*Who didn’t see this coming?
Michelle Obama’s Sunday night surprise appearance at the Oscars — where she announced “Argo” the winner for best picture — is in the crosshairs of conservative pundits who are complaining that it was overkill.
The Oscars “had to throw her a crumb,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, because the Obamas got snubbed. The “campaign ad” “Zero Dark Thirty” didn’t win, nor did “his semi-autobiography” Lincoln (“it’s about Obama, everybody knows that”).
And so they turned to Obama. It’s all about optics, Limbaugh said, and speaking of: Did you see how giant the screen was? She was the “dear leader” of a “totalitarian state,” he remarked, comparing it to Apple’s famous 1984 commercial.
Adding that some say it was “the opening salvo” of a presidential bid, that’s not it, he added. In this case, here’s the deal: “A private, behind-the-scenes battle between Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg.” Weinstein, who helped arrange the first lady’s appearance, “wanted to show everybody that he’s bigger and more powerful than Spielberg,” after Spielberg got Bill Clinton at the Golden Globes.
Obama’s appearance “was out of place,” unnecessary, and “unneeded,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, over at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly wondered why the first lady got such a coveted spot in front of an estimated one billion people worldwide, when the same honor was never given to Republican first ladies Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush or Laura Bush?
O’Reilly told his guest, Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, that the move “smacked of Hollywood left boosterism” and a “pure propaganda play to make them glamorous.”
Quinn responded that Republicans “probably would have done it before if someone had thought of it,” calling it a “brilliant idea.” She went on to make a curious argument about the image that Michelle Obama, a “black woman” must have had across the world to people in “caves” and “huts” and “jungles” who “even if they hate America, they love American movies” and would therefore embrace her as an ambassador.
O’Reilly agreed that the first lady is a “positive” image for America, “particularly in the third world.” But he fundamentally disagreed that any Republican first lady would have gotten the chance to present at the Oscars, saying that it only happened because the all-powerful Harvey Weinstein decreed it. O’Reilly’s under no illusions that Hollywood isn’t run by liberals, but he said it’s his job to call out “propaganda” when he sees it.
Swinging over to CNN, Piers Morgan’s guest Donny Deutsch, who refers to himself as a “liberal,” went even further than Bill O’Reilly in sharing his distaste for what he referred to as the “uninvited guest.”
Deutsch made the point that when someone in Michelle Obama’s position appears on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” as she also did last week, the viewer gets to make the choice to tune in or not. But when she shows up at the most important moment during one of the most-watched television specials of the year, it’s an “intrusion” of politics that the viewer didn’t ask for. On top of that, he felt her appearance from the White House with members of the Marines standing behind her had a “monarch quality” to it that he found “tone deaf.”
Morgan brought in Jodi Kantor, who covers the Obama White House for The New York Times, to help explain the “charm offensive” strategy behind the first lady’s media appearances. But Deutsch, who pointed out he was working for President Bill Clinton when he went on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” wasn’t buying it.
He continued to push his premise that the first lady looked too “regal” on screen, at which point the only Brit in the room, Piers Morgan, had to jump in. “She wasn’t standing there ‘regally,’” Morgan said. “She’s not a queen. She’s standing in the White House with the Marines who work in the White House.” Morgan admitted that he saw nothing wrong with the appearance and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. He even went so far as to say the Oscars could be a step towards the first lady pursuing a political career of her own.
“If she ever does that,” Kantor responded, “I will come back on your show and I will physically eat my book one page at a time.”