They were the first shots in what is likely to become one of the more intriguing aspects of the presidential race: the battle of the potential first ladies. With their husbands now favorites to fight November’s election, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama were competing for the role of most patriotic spouse yesterday.
The contest got going when Obama told a rally in Milwaukee that she had never really felt pride in America before her husband’s campaign. "Let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment."
A clip of the remarks ran on Fox TV, allowing McCain to flaunt her unwavering patriotism. "I am proud of my country," she said at a rally in Wisconsin yesterday. "I don’t know about you. If you heard those words earlier, I am very proud of my country."
Barack Obama defended his wife over her earlier words: "What she meant was, this is the first time that she’s been proud of the politics of America," he told a radio station in Texas. "She has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she’s encouraged."
The remarks were not the first time Obama has drawn controversy through plain speaking. Last summer she came under fire for studding her speeches with tales of her husband’s domestic shortcomings (bad breath and failing to pick up dirty socks). The campaign shelved the overly frank speeches in the end, arguing that her sense of humor was probably misunderstood. But the angry reaction to her comments rose to a new level yesterday with blogs on the left and right accusing her of being self centered and narcissistic.