she said this made me think for a second some of the things she’s not proud of, such as:

When she became a vp making 350,000 being a woman and African American. How did Michelle get on her high career path in the first place? Wasn’t she proud of this country for helping her get there? While Reagon wanted to do away with affirmative action, Clinton supported and reinforced JFK’s affirmative action giving women the opportunity to make it in a man’s world. Now how can she not be proud of what Clinton did while president to help her get ahead in a corporation, and succeed in a man’s world?

She just needs to arrange words carefully, because if we have to think twice, then how about people from other countries? How will they translate this?

That is pathetic. I was a Marine for four years in the late 90's and I guess that means nothing to her because her husband was not running for president. It is nice to know how people think of their own country. I dont agree with everything all the time but I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN and always PROUD OF AMERICA. So much for bringing people together. I just got done watching his speech and it makes me want to laugh. Hope, change, blah blah blah, hope change, I will do this I will do that. However he never seems to mention how he is going to do all these things just that he will. I am not a HIllary fan but she is 100% correct that this guy is all talk. His campaign manager David Axelrod has used this change theme 2x before. Once with Rod Blagoevich and with Deval Patrick in Mass. Blagoevich was going to change IL and end business as usual, yet he ended up being more corrupt then the previuos GOv which no one thought was possible. In Mass the press actually have nicknames Patrrick. Deval "what do I do now" Patrick. He has been exposed as in over his head. Also Obama complains about CLintont distorting his words but he does exactly that tho McCain. McCain didnt say he would wage war in Iraq for 100 years, what he said was that we could keep troops there like we still have troops in Germany even though WW2 was over 50 years ago. However the press never calls Obama out on anything so the Obama Nazis will go on without any opposition or vetting form the press. I voted Kerry in 2004 but I will be voting McCain in 2008.

I think Michelle is full of nonsense, petty grievances. She is only proud of America because HER HUSBAND is going to be a Democrat nominee, or she thinks she will become 1st lady.

I think you should be proud of your country whatever the outcome of the election - because America is a great country, despite it's share of mistakes and errors. America has given much to Americans and the whole world - this is something to be proud of. The very fact that a black person and a woman stand to become a potential leader of the sole superpower is something to be proud of.

So, Michelle - you're just full of nonsense and Barach - you're only words, and a hypocrite !!

Barack Obama talks about "change," "change," and more "change." As a resident of Illinois, I totally resent his comments. He has been in a position of making change while a Congressman. Did he work at that? NO! Heck he has hardly voted on anything since he decided to run for president. And when he did vote, he voted "present." That's sure some great representation from Illinois, huh? It's Congress that really controls and runs this country He's had his chance to try to make things better and he's blown that. Couldn't get the job done as a Congressman and now he thinks he can be the president? People are blindly following him because he is a good public speaker. But let me tell you, he says one thing and does another. And this I know first hand.
He would not be good for this country.

amazing she went to an Ivy League under affirmative action

Hawaiingecko and La Mosca, great job at pointing out the two speeches and the difference in the word "really." Clearly, that was a speech that was written and planned -- it was not an ad lib. I was willing to cut her a break, but she obviously hasn't felt proud of our country before.

Hopefully, swing voters keep this in mind come November. If Obama's wife hasn't been proud of our country, how has he felt about it?

As some of the other commenters have pointed out, Obama can't have this both ways. Either words are just words or they are something much more.

The people critical of Michelle Obama make me laugh. You sound desperate.

If this is all the Obama opponents have---attacking his wife and trying to twist her words---they obviously don't have much.

this isn't what she meant??!!! 'michele o. keep talking,keep talking,cause every word comes from your heart and now we really know how you fill for this country' !!

chuck...chucker of bull

>amazing she went to an Ivy League under affirmative action

Prove that without your mind thinking it and hands typing such a statement. Did she skate in 2 Ivy league schools because of race? Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate?

I think she earned her grades with hard work and talents.
They had years of college loans needing repaid too.

Michelle Obama is a citizen without a politican title. She's really proud of America now.

The turnout in this Presidential run are outrageous numbers in each state. People overly excited at the candidates running for President.

Nothing bad was said, she has been proud of this country before.

There are many oppurtunties not to be proud because political behaviors and social injustices. History spells it out, some struggling times for people.

Where is the pride with so many killings by guns? Too much pride in guns is a problem.

Proud enough to say Pledge of Allegiance but with complaints soon after.

This is the best country to be born in and to live, but there are issues to overcome. It can be hell to suffer economically, hooked on drugs or drunk, among a criminal element in a struggling community.

Being unable to afford health care, while having health problems. Paying for insurance then they suddenly won't pay a bill. Being dropped from insurance without learning the reason why.

