Another day, another “Michelle Obama is running for president” rumor in the news.
Today’s hot take comes from New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams. The headline screams “Michelle Obama may have notified people in ‘22 of her White House ambition: ‘I plan to run.’”
Adams claims she broke the story of Michelle Obama plans to enter the 2024 race, that “the Obamas have not denied it,” and that “several firsthand sources whom she met in 2022 say I am right.” Further, she says Michelle Obama, “who came into the White House poor and left rich, has not refuted it.”
I confess that I am not a Democrat donor, don’t live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and don’t have connected people calling me to drop hot gossip tips. But even so it’s clear there are several reasons to believe this is little more than fluff to grab headlines.
First, Cindy Adams is a gossip columnist. She makes her living selling gossip. Whatever parlor game dispirited Manhattan Democrats are playing with the 20204 presidential election, it should be obvious that Adams is there to get clicks and attention from peddling rumors. “Well they didn’t deny it” isn’t as probative as, say, an FEC candidate filing. And her hot gossip is a hypothetical from 2022, which is already two years ago. Not exactly fresh hot tea. I don’t know if a 93-year-old lady is out there on the streets of the Upper East Side hitting up her contacts for the latest political sitrep, but this sounds like spicy cocktail party chitchat. By her logic, since I haven’t denied winning the lottery perhaps I have.
Putting that aside, why would Michelle Obama run for president? She has made it manifestly clear in the past that she dislikes “the nastiness of politics,” dislikes Washington D.C., and hates gladhanding voters. She hated her own husband for 10 years. Where is her stomach for the fight? She would rather be on Jeff Bezos’s super yacht in the Aegean, watching Coco Gauff play tennis at the U.S. Open, and touring the Parthenon with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. None of that has changed since she was First Lady in 2016. As a woman with zero executive experience who has never held political office, there is no evidence that she done anything since leaving the White House that would indicate she is preparing to run for president.
Back in October, she appeared onstage with two other members of the wives of famous men club—Melinda Gates and Amal Clooney—in support of an Obama Foundation event for the Girls Opportunity Alliance. The alliance focuses on the education and empowerment of young girls in developing countries as well as the United States. With her usual lack of bitterness or excessive self-regard, Obama decried the rollback of progress in gender equity that had afflicted young women not just in poorer countries but also in the United States. “This issue is personal to me, said Obama. “I have always seen myself in these girls.” She recalled her own childhood: “I knew I was smart. I knew I was capable. But I also knew that I lived in a community that wasn’t necessarily willing to invest in my greatness. So we have to change that paradigm and we have to do it fast. Because when girls don’t learn we all suffer.”
Nice speech. But what has she done to support her own foundation? Where are the scholarships, the schools, the young underprivileged girls coming forward to attest to what the Girls Opportunity Alliance has done for them? Where are the measurable, real life-changing, positive effects that her charitable work has achieved? Anyone serious about running on her accomplishments, and not motivated purely by her ego and overweening Dunning-Kruger inflated sense of her own abilities, would be sending out press releases demonstrating how important her charitable foundation has been. But these accomplishments don’t exist because her charity and foundation are merely a platform to sell books and make speeches for money. They have made Michelle rich, and she loves being rich. She is delighted to lecture others about they should give up a piece of their pie, but Michelle will be keeping her Kalorama, Hawaii, and Chicago estates, thank you very much.
Neither is there any evidence that Michelle would run for president out of love of country. Given her record both as First Lady and in her life after the White House, what we see is a woman who was never proud of her country until it elected her husband president; who as First Lady publicly sneered at the American flag (“all this just for a damn flag”), and spoke about how hard it was to wake up every day in a White House built by slaves. She appeared in January on a mental health podcast to say that she is “terrified” about the potential 2024 election results. “I am terrified about what could possibly happen.” “The fact that people think that government—‘eh, does it really even do anything?’—and I’m like ‘Oh my God, does government do everything for us, and we cannot take this democracy for granted.’”
There is no expression of a serious political philosophy, patriotism, duty, or self-sacrifice in these comments. The only thing approaching a coherent thought is her professed devotion to keeping people dependent on big government.
It must be conceded that Michelle Obama does have high favorability ratings with the public. Would she run if the DNC begged her and told her it was time to step up on behalf of the Democratic Party due to the very real chance that incumbent President Joe Biden appears destined to lose in November? There is no reason to believe that she would care what the DNC wants. As First Lady, Obama was interested in her own projects such as her anti-obesity “Let’s Move” campaign, but lawmakers said off the record that she kept score over those politicians who she thought were insufficiently supportive and refused to campaign or appear with them. She is not a team player. Secondly, those favorability ratings are for her image as First Lady and would necessarily shift as soon as she started communicating as a politician. Which … you know … she does not … you know … do as well as … you know, Barack.
One more compelling reason to be dubious: Kamala Harris. In Amateur Hour, Charlie Spiering makes a compelling case that the vice president isn’t going anywhere. She has the power of incumbency, she is a black female, and she wants to be president. One way or another, Kamala is waiting out the Joe Biden presidency. She knows Joe Biden cannot replace her on the ticket without admitting that his first act as the Democratic presidential nominee in choosing her to be his vice president was a mistake. Black women are the most dependable bloc of voters for Democrats. There is no way they would respond favorably to party officials swapping out one black woman for another, sending the message that they are all, somehow, interchangeable. White college-educated liberal women would vote for Michelle, of course, just as they vote for every other pernicious, destructive, stupid idea. But Democrats are losing support among black and Hispanic men. If a Michelle Obama administration would promise a fourth term for Barack Obama, and eight more years of the status quo that has given Joe Biden the lowest approval ratings of any president in 50 years, there is no reason to think anyone unhappy with the direction of the country would be eager to vote for her.
None of this is to minimize the ego of a Princeton and Harvard educated woman who spent eight years adjacent to the most powerful man on earth. Being around Ozymandias that long must have rubbed off on her. But to extrapolate from that that she would agree to be a figurehead president while “snore-y stinky” Barack ran the show behind the curtains is a bit much. Undoubtedly, her ego likes the presidential speculation and has whispered to her that she could do the job of president. But the world has changed since 2016. The media has lost its hegemonic power over public opinion. The country is a mess. People have had time to ponder the once imponderable question: “What did Barack Obama do for me?” Some have concluded he’s the most overrated president in history. Without a tide of Obama nostalgia to sweep her into office, why would she put herself out there?
I could be wrong. After all, I once believed Mitt Romney was an honorable man of integrity. But I remain unconvinced. Dropping Michelle Obama into the presidential race as the ultimate Hail Mary pass may be a fun gossip item, but the important thing to remember is that there’s nothing in it for her. Fame, money, adulation are already hers—and Jeff Bezos has a really nice yacht that she wouldn’t have much time to enjoy as a presidential candidate.