Posted by Skook on 9 August, 2010 at 10:32 pm. 38 comments already!


Michelle Obama’s recent vacation in Spain, described by the White House press corps as a mother daughter trip, that also included over 30 of Michelle’s closest friends, has resulted in even more public scrutiny of the profligate spending habits of the Obamas and in particular a comparison of Michelle to Marie Antoinette. The oft quoted ambiguous sentence, wrongly attributed to Marie, has become legend, “If the people don’t have bread, let them eat cake”; however, it will forever portray a public disgust with ruling Elites who manage to flaunt opulence and wealth while their citizens flounder in economic despair.

The people of France living under the Ancien Regime were considerably more desperate than the people of the United States, they were starving and many were forced to eat grass to survive. The quote above was used by pamphleteers to inflame public support against the royal family and especially Marie who was made a focal point for the revolution. Her lavish lifestyle, buying 300 gowns a year, purchasing diamond necklaces that cost more than a palace, coupled with rumors based in fact that she was having affairs, made her an easy scapegoat.

“My tastes are not the same as the King’s, who is only interested in hunting and his metal-working,” the queen wrote to a friend in April 1775. And what exorbitant tastes she had! She bought a pair of diamond bracelets that cost as much as a Paris mansion. She sported towering bouffant hairdos, including the “inoculation pouf,” a forbidding confection that featured a club striking a snake in an olive tree (representing the triumph of science over evil) to celebrate her success in persuading the king to be vaccinated against smallpox.

Marie had several cottages built so she and her friends could escape the stress of court life

Marie was a blue eyed, blonde haired, 14 year old, Austrian Princess when she married Louis XVI: her husband was an impotent 15 year old with an ability with languages and a fascination with locks, hunting, and an indifference to affairs of state. Sadly, Marie became known as the Queen of Deficit, a title Michelle is bound to inherit. Marie was considered silly and flirtatious: Michelle’s senior thesis with its circumlocution or periphrasis speaks for her acuity, hubris, and the inevitable peripeteia that follows the ascent of outstanding mediocrities as they reach beyond their capabilities-

Michelle, like Marie, has a taste for expensive clothing

“I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second.”

The differences between Michelle and Marie are more abundant than the similarities; although, the parallels are the most incriminating for both of these historical women. When Marie, the beautiful Hapsburg Princess, arrived in France she was welcomed with open arms and adored, but with time, she became an object of derision and eventually hatred.

With the possible exception of the Corsican-born Napoleon, another outsider who overstayed his welcome, no one haunts French history like the Hapsburg princess. The frivolous, high-spirited tomboy who arrived at Versailles at age 14 was quickly embraced by her subjects. Yet by the time of her execution 23 years later, she was reviled.

Thrust into a social and political hurricane, Marie Antoinette, biographer Stefan Zweig wrote in the 1930s, was “perhaps the most signal example in history of the way in which destiny will at times pluck a mediocre human being from obscurity and, with commanding hand, force the man or woman in question to overstep the bounds of mediocrity.”

Michelle is fast approaching the notoriety of Marie’s special position in history. It is obvious she sees her role as an Elite who has the responsibility of directing the lives of Americans and encouraging simple values while she and her family live a life of luxury.

Whatever Marie Antoinette’s faults—in addition to her renowned extravagance, she was unable to comprehend the French people’s thirst for democracy—she did not respond to news that starving Parisians had no bread by saying: “Let them eat cake.” According to Fraser, this monumental indifference was first ascribed, probably also apocryphally, to Maria Theresa, the Spanish princess who married Louis XIV more than a century before Marie Antoinette set foot in France. Still, for more than two centuries, historians have debated whether Marie Antoinette bore the blame for her fate or was a victim of circumstance. Although she remained a fervent supporter of absolute royal power and an unrepentant enemy of democratic ideals, her many acts of compassion included tending to a peasant gored by a stag and taking in a poor orphan boy and overseeing his education. “She was so happy at doing good and hated to miss any opportunity of doing so,” wrote Madame Campan, the First Lady of the Bedchamber.