Imagine a flood or tornado, wild fires raging and everything owned is gone. FEMA doesn't help everyone!

Amazing the desperation some people are living in.

Nothing to be proud about when social programs aren't covering enough folks. When some bring problems on themselves and they abuse others.

This arguing over a few words Michelle Obama said are harmful to the people complaining about it.

Some people are small minded and reactionary to the slightest thing.

A lot of blame can go to media for causing it. A media story sometimes is nothing to talk about long term.

I really feel very sorry for (any) people who do not understand the times and seasons in which they live. america must seize this tide and flow with it. Looking for misses here and there is not the way to go. Words carry meanings beyond sounds. Do not crucify the Obamas, their time has come - to be a blessing to America, the epitome of democracy and freedom. Besides, what greater legacy would Americans dangle before posterity than that it was in their life time the mommetum for a change movement was made possible.

Judging by Michelle Obama's words, the content of her character includes anger, resentment, bitterness, a sense of entitlement, and ingratitude. Evidently, the color of her skin has made her the narcissistic person she is.

Is this the change we want in America? Two beneficiaries of the American Dream who think they are now entitled to occupy the Oval Office simply because they are who they are? Race matters more than character in their version of things.

As to Senator Obama's refusal to observe protocol during the National Anthem, if he believes as his spiritual mentor, Jerimiah Wright does, that he lives in the United States of WHITE America and that his first allegiance is to Africa, then no wonder he was the only one on stage that day to stand with his arms down by his side.

Here is one American who has always been proud of her country. Yes, we have things in our past and our present which I am not proud of. We are a nation of humans, after all; but we have accomplished more that we can be proud of, which are uniquely American. Immigrants from around the globe have come here seeking the American Dream. Americans rarely leave our country in preference to another one. Perhaps the Obamas should be one of the few to do so. Africa would welcome them with open arms, I'm sure. Besides, Africa could use some of Obama's hope and charisma.

The truth comes out!! Michelle Obama hates America!! Her lefty husband won't even put his hand over his heart during the National Anthem!! He probably hates America too!!

WONDERFUL Michelle ! Spoken like a true moron.
I love the "spin doctors" who chime in on these sites, attempting to explain away her bone-headed thoughts on this nation.
I'll bet that the majority of the "give-Michelle-a-hug" authors here have NEVER had to step-up and actually contribute to this country's defense, welfare, or security. Nope, just kick back, enjoy the fruits of and freedoms of American society - sniping at those who STAND for something, while DEFENDING the miserable words of a women who knows little of sacrafice.
Michelle, I sincerely hope you regret your words, and take some time to reflect on their callousness.
Perhaps you could visit Arlington National Cemetery one fall morning, and, while facing those rows and rows of cold headstones, utter your contemptible words to those who fought and died for your freedom of speech... in a nation you're embarrassed of.
- Ma'am, you sicken me.
- Sincerely, an Air Force Veteran (MSgt) "G"

Obama is running on a "trust me" campaign, since he only had two years in the Senate before launching his presidential campaign. So yes, his and Michelle's words will be scrutinized carefully by some - are they his or did he "borrow" them; what exactly did she mean by that - because all we have are words and the character of the person behind them to make a decision on whether or not to trust him with the presidency. I've seen nothing to make me believe he's qualified for the position of President. I'm voting for Clinton whose 35 years of working to help others tells me all I need to know about the depth of her character and the kind of President she'll be.

