04.29.09

The Power of Michelle

The first lady's unimaginable comeback

The single most surprising thing about the last 100 days is not Barack, it's Michelle. The enormity of her success, here and around the world, was totally unanticipated and unanticipateable during the campaign. Remember how she was kept off stage and silent, by a political staff which feared her frankness was a liability? Remember how she was slammed as unpatriotic because she said her husband's ascent made her proud of America for the first time? Seems like a different world. Today the press, White House machine, and the adoring country can't get enough of this formidable first lady.

Michelle has wowed the crowds from Washington and Westminster. She even got away with touching the Queen! I suspect the Brits used to behead people for lesser breaches of protocol. But this is not just a puff piece for FLOTUS. Don't underestimate what an important political asset she and, I'd argue, those two girls are. Americans love having this family in the White House and they love the way that putting them there makes them feel good about themselves.

America feels rightly proud of having sent this cute, down-to-earth, poised, and, yes, black, family to the White House. Americans don't want Obama to fail because they are proud of having elected him and his family. And this warm glow of propriety and sense of having helped usher in a historic change, in turn gives President Obama a healthy dose of political capital. He has much to thank his wife and children for.

Katty Kay covers American politics for the British Broadcasting Corporation. She is Washington correspondent for BBC World News America and has lived in D.C. for the past 12 years. She is the author, with Claire Shipman, of the upcoming book Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success.

Xtra Insight: Read other takes on the first 100 days from The Daily Beast's all-star team of analysts.