The speeches by Ann Romney and Michelle Obama have been crowned as the best of their respective conventions.
These speeches had one purpose — to erase the aloof image that diminishes the likability factor for each husband. And the women achieved their goal, though not without a touch of disingenuousness.
In Ann Romney’s case, it infuses her description of young married life while attending college — eating pasta and tuna in a $62-a-month basement apartment, using an ironing board as a table and throwing patchwork rugs on concrete floors. (Turns out ironing boards are a motif in Mitt’s life; he claims even today to iron his own shirts.)
In Michelle’s case, she paid tribute to her husband for, at every point in his adult life, “turning down high-paying jobs, and instead working in struggling neighborhoods,” putting helping people ahead of making money. The first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review was hugely attractive to law firms, and Barack summered at one of them, where he met Michelle, then a young associate. That firm would have loved to have kept him and eventually make him a partner, and he and Michelle would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars rolling in every year. But he chose community organizing, mostly nonprofit work, and a seat in the Illinois state Senate.
And Michelle was furious. As I learned from interviewing scores of people when I wrote Michelle’s profile, published just as they moved into the White House in 2009, the stress on their marriage was serious; his being away in Springfield and his paltry paychecks meant she had to work when she really did want to be “mom in chief,” as she described herself Tuesday night, and stay home, like her own mom did, to raise her daughters. To Michelle, Barack’s behavior was just selfish — giving of himself to strangers but refusing to make the compromises that would have allowed him to give more to his family.
And no, there was no safety net on either side of the family for Michelle and Barack. Michelle, against her wishes, had to be the real breadwinner in the family.