Does Michelle Obama deserve a weekly paycheck?
Attorney and author Lauren Stiller Rikleen writing in the Washington Post today believes she does.
“When Michelle Obama moves into the White House next month,” says Rikleen, “the world will be watching to see how she performs. This intricate role as First Lady will call on all the skills she has developed as a working professional.”
Therefore, argues Rikleen, she deserves a paycheck.
Rikleen is stumped as to what we should call Michelle Obama. First Lady? First Mom? Mom in Chief? None of these titles work for Laura Stiller Rikleen. Judging from her article, Rikleen might be looking for something more along the lines of First Goddess.
Rikleen prattles on about Michelle Obama’s Ivy League pedigree and how Obama has sacrificed “her distinguished career as a lawyer and hospital administrator.” Forced to “relinquish the opportunity to be the role model in chief for working mothers,” in order to accept the lesser position as the nations’s First Lady, Rikleen says we need to develop a proper perspective about the position of First Lady, including a job description for the spouse of the president. “Surely this role… as the president’s wife …deserves a proper title and salary…”
With over 200 years of First Ladies in the White House, why all of a sudden is that now a position requiring a monthly paycheck? Could it be because the new First Lady will be Michelle Obama?
Laura Bush has been the First Lady for the past eight years and Rikleen didn’t argue the need to pay Mrs. Bush anything. She didn’t even make the argument for Hillary Clinton who came to the White House as “co-president” – two for the price of one, as Hillary was prone to say.
If two for the price of one was sufficient for Hillary, why not for Michelle?
So what is Rikleen’s argument and support for this idea? Nothing more than the fact the spouses of some college and university presidents receive some compensation for their “enormous contribution of time and talent…” If contribution of time and talent are the requirements, shouldn’t Monica Lewinsky have been paid for serving “under” Bill Clinton?
Rikleen says the First Lady has “one of the most visible roles on the planet.” Such a high position would seem to require Senate confirmation at the very least. What if the Senate doesn’t confirm her?
If such an exalted position does not require Senate confirmation, then surely it must be an elective office.
Although the one widely accepted function of the First Lady has been that of hostess presiding over the social and ceremonial events, said Rikleen, it has become traditional for First Ladies to reach out beyond those duties. Recent examples are Laura Bush who has undertaken a variety of causes such as literacy, education, and women’s health. Betty Ford was an advocate of women’s rights – Lady Bird Johnson on highway beautification, and Nancy Reagan with “Just Say No” to substance abuse.
Paying Michelle Obama to oversee and preside over social events would mean paying her to do what someone else is already paid to do. Last month Barack Obama hired Desiree Rogers to be White House Social Secretary, a functionary with a small empire in the White House who is responsible for coordinating all entertaining and events including private teas for the First Lady.
Which leaves Rikleen’s argument for giving Michelle Obama a paycheck on the presumption she will choose some cause or campaign and become a leading spokesperson for it. What if she doesn’t? Jackie Kennedy didn’t. Neither did Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, or Hillary Clinton for that matter.
Michelle Obama has already said her major role upon entering the White House will be that as a mother wanting to help her daughters adjust to their changed lives as children of the president of the United States.
Good for Mrs. Obama. But should she get a government paycheck for doing what millions of other mothers to day in and day out?
If you need two paychecks to be president, you’re in the wrong business.