Well aware of expectations

Sophy Ridge at the Telegraph says what I more or less assumed – that Michelle Obama’s non-compliance with the Saud family dress code was an intentional snub. I more or less assumed that simply because there’s not really any way it could be just neutral, given what everyone knows about “the kingdom” and how many people are available to tell her all about it.

Make no mistake: this was a deliberate decision by the First Lady.

She and her advisers will have been well aware of expectations in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia. They will have known her outfit choice would attract attention away from the role of her husband, Barack Obama, who cut short a trip to India in order to lead a parade of dignitaries in Riyadh, paying respect after King Abdullah’s death.

Right. That.

In a way it’s a little surprising that it happened at all, given the need Barack Obama apparently felt to suck up to the sadistic monarch despite the ongoing outrages against human rights in “the kingdom.”

Before arriving in Riyadh, Barack Obama was on a trip to India where he spoke about the importance of women’s rights. Hours later, he was all smiles and warm hand-shakes in a country where women are forbidden from travelling, marrying and working without express permission from a male guardian.

The President is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the US in the Middle East and criticism is politically difficult.

The UK government decided to fly flags at half-mast to show respect for the death of King Abdullah for the same reason. But while the men carefully stepped around the prickly issue of women’s rights, the First Lady made her own pointed political statement.

Other people’s rights are always expendable, I guess.


  1. says

    So it was a deliberate snub when Barbara Bush did the same thing? Or is this only a snub when a person of color does it?

  2. mithrandir says

    I don’t remember the Barbara Bush thing – I’ll probably have to look at that later.

    If the present thing is a deliberate snub, though, it actually fits as the exact sort of calculated maneuver I’d expect of Barack Obama. It’s a breach of protocol, but a principled one, and it wasn’t done by the President himself or anyone with an official diplomatic role, so the Saudis can save face by pretending it wasn’t an official snub by the United States itself – they can act outraged at Mrs. Obama herself, but they don’t have to demand that any official diplomat get sent home, because she isn’t one.

  3. iknklast says

    ArtK – It’s only a snub when a Democrat who is disliked by the talk show hosts does it.

    So, if Hillary became president, would everyone expect her to keep her hair covered during meetings in Saudi Arabia? Or would she have to send a male representative, because after all, doing business with women might lead to icky things?

  4. sambarge says

    So it was a deliberate snub when Barbara Bush did the same thing?

    And Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Condoleeza Rice (who was presented with a veil and declined it), etc. Even the photos in the article that depict Queen Elizabeth as “veiled” when she’s obviously wearing a hat (like she always does) and, more shockingly, slacks.

    Much ado about nothing. But I’m glad she didn’t veil herself. She looked really uncomfortable in Indonesia although, from looking at the pics of that trip, she didn’t wear a veil all the time. Perhaps she was touring a mosque or something when she was veiled in Indonesia?

  5. johnwoodford says

    AIUI, it wasn’t taken as a snub at all. There were a few Saudis making unhappy noises about it on Twitter, but nothing even close to an official negative reaction.

  6. Trebuchet says

    I’d guess it was less of a snub than a following of previous examples as noted above, as well as avoiding the obvious screaming by right-wing nuts about it being proof that Obama’s a Muslim. Of course, some of those same nuts think she’s actually a man.

  7. says

    IMHO, and in light of the things RWNJ’s have said about her, Michelle Obama kicks ass like an army mule! Too bad she’s never expressed any interest in running for a national political office.

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