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Obama Abroad

Michelle Obama tells Linda Douglas that her husband is plenty experienced, citing among other things the fact that "[h]e's had, you know, experiences like living abroad." Given America's recent ill-concieved foreign misadventures, this worldliness is one of Obama's better selling points. But Michelle's quote reminds me that it's not something he ever seems to talk about. This strikes me as a good explanation for the chasm between Obama's elite media hype and his feeble national poll numbers. Readers of TNR and the Times and The Atlantic etc. all know his amazing biography, maybe they even read his book, and they see Obama as someone on an incredible and inspiring personal journey. But most non-political Americans simply don't know that story. They know Obama is a black senator who gave a great speech. That's just not the same thing. It certainly doesn't make them look at him and think that he's had life experiences that translate into a fundamentally different vision than Hillary Clinton's. (Although I don't think that's the case, which is a different ball of wax.)

The trouble is, it's just not easy for Obama to be talking about his complex experiences on the campaign trail, which hardly lends itself to nuance. For instance, reminding people about "experiences like living abroad" tends to provoke stories like this. (Here's some honest reportage on the subject.)


 --Michael Crowley