NASCAR fans at Homestead-Miami Speedway yesterday booed first lady Michelle Obama when she was introduced as one of the grand marshals for the race. This isn’t a tough call: that was mean-spirited and rude.
I’ve seen elected officials booed at sporting events, and sometimes it comes off as funny. I remember Vice-President Hubert Humphrey being booed at a Red Sox game, because the fans knew he was there to root for the Minnesota Twins, then playing the Sox for the pennant on the next-to-last day of the 1967 season. Hubert laughed it off. Other examples of booing officials have not been so benign, as when President Herbert Hoover was jeered at a Washington Senators game. Booing a politician, however, is always part demonstration and part entertainment; I wouldn’t do it, but it’s political speech. with a long, long tradition behind it.
Michelle Obama, however, isn’t a politician or elected official. Booing a family member to show disapproval of a politician who isn’t present is not just rude, it’s unfair and cowardly. Mrs. Obama came to the event as a guest, and should have been treated as one. She also deserves a modicum of respect as part of the First Family. Sure, it was a political appearance, and I’m certain there are other things the First Lady would rather spend her time doing, like, say, throwing playing cards into a hat. Nevertheless, she has done nothing to justify public jeering.
A side note: many of the news accounts stated that the crowd booed Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Biden, who was introduced at the same time. Not one American in 10,000 could pick Jill Biden out of a line-up; that’s misleading reporting, either to minimize the magnitude of the insult to Mrs. Obama, or because the reporters really are that dumb. Take your pick.