For first lady, Trump is he who shall re­main name­less

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Thomas Beau­mont

First lady Michelle Obama has emerged as per­haps the most ef­fec­tive Don­ald Trump critic in the Democrats’ lineup, and she’s done it with­out ever ut­ter­ing two key words: Don­ald Trump.

In her six cam­paign trail speeches for Hil­lary Clin­ton, the first lady has never said the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee’s name. She’s talked about “this candidate” and ded­i­cated much of her time to a sear­ing in­dict­ment of his words and po­si­tions. But through­out her buz­zwor­thy take­downs, Trump re­mains the man who shall re­main name­less.

Mrs. Obama didn’t de­part from her rhetor­i­cal dis­missal of Trump in Phoenix Thurs­day. Her ap­pear­ance in Ari­zona was a mis­sion to crack open new ter­ri­tory in a GOP-lean­ing state polls show is now com­pet­i­tive.

The Clin­ton cam­paign and Mrs. Obama’s staff are re­luc­tant to dis­cuss mo­tives for the ob­vi­ous omis­sion. But Mrs. Obama’s rhetoric shows her try­ing to bal­ance her po­si­tion as first lady — a fig­ure long viewed as out of the political fray — while also hold­ing lit­tle back in a race she clearly feels strongly about.

At the rally in Ari­zona, she re­ferred to Trump dozens of times, but in the ab­stract. “When a pres­i­den­tial candidate threat­ens to ig­nore our voices and re­ject the out­come of this elec­tion, he is threat­en­ing the very idea of Amer­ica it­self,” she told roughly 7,000 rau­cous sup­port­ers at the Phoenix Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Trump said he would with­hold judg­ment on ac­cept­ing the out­come of the elec­tion.

She also spoke in deeply per­sonal terms, sug­gest­ing that Trump’s life in a Man­hat­tan tower keeps him from see­ing the hu­man­ity in peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent from him. And that, she sug­gested, is why he speaks so harshly of African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties and in­sults Mus­lims, women, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, Mex­i­cans and more.

“Maybe that’s why he calls com­mu­ni­ties like the one where I was raised, ‘hell,’” she said. “Be­cause he can’t see all the de­cent, hard­work­ing folks like my par­ents.”

Political speak­ers are of­ten coached to avoid us­ing op­po­nents’ names or ti­tles, to deny them any mea­sure of ex­tra pub­lic­ity or cred­i­bil­ity.

It’s a time-worn demon­stra­tion of dis­dain by de­nial, said Mary E. Stuckey, a scholar of political or­a­tory at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity. By marginal­iz­ing him per­son­ally, Mrs. Obama also aims to marginal­ize what he stands for as a candidate.

It may just be co­in­ci­dence, but Mrs. Obama’s speech Thurs­day was at the down­town con­ven­tion cen­ter in Phoenix where Trump is­sued a reaf­fir­ma­tion of his im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy pro­pos­als, which Clin­ton sharply op­poses.

“Nam­ing, of course, is a form of power. It de­fines things and makes them real,” Stuckey said. “To refuse to name is also to refuse to rec­og­nize some­thing.”

But oth­ers see ad­di­tional pos­si­ble mo­tives in Mrs. Obama’s rhetoric.

Where pre­vi­ous first ladies have typ­i­cally played the role of loyal spouse and bur­nished their hus­bands’ records while cam­paign­ing, Mrs. Obama has taken a dif­fer­ent tack, said Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

“Her speeches have been more political,” McBride said. “Her speeches at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion and in New Hamp­shire last week were sharper, more tar­geted and more cut­ting than any­thing I’ve seen in a pre­vi­ous first lady.”

Mrs. Obama spoke at length at the Manch­ester rally about the re­lease this month of a video from a 2005 “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” in­ter­view, where Trump said into a mi­cro­phone, which he didn’t know was live, that he used his celebrity to make sex­ual ad­vances on women with­out their con­sent.

In the weeks that fol­lowed, nine women have ac­cused Trump over the past 30 years of kiss­ing and grop­ing them against their will.

Mrs. Obama’s re­sponse was an ef­fort to starkly re­fer to Trump as “this candidate ac­tu­ally brag­ging about sex­u­ally as­sault­ing women. I can’t be­lieve I’m say­ing that.”

Trump has made a habit of re­tal­i­at­ing against his crit­ics. The only time he has men­tioned Mrs. Obama dur­ing the cam­paign has been to at­tempt to poke holes in her sup­port for Clin­ton by re­mind­ing vot­ers of the fierce fight for the 2008 Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion Clin­ton fought against Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Clin­ton’s daugh­ter, Chelsea, has not fol­lowed Michelle Obama’s ex­am­ple. Speak­ing at Ari­zona State Univer­sity Wed­nes­day, she sprin­kled Trump’s name through­out her 30-minute speech and a ques­tion-an­dan­swer ses­sion with more than 500 sup­port­ers on the cam­pus in Tempe.

That leaves some former Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion staff and oth­ers sug­gest­ing that the first lady finds Trump so ob­jec­tion­able that she re­fuses to ut­ter his name as a way of deny­ing him cred­i­bil­ity.

“I won­der in some ways if she finds his pol­i­tics and rhetoric so dis­taste­ful she can’t bring her­self to say his name,” said McBride. “Clearly, there’s a great deal of pas­sion in these speeches.”


First lady Michelle Obama waves to sup­port­ers as she ar­rives on stage prior to speak­ing dur­ing a cam­paign rally for Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial candidate Hil­lary Clin­ton on Thurs­day in Phoenix.

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