At the historic African Summit First Lady Michelle Obama makes news.

At the historic African Summit First Lady Michelle Obama makes news.

“… And women are smarter than men.” – First Lady Michelle Obama [White House transcript]

IF YOU live around the Washington, D.C. area this week you’re warned to steer clear of the Capitol, because of the historic African Summit being held here. The parking and towing tales alone have already become legend. It’s been an extraordinary week, with President Obama having a press conference on Thursday at the event. Yet the one thing conservatives have latched on to is First Lady Michelle Obama trumpeting the superior smarts of women, to which conservative Republican Cokie Roberts agreed.

The comments over at Breitbart are as much a disgrace as they are revealing.

I must apologize to all here…but, despite being possessed of what I’ve always flattered myself to be an “old-fashioned” tendency to take a chivalric position in defense of women whenever possible, this broad makes me want to get a baseball bat and put an end to that stupid sneer via the good offices forty-two inches of hand-crafted, hardened Northern White ash…again, sorry! – “TheLeast”

Traditionalists hear “women are smarter than men” and they automatically feel threatened, that their entire world view has been challenged.

First Lady Michelle Obama is experiencing what Hillary Rodham Clinton faced when she was first lady for her overt stance of comparable feminist pride in what women have to offer through leadership.

To begin to argue the case that “women are smarter than men” you start with all the ways in which women have to juggle life that men do not. You can follow up with how women have to change their rhetoric and their demeanor when competing so as to not threaten anyone, meaning men. It is a fact that a woman with the experience of some of the men who have run for president wouldn’t be considered, while someone of Hillary Clinton’s stature is seen through the lens of age and health that have been ignored with men, while serious accomplishments are belittled.

There is a tendency to equate the reaction to First Lady Michelle Obama to race, which is certainly part of it for some people. However, that’s never been the main issue, even if many progressives insist it is. Traditionalists, most of whom are conservatives, many of whom are strong right-wing ideologues, have a virulent reaction to a Democratic woman using feminist language that puts women equal or — gasp — before or above a man. It is the ultimate emasculation and it is where the Republican fantasy of the “war on men” originates.

For the Mike Huckabee contingent it is heresy.

It is also why I’ve never considered Hillary Clinton “inevitable” in any White House run, even as I firmly believe her candidacy is critically important to women and this country. One reason is the Democratic challenge with “white working class,” as outlined in the New Republic this week, though the theory I have is a different brand than what’s being discussed there.

“The summit that your husbands are attending…is the largest gathering of African leaders ever hosted by an American president.” — FLOTUS [via Twitter]

The 21st century is bringing the penultimate shift in our country, not the least of which is the prominence of strong females making big headlines, while taking positions that men have monopolized, even if we have a long way to go. Our country has always been a John Wayne nation, with Republicans representing traditionalism, while Democrats are progressive in nature. The instability people are feeling economically, but also what the recent polling illustrates, is that people aren’t feeling the economic success that is happening under their feet. They don’t feel their children will have their same opportunities.

Some of this is a populist cry for economic justice. But when unions collapse and some men feel insecure, the white working class especially, women’s advancement is now a threat.

It is why Bill O’Reilly is winning in the ratings. His voice is that of the “white working class,” where he began, even if he’s a one-percenter today. Not even Mr. O’Reilly sees his own traditionalist angst, but it represents what many feel. Mr. O’Reilly isn’t accepting that what’s happening is a significant change in America’s makeup, laughing at it several times this week. Instead he prefers to judge it as lack of leadership and “weakness,” because for his generation our country was always in control, could always make change, force nations to do our will.

Mr. O’Reilly even said on Wednesday that President Obama inherited “a fairly stable foreign situation.” This is rewriting history to fit a world view that has nothing to do with reality, but people want someone to blame for what ails them.

The set up coming reminds me of how Ronald Reagan swooped into the White House. As Patrick J. Buchanan said recently, conservatives today think Ronald Reagan was much more conservative than he was. True, but Reagan had the persona to make people feel he was in control. With everything out of control that’s what comforts traditionalists and it’s why people are fantasizing about Mitt Romney.

When traditionalists see a brilliantly strong female like First Lady Michelle Obama say “women are smarter than men,” it confirms all their worst fears. America no longer belongs to men anymore, white men, especially, and it never will again.

FIRST LADY MICHLLE OBAMA: So we can’t waste this spotlight. It is temporary and life is short, and change is needed. And women are smarter than men. (Laughter and applause.)

MS. ROBERTS: That just goes without saying. (Laughter.)