‘It is what it is’: How Michelle Obama’s ‘epic shade’ won the DNC’s opening night

By Teo Armus | Washington Post

Halfway through her closing speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night, Michelle Obama shifted to address what she called the “cold, hard truth.”

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” the former first lady said, looking intently at the camera. “He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment.”

“He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she continued, and then sighed: “It is what it is.”

In a matter of moments, those last five words — it is what it is — went from an old platitude to the buzziest sound bite on the Internet, becoming the instant highlight of a speech anchoring the DNC’s first night.

Normally used as an expression of derision and disregard, the phrase stood out for many thanks to its succinct, biting disapproval of a president who had used the same line himself in a widely panned sound bite last month. While it was trending overnight on Twitter, people proclaimed Obama’s use of the saying as a “dagger” and “simply brilliant” and “murder at 1600 Penn.”

“Michelle Obama Writes the Five-Word Epitaph for Trump’s Presidency,” read a headline in the Daily Beast.

Much like another memorable quotation of hers from the last Democratic convention — “when they go low, we go high” — many observers asserted this particular snippet could become a liberal mantra for the 2020 election.

This time, though, there was more bite. If 2016 Obama was singing the virtues of the high road, firmly but selectively pushing back on a presidential candidate who had peddled falsehoods about her husband, her 2020 speech dropped lightning from that high road by using Trump’s words against him.

It was, the author and journalist Virginia Heffernan said, “proof that going high can mean going stiletto.”

During her speech, Obama seemed to address that idea herself, offering a clarification to her now-famous words at the 2016 convention.

“Going high is the only thing that works,” she insisted. “But let’s be clear: Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top.”

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