Ethics Dunces: Homestead-Miami Speedway NASCAR Fans

"Why, welcome, Mrs. Obama, and thank you for making time in your busy schedule to grace our community's event!"

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.

14 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Homestead-Miami Speedway NASCAR Fans

  1. Seems like you’re trying to have it both ways in paragraph 3 there, Jack.
    “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.”

    Then we get to:

    “Sure, it was a political appearance, and I’m certain there are other things the First Lady would rather spend her time doing,…”

    In that this was (by your own admission) a political appearance, Ms. Obama is openly accepting the role as proxy for the politician in question. I agree that it was rude. It was not unfair, nor necessarily cowardly. One might also ask how cynical it was for the Obama campaign team to send her there in the first place. If you’re seen any evidence of any special love for NASCAR at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I do wish you’d share same.

    • It’s unfair. They aren’t booing her, they are booing her husband. Michelle Obama has no responsibility for policy or the President’s leadership (or lack of same.)
      All booing is cowardly, and I should have clarified that. It is delivering a long-distance insult from the protection of a group and anonymity. Most jeerers would melt into obsequiousness in the one-on-one presence of either a professional athlete or a President. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it.at all.

  2. I’ve never understood people who boo the President let along his wife. Yes she does perform some political role for her husband the President but its just rude. But wjhat do you expect from people who watch cars go in a circle?

  3. RE: Jill Biden

    After reading the last paragraph, I started to write this:
    —-
    Hmm, after thinking about it a bit, I think the press reports got it exactly right. If both women were introduced at the same time, then the press should report that fact–because it *is* what happened.

    I completely agree with your assessment of the crowd’s reaction being centered on the First Lady, but absent some sort of poll of the portion of the crowd who booed, to report it as such would be nothing more than commentary and not a documented fact.

    Reporting commentary as news is something the press does all too often when they shouldn’t. I’m willing to give them credit when, for once, they don’t.
    —-
    …then I looked up some video news footage and heard for myself that the booing started immediately after Michelle Obama’s name was announced, and it continued as Jill Biden’s name was announced.

    So . . . stupid me for thinking the press would get it right.

    –Dwayne

    • I’d still quibble with your initial point. In 1969, Tony Conigliaro’s name was announced to the Fenway Park crowd on Opening Day as they introduced the roster. It was his first appearance since being beaned, nearly fatally, in August of 1969. It was an amazing ovation as he ran on the field, but it began when the previous player was announced—“Fireball” Fred Wenz, an obscure and lousy relief pitcher. The crowd knew what was coming and saw Conigliaro getting ready to run out. Would it have been good reporting to say that the crowd gave a long ovation to returning Boston star Tony Conigliaro and rookie pitcher Fred Wenz?

      • Glad you brought baseball into this discussion. Do you regard the sarcastic cheer the same as booing? I mean for example, the obvious, over-the-top celebration when the home team FINALLY gets the third out on the visitors, ending the humiliating big inning. Crowd-on-team sarcasm seems fair to me, while the crowd-on-pitcher type, I avoid because it’s so clearly personal (like when the pitcher finally gets a batter out after either walking the bases loaded or giving up three consecutive home runs).

    • You’re stereotyping, and you do so at your own peril Those “beer-bellied bubbas” run a lot of small to midsized businesses, and they run them well. I don’t get the appeal of NASCAR either, but I’ve lived in the sticks long enough to know that there is great wisdom amongst the supposedly unsophisticated. To say nothing of great values. One finds neither as consequence of an expensive degree.

  4. Michelle Obama does have a lot to answer for regarding her flagrant spending of our tax dollars on her lavish unwarranted trips and various other spending issues. Nevertheless, booing is wrongheaded but sometimes it might be understandable if you’re ticked off at someone’s shenanigans on top of the politican issues.

      • Chase, I think the issue is that she is doing her spending in the midst of the worst economic downturn since World War II. It has been noted elsewhere that she could have spent none of that money and the recession would have been no better, nor would it have put food on anyone’s table. But it looks bad, and made the statements she has made about feeling people’s pain ring a little hollow. But, and to get back on topic, she shouldn’t have been booed, political proxy or no.

    • I’d like to know where you received your information, Dorothy? If it is a politically slanted email, I’d ask you to research the trips and give actual facts rather than just what a fictional email has portrayed. I doubt you would find the difference you have stated.

      • No, it wasn’t from emails. Mainstream media reports throughout the year but they report one thing at a time as it is occuring. Getting it put together is more difficult.
        Here’s an inkling:
        “Expensive massages, top shelf vodka and five-star hotels: First Lady accused of spending $10m in public money on her vacations”
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2029615/Michelle-Obama-accused-spending-10m-public-money-vacations.html
        This article touches on some of the lavish spending habits, especially egregious are the trips taken hours apart from the president going to the same place which entails two separate planes, secret service, etc. etc.
        The only other first lady I can recall who had a big spending habit was Jackie O but that was mostly on clothing. Michele is also big on that score too.

        • The Daily Mail is considered a conservative tabloid. It has been the target of many libel suits and has a history of anti-gay bias. I have tried to find a neutral opinion on this topic and it is difficult. The general feeling seems to be that she is no more extravagant than any other first lady, but that given the difficult economic times is showing insensitivity, a view I feel has some merit.

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