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Brown: Michelle Obama in 2016? It’s all just talk

First lady Michelle Obamwaves after addressing Democratic National ConventiCharlotte N.C. Tuesday Sept. 4 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

First lady Michelle Obama waves after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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Updated: October 7, 2012 8:02AM



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It started as soon as we walked out of the Time Warner Cable Arena following first lady Michelle Obama’s big speech the other night.

“Wasn’t she great!” gushed a delegate from Anywhere, USA, as we slogged between the puddles. “Michelle for president in 2016.”

Further conversation confirmed he wasn’t joking.

I brushed it off as the sort of momentary nonsense that often springs from the enthusiasm of a political convention, but then U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky picked up the theme Wednesday morning.

“People in the hall were talking afterwards about Michelle Obama in 2016,” Schakowsky told our Fran Spielman. “That’s how moved I think people were by that speech. I have no idea if she would actually be interested. But she showed the capacity to move people, inspire people in a way that certainly was reminiscent to that [2004] Barack Obama speech.”

I’m forever amazed when this sort of buzz gets started.

There’s just something in our nature about always looking for the next big thing, whether it’s a high school basketball phenom projected to jump to the NBA or the hot political talent on the rise.

In politics, all it takes is one good televised speech to be ordained as the next coming, and for as long as I can remember, dating back to Julian Bond in 1968, the national political conventions were the place to give such a speech. We all know what Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote address did for him.

Convention speeches serve a useful function as auditions for those with bigger ambitions. It’s the embrace of the instant savior that frustrates me.

Whether it’s a collective messiah complex or in this case just as much a fascination with dynasties, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s often — as in the case of Michelle in 2016 — just plain dumb.

No disrespect intended for Mrs. Obama, a person of substance who makes a very good first lady and certainly has mastered the performance aspect of being a politician’s wife. But it’s absurd to be talking about her as a potential candidate for president on the basis of a good speech and a good marriage.

Thankfully, Mrs. Obama has no interest — none — in pursuing a political career, which should make it easier to defend my opinion.

White House adviser and Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett made that very clear Wednesday in shooting down such talk before it got a chance to gain any momentum, which naturally could be injurious to the president’s re-election hopes.

Not everyone in America is as enamored with family political dynasties as are Chicago voters, the Kennedys notwithstanding. Four more years is one thing, but eight to 12 more is quite another, and yes, I had the same opinion about Hillary Clinton, who has a much better resume now.

You might have enjoyed seeing the deer in the headlights look on some of the Chicago conventioneers when I asked them about the Michelle for president talk. Most realized it was silly but didn’t want to offend anybody.

They were more interested in talking up the future of two other silver-tongued orators — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, although there is agreement Castro needs more seasoning.

For some reason, nobody volunteered the name of another guy getting his audition: Rahm Emanuel.



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