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Michelle Obama announces 'Best Picture' at Oscars. Was that appropriate? (+video)

Michelle Obama appeared via satellite from the White House, announcing that 'Argo' had won. Many Best Picture contenders had political themes.

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However, it’s 2013 and the election is over. Mrs. Obama’s Oscar turn did not get universal hosannas. Critics on the right pointed out that nearly half the United States did not vote for President Obama and thus might not be happy about the insertion of presidential-level politics into their evening’s recreation. Nor were they pleased that it appeared members of the military in dress uniforms stood behind the first lady as she talked.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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“I’m sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas,” writes conservative Jennifer Rubin Monday morning on her Right Turn blog at The Washington Post. “Seriously, if they really had their president’s interests at heart, they’d steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances. It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping.”

It wasn’t only conservatives who were displeased. At The New Yorker, critic Richard Brody writes that while he greatly admires Mrs. Obama, he found her appearance to be out of line.

It was “wildly inappropriate in its affirmation of the hard power behind the soft power – the connection of real politics to the representational politics of the movies, of the peculiar and long-standing symbiosis of Washington and Hollywood – all the more so when the matter of access to inside-government information is a key issue with the making of ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ ” Mr. Brody writes Monday.

As he notes, the Washington-Hollywood connection is well established. The Motion Picture Association of America has long been one of D.C.’s smoothest lobbying operations, in part due to its ability to hold private screenings of hot films for small, elite audiences, including small, elite audiences at the White House. Its current chief is Chris Dodd, the former Connecticut senator who was a power on the Senate Finance Committee for years. Prior to that, the association was run for 38 years by the legendary Jack Valenti, a longtime LBJ aide and skilled inside-Washington operator.

Given that, the real question might be why more first ladies haven’t appeared on the Oscar stage.


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