Michelle Obama Plays Defender-in-Chief

Michelle Obama Plays Defender-in-Chief

By Erin McPike - September 14, 2012

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- She calls herself the "mom-in-chief," but listen carefully and first lady Michelle Obama sounds more like the "defender-in-chief."

Republicans charge that President Obama has resorted to character attacks on Mitt Romney because, they say, "he can't talk about his own record." But while the president crisscrosses the country explaining how his vision differs from his rival's, his wife is using her campaign appearances to defend his record.

Speaking to a raucous crowd in a gymnasium at the University of Mary Washington on Thursday afternoon, Michelle Obama directly answered those critics.

"So when people out there ask you what this president has done for our country, when they’re deciding who will keep moving America forward for four more years, here’s what I want you to tell them: I want you to tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about the health reform he’s passed. Tell them about all those kids who can finally afford college."

She continued with the "tell them" riff, instructing her listeners to explain to their friends and colleagues how Obama ended the war in Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden, how his administration improved benefits for veterans and ended the deportation of young immigrants.

"Tell them how our brave men and women in uniform will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love," she said next, adding, "And please, please make sure they understand that their president, that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it."

And she wasn’t finished, listing more of his first-term accomplishments and defending his vision of equal opportunity and fairness.

"That's why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires, not in America," she said.

The first lady also informed the crowd that it was the president who got the auto industry rolling again, and that he pressed to get health care reform passed because "it was the right thing to do."

Republicans have pointed out many times that the president did not defend his signature legislative achievement -- comprehensive health-care reform -- in his address to the Democratic convention last Thursday. But Michelle Obama devoted a chunk of her stump speech this Thursday to it.

She asserted that because of the new law, "our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs." And she laid out a laundry list of effects the law had, including this: "Let's say you have a serious illness like breast cancer. That's when you need expensive treatment. They can no longer tell you, ‘Sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more.’ No longer can they do that."

She offered more standard fare, such as the president's expansion of Pell grants for college students and his success in seeking equal pay for women through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a line that elicited some of the crowd’s most enthusiastic applause. 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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