In her address to the Democratic Convention Tuesday evening, First Lady Michelle Obama used the words “I” or “me” 83 times, an average of more than three self-references a minute during her 25 minute speech.
The emphasis on herself is of note not only because of the strikingly personal nature of the speech, but because of the remarkable suggestion by the first lady that her political views and those of her husband arise much from their own experiences than a reasoned assessment of policies and facts.
Time and again in her remarks, Michelle cites examples from her life and President Obama’s that lead to policies they have tried to implement during his presidency.
From the transcript:
So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. He’s thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day’s work. That’s why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
That’s why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses, and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet. (Applause.)
Michelle talks about how deeply in student loan debt she and her husband were, saying:
That’s why Barack has fought so hard to increase student aid and keep interest rates down — (applause) — because he wants every young person to fulfill their promise and be able to attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.)
President Obama’s personal experiences, she suggests, guide his entire political outlook, from economic policy to gay marriage.
So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political — they’re personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.)
And he wants everyone in this country — everyone — to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. (Applause.)
Obama has been criticized here and elsewhere for conducting a self-indulgent presidency in which he focused on his personal priorities rather than securing the economy.
Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins notes that Obama misused the stimulus to fund Democratic priorities and spent his political capital on health reform instead of focusing on issues like revamping the tax system.
Bill Clinton, who speaks to the Democratic convention Wednesday night, once lamented that he didn’t have a world-historical crisis to deal with on his watch. The irony is that President Obama had one and was too busy with his own priorities to notice or give the country the leadership it needed . . .
Faster growth would have done a lot more to advance Mr. Obama’s own professed aims—improved access to health care, jobs and opportunity—than any of his own big initiatives have done. Faster growth would have done a lot more to prepare the country to face its large challenges, with less conflict and less zero-sum bitterness, than any post-partisan magic he hoped to spread around.
In that context, it’s not surprising that Mrs. Obama used the word “I” – including six uses of “I’ve” – 59 times, and “me” 24 times.
In her own convention speech, which was in its own ways self-indulgent, Ann Romney nevertheless managed to limit herself to 60 self-references.