Michelle Obama Asks Me to Sign President Obama’s Birthday Card

I received the following email from First Lady Michelle Obama:

SUBJECT: Will you sign Barack’s birthday card, James?

James —

Every year, our family tries to come up with a fun way to wish Barack a happy birthday.

And this August 4th, when he turns 49, I have something new in mind.

This has been a big — and hectic — year for him. After signing the Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reform into law — and completing his first year as president — I think it’s safe to say we will remember it for a long time.

And I know full well how much he credits this movement, and the work of supporters like you, for the change that we’ve accomplished.

So I’m putting together a birthday card that I would like you to sign. Together with other Organizing for America supporters — and me, Malia, Sasha, and Bo — we’ll wish him a happy birthday and let him know that we’re ready to take on the year ahead alongside him.

Will you wish Barack a happy birthday with me?

This year also brought a lot of surprises — some good and some bad.

Supporters like you have helped him make the best of it — by contacting Congress to help push stalled legislation forward, by re-engaging supporters in the political process, by giving back with service projects across the country, and so much more.

And while we can’t know what the coming year will bring, all of us, working together, will continue pushing forward for change.

Will you help make this a memorable birthday for Barack and wish him a happy 49th?


Thanks so much,

Michelle Obama

I find it hard to say precisely why I find this email a bit creepy. At one level this seems innocuous enough–and it is definitely not a big thing.

At another level, asking millions of Americans to sign a birthday card for the President suggests a tone-deafness about the cult of personality. If we lived in a dictatorship, getting millions of subjects to celebrate the Dear Leader’s birthday would be routine, but in a free republic this appeal to get millions of citizens to celebrate a current president’s birthday strikes a discordant note to my ear.

No, I am not saying we are in a dictatorship; I am saying that because we are not, we should not be emulating the trappings characteristic of that fundamentally different sort of regime. Nor do I think this is particularly ominous, just a very small step in the wrong direction.

Last, it seems strange for Michelle Obama to be trying to get us to sign Barack’s birthday card when she is scheduled to be in Spain with [at least one of] her daughters during the President’s birthday.

UPDATE: In a subsequent post, Orin Kerr expresses his opinion that he does not find this email even “a bit creepy.” While certainly entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. Orin writes:

As far as I can tell, Jim received this e-mail because he signed up to be on the Obama campaign’s e-mail list (as was the case with this prior e-mail he blogged about).

In neither post did I state or imply that I had signed up to be on the Obama campaign’s email list. While working on a post for the Volokh Conspiracy, as part of my due diligence, I had emailed the Obama campaign with specific questions about Obama’s position on what I was writing about. I never signed up to be on any Obama related email list. Nor did I present myself as a supporter in my email to the campaign.

If my experience can be generalized–and maybe it can’t–this Obama email list is comprised of people who contacted the campaign in any capacity, not just supporters. It is certainly not just for people who signed up to be on a list.

Orin is mistaken on the factual basis for his opinion.

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