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IRE DIRECTED AT OBAMA

Conservative commentators question Michelle Obama's patriotism.

Conservative bloggers and talkers' outrage has found a target in Barack Obama's wife.

Michelle Obama, 44, an Ivy League-educated lawyer, was campaigning for her husband Monday in Wisconsin when she said: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction."

Predictably, her impolitic comment immediately hit critical mass on conservative cable TV, talk radio and the Internet. Democrats may not consider it a gaffe; Hillary Rodham Clinton's rival presidential campaign made no comment. But the right's reaction is a measure of how differently politics may be played out when Democrats and Republicans face off later this year.

"I can't keep track of the number of times I've been proud - really proud - of my country since I was born and privileged to live in it," conservative commentator Michelle Malkin huffed in a column.

Conservative columnist Rich Galen said America is a place that "gives people like Michelle Obama the right to say excruciatingly stupid things."

And Rush Limbaugh? Let's just say that he got a lot of mileage out of it. "Her unhinged comments ring true for many liberals," his Web site's front page says, two days after the remark.

Obama tried to revise her remarks Wednesday.

"What I was clearly talking about was that I'm proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process," she told WJAR in Providence, R.I. "For the first time in my lifetime, I'm seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven't seen and really trying to figure this out, and that's the source of the pride that I was talking about."

Bill Burton, an Obama campaign spokesman, said the right's reaction wasn't a problem for the campaign. "It's a ridiculous notion," he said. "Just because they're doing it doesn't mean there's any sense to it."

For what it's worth, Cindy McCain, the wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, said Tuesday, "I am proud of my country. I don't know if you heard those words earlier. I am very proud of my country."

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