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Posted Thu, June 17, 2010 1:14pm EDT

Bonnie Asks: Michelle Obama, Why Are You Having A Hollywood Vacation At A Billionaire's House While Your Husband Faces Biggest Man-Made Disaster Ever?

Box seats at a Lakers/Celtics NBA playoff game, dinner with Ryan Seacrest at a Mario Batali eatery and now a Malibu beachside day at a billionaire’s mansion …

That’s been Michelle Obama’s schedule in the past few days.

While the President has been trying to finally convince the nation that he really is angry and alarmed over the 3 million gallons of oil that BP has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mrs. plus Sasha, Malia, and Michelle’s mom, have been motorcading with a large entourage all over pricey hotspots in LA.

In fact, on Tuesday evening June 14, while her husband was addressing the nation from the Oval Office, in a very serious attempt to turn around his 83 percent disapproval rating on his handling of the oil crisis, the Mrs. was cheering on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Is it just me, or does this seem more than a little insensitive? I’m not saying that Michelle needed to be sitting by her husband’s side while he gave his address to a worried nation, but was it really a good idea for her to be sitting in highly priced $5000-per-ticket LA Laker seats, at the very same time?

Thousands of Gulf residents have lost their businesses and their livelihood, thanks to the eight-week-long BP oil spill. Ocean and beachside wildlife are dying by the hundreds of thousands. People devastated by this disaster are getting poorer by the days; it doesn’t seem to me to be appropriate for a public display of luxury lifestyle by the First Family.

Besides, the Lakers appearance where the Obama girls were given a Lakers jersey with “Obama” on the back as a Father’s Day gift for dad, the First Lady and her entourage have dined at the kind of restaurants that most recession-hit US residents cannot afford for dinner on Sun. June 13, the Obama girls, accompanied by about a dozen Secret Service agents, ate a $45 per person dinner of Colorado lamb with fava tartine, and Bing cherry clafoutis with creme fraiche. On Monday they settled in at famed telegenic chef Mario Batali’s, Pizzeria Mozza, where Ryan Seacrest was also holding court.

Finally, on June 16, Michelle, her mom and daughters, were driven to billionaire financial mogul Howard Marks’ beachside Malibu estate to enjoy a relaxing beach day by the Pacific Ocean. Marks, the founder of Oaktree Capital Management in LA, is worth $1.1 billion and reportedly donated $57,000 to the Obama Victory Fund.

The First Lady was escorted by a police motorcade to his gigantic estate with tennis courts, a swimming pool and a party pavilion.

Listen, I know that Michelle and her handlers have wisely made a decision to avoid politicizing her role or image. But, at this particular time for many Americans, the LA road trip strikes me as a disappointing display of ostentation.

Would it really have been so terrible for Michelle to have accompanied the President on one of his three visits to see the devastation of the Gulf?

Taking a few hours to talk to hard hit local residents and feel their pain, would have been a hugely appreciated show of warmth and concern for our citizens. And hey, I bet it would have helped her husband’s approval ratings.

I understand that Michelle and Barack are the Presidential couple and as such deserve a life of a certain status. But when one in ten Americans are unemployed and most Americans still feel recession-hurt, I think humbler vacations are still a smart decision. We’ve had enough out-of-touch “patrician” presidents. Don’t forget Team Obama — we elected you largely because you were one of us. Please stay that way.

— Bonnie Fuller

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