It’s no surprise that there’s a unique bond between former presidents and their spouses, but Michelle Obama was laying it on a little thick when it came to her adoration of former President George W. Bush.
The former First Lady stopped by the Today show in celebration of the International Day of the Girl in her first live TV interview since leaving the White House. She talked about adjusting to life in the wake of Obama’s presidency, her daughters, the chaotic political climate, and the launch of a new Obama Foundation program called Global Girls Alliance, which seeks to empower adolescent girls through education.
Michelle also briefly discussed #MeToo. When asked for her take on men who are pushing back against the movement and deeming it unfair, Michelle’s response was essentially “tough shit.”
“There’s been a status quo in terms of the way women have been treated, what their expectations have been in the society, and that is changing,” said Michelle. “There’s gonna be a little upheaval, there’s gonna be a little discomfort, but I think it’s up to the women out there to say, ‘Sorry that you feel uncomfortable, but I’m paving the way for the next generation.’”
Cool! Great! Awesome! Less cool, great, and awesome: The cutesy Bush shit.
Early on, Today’s Hoda Kotb mentioned the viral moment during Senator John McCain’s funeral when Bush passed a cough drop to Michelle. It was a move that sparked a flurry of saccharine tweets and promptly made people forget how much they hated the Bush years.
“I didn’t realize at the time that anybody noticed what we were doing,” said Michelle. “We were sitting together—President Bush and I, we are forever seat mates because of protocol, that’s how we sit at all the official functions—so he is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather. So we’re together all the time, and I love him to death, he’s a wonderful man, he’s a funny man, and it was a simple gesture.”
“It was one of those moments where people felt like, oh, there’s a little bipartisan moment, even as simple as a cough drop,” said Today’s Savannah Guthrie.
“That’s why it matters so much! That’s what people are hungry for,” said Michelle. “Party doesn’t separate us; color, gender...those kinds of things don’t separate us. It’s the messages that we send. And if we’re the adults and the leaders in the room and we’re not showing that level of decency, we cannot expect our children to do the same.”
No one is expecting Michelle to launch into a tirade about Bush’s disastrous presidency or the Iraq War, and there’s been nothing to indicate that the two don’t get along swimmingly. But it still feels like another addition to Bush’s redemption tour which has all but accelerated halfway through the Trump years. Besides, it’s going to take a lot more than a cough drop swap to make up for 2000-2008.
Michelle has long shared her husband’s vision of an America that can set partisan allegiances and squabbling aside for a greater good—an America that values decency. It’s why President Obama ran on a platform that rejected the red state/blue state binary ten years ago. It’s why Michelle coined the moniker “when they go low, we go high” during the bombastic 2016 election cycle. But when Michelle says that party doesn’t separate us at a time when one political party has literally separated vulnerable children from their parents and appointed a liar and an alleged sexual assaulter to the highest court in the land, it’s a sentiment that has never felt more useless and out of touch.
Watch the full interview here.