Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Thankfully, First Lady Michelle Obama is back safely from her personal trip to Spain's Costa del Sol over the weekend. Sadly, a few vocal dissenters did all they could to stir up a controversy.

The criticism came despite the fact that it was a personal trip and the Obamas paid all of their own expenses. The American taxpayer paid for her security and staff costs, as is true with every First Lady's travel.

So what is to be gained from such strident attacks? Perhaps it furthers a make-believe narrative that the Obamas are out of touch with real America. Yes, Michelle Obama grew up in Chicago's inner city, but she went to Princeton and Harvard Law! Perhaps opponents are not happy with the First Lady's relatively high approval ratings. For them it is better to attack all things Obama!

Is Spain such an inappropriate place to vacation? Having just taken my daughter to southern Spain I can attest to its beauty, its glorious culture and its amazing history. We, however, did not get to meet the King!

Spain is a reliable supporter of the United States. They have deployed 1,500 troops in Afghanistan. They recently took five of America's toxic Guantanamo prisoners off our hands.

Meanwhile, Spain's economy is struggling. Their unemployment rate is nearly 20%. The government is under attack for alleged corruption. Some of these charges are related to Spain's southern coast, which is burdened with a glut of condominiums, many of them empty and teetering on bankruptcy.

For this reason most Spaniards were thrilled to have the American First Lady in their country. August is usually a busy time for the tourist industry. But even the popular Costa del Sol has felt the impact of the economic downturn. Restaurants are not full, stores are not doing the business they had hoped and some foreign visitors have not come this year. Residents hope that the First Lady's visit will serve as a catalyst for tourist traffic.

The First Lady went to Spain knowing full well that some critics would squawk. Perhaps that is why she did not bother to explain to these critics that her original motive was to comfort a good friend who had recently lost her father, according to the Chicago Tribune. But wait, why should she have to explain everything she does?

The First Lady was unable to attend the July funeral of Chicago physician and best friend Anita Blanchard's father. Blanchard had planned a Spanish vacation with her daughter and asked the First Lady to come along with her daughters. Mrs. Obama only took Sasha because her older daughter is away at camp. The Secret Service decided on the exclusive hotel for security reasons.

Of course, those who are critical of the Obamas will doubt this explanation and will continue to stir the pot.

And most of us will be reminded of that old maxim: No good deed goes unpunished. Especially if you are the First Lady!

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