Michelle Obama has been so likeable because she reminded ordinary American women of themselves. She was a working mom, grew up in a blue-collar household, and didn't let her husband get out of line. Her preference for J. Crew over Prada said it all.
Up until her vacation to Spain Michelle Obama was like us. Now Michelle Obama's image has been irrevocably tarnished. She is not Marie Antoinette and she has not called on jobless Americans to eat tapas. She did not travel with a South Beach style type of entourage of several dozen friends and staff -- in total the group was less than 12. However, the relatability of the first Lady as someone who had a grip on reality has been lost.
What is most surprising about the Andalucian excursion and the "who cares what the media says mentality" is the 180 degree shift from just a short time ago. Image matters and no one better than Michelle Obama knows that. This time three years ago, Michelle was seen as too abrasive and not relatable enough because of her grit. The Obama team determined that if her image were not changed she would become a dangerous liability to the then presidential candidate. The campaign needed to quash the spreading frame of Michelle as an "angry black woman" and do it fast.
Michelle Obama underwent a painstaking transformation to recreate her image. She not only successfully shed the "angry black woman" descriptor, but she became the modern day Jackie O. Michelle O. actually seemed to surpass the qualities of Jackie O. Not only was she feminine and smart, but she also had a firm grasp on the realities and hardships of everyday Americans because she herself had experienced them. The success of her recrafting was such that even her gaffe about "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country ... " was forgotten in the happy, feel-good, Gap-chic image that was established. Michelle Obama became a role model for black women, white women, and Latinas of ALL income levels.
It seems the image pendulum has swung to the other extreme. The Spanish vacation together with the current Martha's Vineyard outing provide too much fodder for the stereotypes of Democrats as latte-drinking out of touch elites. The current economic climate together with the Gulf Coast disaster demanded a response from the First Family that was sensitive to the realities of millions of Americans. The choice of destination in and of itself did not matter, but the timing could not have been worse.
All extremes are bad, but in the current economic and political climate it seems that the tough as nails image rather than the champagne and caviar image would better serve the First Lady and her extended partisan family. The First Lady of the United States flubbed and will either drop off as a role model or have to undergo a transformation yet again to return her to the Michelle O. the United States and the world fell in love with.