Shooting from the lip

A Times Editorial
Published February 22, 2008

Michelle Obama made an extraordinary statement this week for the wife of the leading Democratic presidential candidate.

Speaking at a Wisconsin rally on Tuesday, the day her husband was about to win his 10th straight primary victory over Hillary Clinton, she said: "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."

That would be a jarring statement from anyone who has paid any attention to what this country and its citizens have accomplished, endured and overcome in recent decades. It is not just the conservative bloggers who are denouncing her remarks. Even some Democrats winced, and Michelle Obama can be sure her words will come back to haunt her husband this fall if he is the Democratic nominee.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, insists that her comment was taken out of context. "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 grass-roots movement," Burton told USA Today.

That may be what she meant, but that is not what she said and that is not what people heard. As her husband can tell her, words do matter, and Michelle Obama, who was educated at Princeton and Harvard Law, needs to choose hers more carefully.