So much for Juan Williams’ ‘liability’ theory

SO MUCH FOR JUAN WILLIAMS’ ‘LIABILITY’ THEORY…. About a month ago, Fox News contributor Juan Williams went after Michelle Obama, describing her as a political “liability” for the president. As Williams argued, the First Lady has “got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going,” which may make her “something of an albatross.”

As is often the case, there’s a big difference between Williams’ take and the public’s attitudes.

A month into her husband’s presidency, Michelle Obama is viewed more positively than were other first ladies in the past 28 years at similar stages, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Over all, 49 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mrs. Obama, 5 percent view her unfavorably and 44 percent do not yet have an opinion.

In a February 1993 Times/CBS poll, 44 percent expressed a favorable view of the first lady at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton, while 16 percent viewed her unfavorably. And early into Ronald Reagan’s first term in office, 28 percent rated Nancy Reagan positively and 10 percent negatively, with the rest offering no opinion.

Polls conducted just before their husbands assumed office also showed 3 in 10 offering a favorable opinion of Laura Bush, and a third expressing a positive view of Barbara Bush. Nearly all of the rest had no opinion yet.

Now, one assumes the 44% who do not yet have an option will include plenty of detractors, who the right wants to influence. As Adam Serwer explained very well, “It doesn’t matter if the American people see Michelle Obama the way The Corner does, the point is to make it true through incessant repetition. But to suggest that Michelle is currently a political liability to the president because everyone sees her as a secret black radical is the opinion of a small, vocal fringe.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.