Let me begin by saying that I am proud to live in a country where we can have this debate. There's an awful lot to be proud of and I do think we, as Americans, take a lot for granted. But there's also a lot of room for improvement, don't you think?
We invaded a country based on fabricated intelligence and fear mongering. Does that make you proud? We have spent 87 billion dollars in a war in Iraq where almost 4,000 American troops and over 100,000 Iraqis have died. Are you proud of that? It's estimated that more than 29,000 troops are coming home from that war wounded. Many of them won't get the medical, mental or financial help they need and deserve. Are you proud of that? Proud that many of these same troops were sent into a war unprepared and without proper armor or training? Proud to admit that we removed our best resources from attacking and tracking down those who attacked us on 911 in Afghanistan and invaded a country that had nothing to do with it? Are you proud that now Afghanistan is in its second year of record poppy production, with the proceeds funding a Taliban resurgence?
Does it make you proud to know that there are more black American men in prison today than in college? Or that 30% of American children are being raised by a single parent or grandparent?
8 years ago the wealthiest 10% of Americans owned 40% of household wealth. The gap has widened to where the top 1% now owns 40%. Proud yet?
Were you proud when Hurricane Katrina arrived on our shores and revealed the poverty, racism and classism occurring on our watch, in our backyard? Does it make you proud to know that many of the people who stayed in New Orleans and were housed in FEMA trailers were originally told not to worry about the formaldehyde? Kind of like when the workers at the Trade Center clean up site were told there was no air quality issue.
Are you proud of a country that twists the facts about spying on its own citizens and makes claims that it can't protect us without giving telecommunication companies retroactive immunity for breaking the law - really, does that make you proud? Or how about when our government outs a CIA agent and then covers it up? Oh yeah, and when someone is charged with the coverup, our leader lets him off the hook in a way that the truth is sure to never come out.
I'm not proud of our recent policies on torture and I certainly won't be proud when those methods are used on an American. Will you?
Are you proud that our country has become so divided and that many of our elected officials rely on that divisiveness and apathy to drive their agendas?
Yes, our country is great, we have led in many ways and we continue to give aid and support around the globe. World-wide, people see opportunity here, a place for a great education or career. But these great things don't make all the poor and harmful choices made on our behalf better or less harmful. In fact, I am more disappointed since I know we can do much better.
I think I know what Michelle Obama was trying to say. I feel the same way. Could she have said it better? Maybe. But let's not turn this into another wedge, let's face our shortcomings and pledge that we will do better. We need to raise the bar. We have big problems that need big solutions and we are a country of really smart people. But turning what Michelle Obama said into an anti-American sentiment is not smart; it's stupid and it's destructive and it hurts our country. Let's rise above the crap, the rhetoric and the vitriol and make this not only the best country in the world, but the best country it can be!

What I find more offensive than Michelle Obama's "pride" remark is her warning, delivered several times, that this is the ONLY time her husband is running for president. So, if you want him, folks, you'd better vote for him now, because you're not going to get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity again. This says an awful lot about the Obamas commitment to public service. After less than two years in the U.S. Senate, he not only felt that he'd paid his dues but was ready to run for the highest office in the land. Now, we've got to grab this great opportunity IMMEDIATELY. What arrogance! Please, Barrack and Michelle, don't do us any more favors!!

Michelle Obama
Proud to Be An American - Really Proud of the Moment

It IS change.

It IS progress.

It IS a proud moment for this country, when a descendent of slaves of this country can say she is proud of it. She is proud of being an American as opposed to “enduring” the fact that she is -- a feeling known all too well by African-Americans and taken for “entitled” granted by European-Americans.

There are people in this country who can feel and be appreciative of being able to “pursue happiness” in this country, yet not feel and be appreciative of the overwhelming gender bias and racism and other hegemonic practices they have to fight on a dayly basis in their “pursuit of happiness.”

Michelle Obama’s courage to confess how she feels and “admit” that feeling of change and progress desired by the American people speaks volumes.

America is robbed of its taunt about the “proud” accomplishments made by American influence in other countries, when the world community is a witness of America’s crimes against humanity of its own people based on race.

P.S. Michelle Obama was applauded for her “open disclosure,” there are people who get it. It is an awakening moment for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream and a proud healing moment for this country. The power brokers of status quo bigotry pissed in their pants to hear the confession of those proud words come out of a black woman's mouth. Willie Lynch is rolling over in his grave!

So I think it is unarguable that the Obama camp is saying that until now:

"Mrs. Obama has never been REALLY proud of her country.

Isn't that a big deal?

Well, it depends on what the meaning of the word "really" really is.

The "Update" that supposedly "corrects" the quote of her remarks should be removed, and the -actual- video where she said "proud" without the "really" should be put in it's place.

The Obamas are successfully rewriting history in an amazing way. Every single accurate quote of her just saying "proud", all over the internet, is being systematically overwritten with a -different- statement where she said "really proud"... and this is being presented to millions of people around the world as evidence of how evil conservatives manipulate the media and viciously misquoted her. Michelle Obama sat there on the View and let everyone there lie for her (there's no WAY she didn't know about both quotes by that point), and we then get to hear them ask her, "With the way you've been misquoted, are you afraid to speak out? Do you feel you have to watch every word you say?" Yes, the poor victim. Orwell was clearly just a few years too pessimistic, and Stalin would have been struck speechless with admiration.


It's funny. As a minority living in America my entire life I have seen things that most caucasians either over-look, disregard or are just plain ignorant of. And because of this fact, I can identify with what Michelle is saying in her speech. Living in the south where racism is still alive and well, where discrimination is not something you read about in books or magazines, but stands on the sidewalks peering into your eyes, where stereotyping is not a thing of the past, but of the today. I not only am NOT proud of America, but I live in an America that is NOT proud of me.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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