WASHINGTON -- After wife Michelle was attacked last week in a video produced by the Tennessee GOP, Sen. Barack Obama sent a warning to the troublemakers on Monday to "lay off my wife."
No matter the outcome of the presidential election, the contest has served to permanently vault Michelle Obama from relative obscurity to fame, as she has taken on major fund-raising and surrogate speaking roles on behalf of her husband, even phoning superdelegates to try to close the deal for him. Michelle Obama has her own chief of staff and press secretary, and campaign advance staffers handle her larger events, where she has turned out to be a significant draw in her own right.
Just as Bill Clinton at times has been at times a mixed blessing for Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Cindy McCain has been in the news because she won't release her tax returns, Michelle Obama -- one of the campaign's greatest assets -- has also stirred up controversy. Spouses are not exempt from scrutiny if they are major surrogates.
The most significant jam Michelle Obama has gotten herself into was back in February, when she said, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm proud of my country." Last week, the Tennessee Republican Party came out with a video featuring a clip with Michelle Obama's quote.
Asked about this, Sen. Obama said, "The GOP, should I be the nominee, I think can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record. If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful.
"Because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family. Michelle is the most honest, the best person I know. She is one of the most caring people I know. She loves this country. And for them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her I think is just low-class. And I think most of the American people would think that as well.
"Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign that they want to run, and I think that's true for everybody, Democrat or Republican."
He left the topic with this threat: "But I also think these folks should lay off my wife. All right? Just in case they're watching."