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Addressing the really important issues

The headline on Yahoo.com told me just about all I needed to know: “All eyes on Michelle’s dress.”

Here we are, having just made history by electing an African-American as president of the United States, and Yahoo was trying to tell us that what was really important was the dress Michelle Obama was wearing as her husband gave his victory speech in Chicago.

Is it just me, or does that seem a little ridiculous?

What kind of person sits in the crowd — while Barack Obama waxes eloquent about the need for us to come together as a country — and thinks to themselves, “God, what was she thinking?”

Well, Rebecca Detken, for one. On her Yahoo style blog, Ms. Detken actually wrote, “While Obama’s eloquent victory speech moved me to tears, unfortunately so did Michelle’s dress.”

I never knew it was possible for anyone to be so shallow. I suppose I was vaguely aware of the fact that Michelle Obama was on stage with her husband, but I didn’t for a second take note of what she was wearing. Call me a cock-eyed optimist if you will, but I would like to believe that at a historic moment such as that one, people would focus a little bit more on the big picture.

Silly me. You’d think I’d get it by now, having lived my entire life in America. It wasn’t the election of a black man to the highest post in the country that made history; it was Michelle’s dress.

“Michelle Obama made fashion history last night,” wrote Katrina Szish of InStyle magazine, giving the first lady-elect high praise for her outfit. “America, get ready to see what a true modern style icon is all about.”

Yeah, that’s what we need to get ready for. Forget about the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forget about the overwhelming task Barack Obama will face when he takes office in January. Just wait until you get a load of his wife’s fashion sense.

I wish I could report that the infatuation with Michelle’s dress was confined to just a handful of people like Ms. Detken and Ms. Szish, people who are paid to comment on other people’s clothes. Sadly, that is not the case.

A Google search for the words “Michelle Obama dress” turned up 630,000 entries, and they weren’t just from pointless celebrity gossip sites. No, even respectable media outlets like the New York Times, MSNBC and ABC News felt a need to weigh in on the garment, which seems to have divided the country every bit as much as the presidential campaigns did.

“A questionable choice,” declared Fashiontribes.com. “Abso-effing-lutely stunning,” gushed The Huffington Post. “A bold and challenging choice,” claimed the Toronto Globe and Mail. (I’m not sure why Canada felt a need to add their two cents’ worth, but I wish they hadn’t. I thought they had more dignity than that.)

The whole subject is so remarkably asinine that it makes me a little surprised that Barack Obama was able to win the election in the first place. After all, he was running against one of the strongest candidates in American history.

No, not John McCain. I’m talking about Paris Hilton.

For those of you who were unaware, in the final weeks leading up to the election Ms. Hilton launched her own “Paris for President” campaign, which basically consisted of a handful of videos that … well, let me put it this way: Did you ever see anything so stupid that you immediately wished you could un-see it? Something that made you feel dumber just for having witnessed it? That’s what Paris’ videos were like.

The one I made the mistake of watching featured Ms. Hilton in a skimpy bathing suit delivering such brilliant lines as, “At the Palms chilling with a martini/Your commander in bikini.”

Never mind that she’s too young to run for president, insufferably dumb and probably thinks that Iran is some old ’80s song by A Flock of Seagulls. Paris likely reasoned that if the American public is so idiotic that they would be more concerned with Michelle Obama’s dress than the fact that Barack Obama won the election, she could cruise to victory just by prancing around in minimal clothing.

Frankly, I’m surprised she didn’t win. The only thing holding her back, as far as I can tell, was the fact that her bikini was not only a one-piece and not a bikini, it was also really, really tacky.

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Todd Hartley

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11 2008

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