Michelle Obama wears blinders, of sorts. That helps her to see the real America.
As the first lady put it in an interview Saturday, the people she's met and the causes she's taken up have put her in touch with a side of the country far removed from the tempest of attack politics and nasty commentary, which she tries her best to shut out.
"Most of America isn't like that and they're tired of that," she said. "You know, they want folks to get stuff done. The beauty of my job is that I get to see more of that America. And that feeds me."
Her remark in the 2008 campaign that she was "really proud" of her country for the first time fed doubts in some quarters about whether she stood for mainstream values, to the point that she felt compelled to declare "I love this country" at the Democratic convention and emphasize her ordinary nature.
Those doubts about her appear to have subsided, she told host Mike Huckabee on Fox News, a network whose conservative commentators played no small part in raising questions about her patriotism in the campaign.
"I feel like the country has gotten to know me," she said.
Polls suggest she is a more popular first lady than either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Laura Bush early in their husband's administrations. Fully 71 percent expressed a favorable opinion of her in a Pew Research Center survey in November, while just 16 percent had an unfavorable view. Clinton's negatives were almost twice as high early in her time as first lady.
Michelle Obama said she prefers to form impressions of what's going on from her own experiences in and outside of Washington, and "I try to keep home kind of a news-free zone" apart from the newspaper clippings and headlines she sees.
That's how she gets a different vantage point of America, she said. "It's decent and it's kind and it's hopeful — and it's critical and it's demanding, but it's courageous."
And should there be any lingering question, she added: "I love my country. You can't do this if you don't."
Relations between Fox and President Barack Obama's White House have been frosty, but in Huckabee — a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 — she found a genial interviewer who heaped praise on her initiative to fight childhood obesity. Huckabee lost more than 100 pounds when he was Arkansas governor although he said it's time to get back to work on his conditioning.
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