Want to know what First Lady Michelle Obama makes of Sarah Palin?
Mrs. Obama seems happy to take the question, as she did Tuesday night from CNN's Larry King. And when she was asked about the former Alaska governor on Jan. 13, when seven print reporters -- I was one of them -- wanted to know what she made of the former GOP vice presidential candidate, Mrs. Obama seemed to have anticipated that Palin would come up.
Her pat answer: She doesn't know her personally, so she has no opinion. It's a dodge -- people of course have opinions about public figures they have not gone to lunch with -- but it is one that allows Mrs. Obama to be responsive and keep out of trouble.
Last month, Mrs. Obama commented in the context of Palin's memoir. "You know, I don't know her. And what I've learned in this arena is that unless I've had a chance to have a conversation with somebody and get to know them, I have no idea who she is. I didn't read her book. I've met her once. So, you know, I don't know who she is, and I wouldn't even begin to comment on somebody that I haven't had a reaction -- an interaction with."
Mrs. Obama went on Larry King's show as part of her media blitz in connection with the Tuesday launch of her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive. King asked Mrs. Obama about Palin three days after Palin took a shot at President Obama at the National Tea Party Convention. Said Palin, "And our president would do well to take note of an observation John F. Kennedy had made once he was in office. That all of the world's problems aren't his predecessor's fault." And later, "How is that hope-y, change-y stuff working out for ya?"
Mrs. Obama declined to take a shot back after King asked, "What's your read on the former governor of Alaska?
Her answer tracked with what she said on Jan. 13. Said Mrs. Obama, "You know, I -- you know, I don't have a read. I mean, I try not to make or -- or set opinions about people that I haven't had any, you know, substantive interaction with."
Asked if Palin irked her, Mrs. Obama sidestepped the question and pivoted to a strong defense of her husband: "You know, democracy is about critique and the president is not immune to criticism. I think he's doing a phenomenal job. You know, we have to think of where we were when he took office. We were on the brink -- the brink of a depression worse than anyone really ever imagined. And I don't think the country ever really knew how bad things were. And because of some important steps, quick thinking, smart, strategic thinking, we're not even talking about that.
"We've got to do more on jobs. We need to get health care done. There's a lot of work to be -- to be done. And, and we need to do more to improve the civility in Washington. And I think if -- if there's a disappointment, Barack wishes that we had -- we'd come -- or that we'd come farther in that -- in that effort."
King took another stab, and this time Mrs. Obama gave Palin a salute.
"Is she -- is she a phenomenon to you," King asked.
"Again, I mean, I think she -- I think it's wonderful to have strong female voices out there, but I don't know her."
King seem frustrated when Mrs. Obama skirted his question about what she made of the Tea Party phenomenon with this answer: "I'm focused on what's in front of me. And right now, that's ending childhood obesity in a generation -- getting this done."
That was too much spin for King, who prodded Mrs. Obama, "But you have to think about other things. You read the papers, you watch the television. You -- I mean you're all -- you're very smart and very aware."
Replied Mrs. Obama, "I'm very smart but I -- I try to limit my intake to things that I can control. Because in this position, you know, it is my responsibility to work with all Americans. And I want to stay focused on the work."
FOOTNOTE: Mrs. Obama was practically gushing over Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who she knows very well. The acrimony of the presidential campaign is gone. Anyway, Obama won and Clinton did not. She told King that Clinton would have been "am amazing president."
Said Mrs. Obama, "Hillary Clinton is an amazing secretary of state. I mean she would have been an amazing president. She was an amazing attorney. She's a phenomenal professional. And she's proven to be a tremendous asset in -- in so many ways."