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Opening Arguments

Scary Michelle

Liar, liar, pants on fire:

President Barack Obama casually lied about his smoking today at the United Nations in a hot mic moment. The news quickly went viral, but few commentators have noted that Obama was flagrantly misstating his smoking history.

The president said he hasn’t had a cigarette “probably six years,” but according to multiple well documented news reports he was still smoking as of at least late 2009 or early 2010.

“That’s because I’m scared of my wife,” Obama joked to a Maina Kiai, U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights. Obama brought up the smoking in the conversation asking the official if he still smoked.

I'm inclined to cut the president a little slack on this. It's not up there with Bill Clinton's lies under oath about Monica Lewinsky proving the point that anyone who will lie and cheat in his personal life probably will in his public life, too. "I've quit smoking" is the kind of lie we've all told on occasion in casual conversation just to impress somebody. And our vices are something we're especially inclined to be less than forthcoming about -- who wants to seem week? I've heard that doctors automatically enter in their records double what people say about how much they drink because they assume most people will lie about it by half.

One reaction that didn't immediately occur to me -- but made sense once I heard it -- was Ann Althouse's observation that it was  a tad misogynistic:

Obama is using his wife — both as a stereotypical woman and as the caricature of her that we see in the media — to make points with another man. Michelle Obama is not there. It's a remark about her behind her back. She's not named, but called "my wife." And she's scary. He's not actually scared, just tapping an old sexist mindset . . .

The way she goes on and on about eating the right food, though, it's not hard to believe she might be a bit of a nag. Nothing wrong with that, of course -- Lord knows I've had plenty of nags in my life -- but a little bit goes a loooong way.