The voice at the other end of the line was gravelly and completely unfamiliar. So was the phone number.
“You know what the Obamas are planning, right?” my mystery caller asked, but didn’t pause for an answer –– or even to take a breath. “Michelle’s gonna run for Senate, just like Hillary did. And we’ll never be rid of them. Any of them.”
As a columnist, I get my fair share of emails and tweets (often with a fair amount of profanity). Occasionally, industrious trolls track me down on my cell phone.
This particular call came several months ago. I’ve yet to see anything validating this Machiavellian conspiracy theory.
But after watching Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech on Monday –– delivered with grace and vulnerability after some Bernie Sanders supporters threatened to derail the night with their futile tantrums –– I wondered why she shouldn’t consider running for something.
Obama gave a masterful endorsement of Hillary Clinton, highlighting her work as a children’s advocate (she even threw in an old-school “It Takes a Village” reference). And Obama didn’t ignore Clinton’s Achilles’ heel of trustworthiness, but instead announced: “There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton.”
Now Republicans love to talk about how much the Clintons and Obamas hate each other after the bare-knuckled 2008 primary. But regardless of whatever personal hard feelings that may remain –– which none of us would be privy to anyway –– they’re all adroit at projecting gracious public unity.
I’m sure Donald Trump wished he could have gotten a smidgen of that from Ted Cruz or John Kasich at last week’s Republican National Convention.
Obama shined most in her address when she talked about her own children, who have had to listen to public figures question their father’s citizenship (like Trump, though she never uttered his name).
“Our motto is, when they go low, we go high,” Obama proclaimed, which is advice I could stand to take a bit more and I’m nearly 40.
And when Obama talked about the promise of America –– which is progress –– she brought the house down. She reminded us all that she is an African-American woman who lives in the White House, which was built by slaves. And her two teenage daughters don’t question that a woman can now be president, thanks to Hillary Clinton.
“Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country is not great. That somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth,” Obama declared.
That’s the kind of inspirational, aspirational speech many a seasoned politician is incapable of delivering. And Obama did it with aplomb.
So although it would clearly vex my phone buddy and Republicans, why shouldn’t Michelle Obama consider running for U.S. Senate or something else in the near future?
She’s never held office, but she’s certainly an impressive figure, rising from Chicago’s south side to earn degrees from Princeton and Harvard. She’s worked as a lawyer, for the City of Chicago, in administration at the University of Chicago and finally as an executive for Chicago Hospitals.
Since becoming first lady, she’s focused raising her two daughters and children’s health with her “Let’s Move” initiative and White House garden. She also has near-record-high approval ratings.
There’s just one problem: Michelle Obama seems way too level-headed, too smart to run for office. After watching what her husband has endured for the last two decades –– not to mention what Hillary Clinton has undergone as a first lady-cum-politician –– why would she want to subject herself to that kind of relentless scrutiny and humiliation?
She knows that the honeymoon phase with the press and public would abruptly end as soon as she put down the gardening hoe and picked up the phone to dial for dollars.
So for now, it seems that it will fall on Clinton to carry on President Obama’s legacy. That’s a pretty remarkable turn of events, but politics never ceases to surprise you.
Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at SusanJDemas.com. Follow her on Twitter here.