President Obama, while he still had the immunity from critical press of the first Black Presidential Candidate, insisted that his wife and family be “Off Limits” to the political criticism of campaigns; unfortunately, a president’s wife who wants to justify a lavish and ostentatious vacation for her and her friends with an official 10 minute state visit of little or no political significance, is no longer a dutiful wife and mother enjoying immunity from criticism. She is now just another political hack taking junkets on taxpayer money by working the system; while Americans worry whether they will hold on to their homes long enough to purge Washington of these Progressive Socialist Radicals, that seem Hell bent to destroy the American economy and flush our freedom down into the failed sewers of Socialism. President Obama’s affirmation of his abilities and qualifications, to fulfill the job he seems so woefully incapable of performing, solely by denial of accusations rather than providing simple documentation, is a strategy termed apophasis, first described by ancient Greeks over two thousand years ago, it is considered to be a weak, pathetic, and ineffective form of defense; yet for the time being, Americans are still willing to indulge the First Black President, rather than demand documentation of academic achievement and eligibility for US Citizenship other than providing anchor babies. People seem to be incapable of realizing a pathway to citizenship or blanket amnesty may very well be self-serving for our President in his own struggle for citizenship.

Marie’s obligatory and ostentatious display of educating an orphan peasant boy and seeing that a peasant who was gored by a stag received care, is similar in nature to Michelle teaching children in the White House garden: yet the public is left wondering if she teaches the kids how to game the system by working a no-show job for $350,000 a year for the University of Chicago Hospital, while her husband just happens to be a state senator or if she can tell them how to get an admitted domestic terrorist to write your husband’s “autobiography” so that a complicit press can proclaim him to be the most intelligent and literate man to ever run for the office. (They had never read Jefferson, or Lincoln, else the lie would have been too ridiculous to maintain a straight face during the telling.)

In his bestseller, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, Andersen spends six pages confirming my thesis through boots-on-the-ground reporting. “Thanks to help from the veteran writer Ayers,” writes Andersen in summary, “Barack would be able to submit a manuscript to his editors at Times Books.”

Satirical Cartoon

Marie-Antoinette was cruelly lampooned throughout her life in France. This (obviously) anonymous cartoon from around 1791 blames her for everything. There are allusions to her alleged infidelity, to the scandal provoked by her alleged greed in the affaire du collier (the necklace affair, too complicated to go into here, but well documented), to the doomed flight to Varennes and to counter-revolutionary intrigue. It shows her carrying the Dauphin, her eldest son, and Louis XVI, followed by her daughter Madame Royale and the King’s aunt Madame Elisabeth, leaping to safety from the Tuileries. The royal couple are both holding the (broken) scepter and are encouraged by the King’s brother, Comte de Provence (left), holding a purse full of money. Beneath are references to the Queen’s alleged sins. As L’Autrichienne, she was always going to carry blame. She undoubtedly made mistakes, but none of the accusations here hold up. Most notably, her relationship with Louis was devoted and he certainly never had any doubt as to the paternity of his children. Ironically, the image of her carrying him is nearer the truth than the cartoonist intended. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

It is the profligate spending and the indifference to the plight of everyday people that condemned Marie and soon Michelle to be recorded in history as an ignoble side note with infamy; even though, they have no real historical significance, other than being married to the ‘leader’ of a country. It is the quote, “Let them eat cake”, that will forever link and brand them as self-indulgent and indifferent Elites, who made a significant contribution to the political failures of their husbands by their profligacy and arrogant attitudes toward the public during periods of economic recession.

Sketch from Life

A sketch, believed to be sur le vif, by Jacques-Louis David of the Queen – or Widow Capet as she was now known, Louis having been executed nine months earlier – shows Marie-Antoinette in the tumbrel on her way to the guillotine on October 16, 1793. She has endured the death of her husband, the separation from her beloved children, the forced calumny of her younger son. David captures all that pain – and the notorious Hapsburg lip so tactfully toned down by Mme Lebrun – but the overwhelming impression is of dignity and composure: a remarkably economical portrait that says so much. A Queen at the last. Le Louvre, Paris.

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