Michelle Obama leaves for China tomorrow

As the world reels from Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, Michelle Obama departs for China tomorrow, travelling in the grand style lesser mortals cannot begin to comprehend, bringing along her mother and her two children. The trip fulfills her desire to visit the world’s most populous nation:

“The first lady has been looking for an opportunity to go to China,” said Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.

Officials are declining to tell taxpayers how much this junket will cost, of course. On the flimsiest of grounds, it is being termed official business:

White House advisers on Monday described First Lady Michelle Obama’s upcoming official trip to China as focused on cultural exchanges and the value of education, not on human rights and divisive issues they say are discussed when her husband speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The nature of her visit is really quite different,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security advisor for Strategic Communications, on a conference call with reporters. “What the First Lady really brings is the power of her own story, the power of American values.”

The first lady will tell of her own modest upbringing when she visits schools in Beijing and Chengdu, with a side trip to see the legendary terracotta warriors in the interior city of Xi’an. Teen daughter Malia Obama and her younger sister Sasha will be along during their spring break, as well as their grandmother Marian Robinson.

Rhodes also claimed:

“The first lady’s story itself sends a powerful message about the ability of someone of a disadvantaged economic background from a minority group to ascend to the position that she did in private life and now as first lady,” Rhodes said.

Claiming that Michelle Robinson was somehow disadvantaged is laughable. Her father was a well-paid employee of the Chicago Water Department, who doubled as a ward heeler in the notorious Chicago political machine.  In no way was her upbringing deprived. Michelle also enjoyed access to Princeton and Harvard Universities, prizes that elude students of high academic achievement. The laughably poor quality of the work visible in her graduation thesis from Princeton suggests strongly that she received preferential treatment.

The Chinese officials Mrs. Obama will meet understand the importance of political connections (guanxi in Chinese)  and also of propaganda. They will no doubt be too polite to giggle at her pose as a victim, but one wonders if they will scoff at her masquerade.

Officials are also stretching to justify the expenditure of tax dollars ion a family holiday:

The three generations are meant to be a nod to the value Chinese put on family, according to Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff Tina Tchen, herself a first generation Chinese American. China’s first lady Peng Liyuan will dine with Mrs. Obama in Beijing but there is no scheduled meeting with President Xi.

The first lady has been briefed by the West Wing’s National Security Council staff, according to Rhodes, and Tchen says Michelle Obama got advice from 6th graders at a Washington D.C. charter school who visited China on an academic trip.  The kind of contemporary political issues that former First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush tackled on their own trips to China are not on Michelle Obama’s agenda when she travels starting Wednesday, March 19th. 

So, this is mainly a junket, with no diplomatic benefit, just personal fun , livin’ large on the taxpayers’ dime.