Michelle And Barack Obama: A Powerful Partnership

Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 12:14 pm
Michelle And Barack Obama: A Powerful Partnership
by NPR Staff

In late 2006, Barack Obama held a meeting with his wife, Michelle, and his advisers to weigh whether he should run for president.

"And Michelle Obama, in front of everybody, asks her husband a very dramatic question," says New York Times Washington correspondent Jodi Kantor. "She says, 'What do you think you can bring to this that the other candidates can't?' "

Her husband paused for a second, and then responded, "I really think if I became president, it would inspire people all over the world to think of new possibilities."

"What he was talking about, of course, was the fall of a racial barrier," Kantor says. "Being role models is essential to why the Obamas first decided to do this. And yet, when you're a role model, you open yourself up so entirely. You are putting yourself on the line so completely, and everything you do is open to criticism."

The Obamas
by Jodi Kantor
Hardcover, 352 pages


Kantor traces how the Obamas have dealt with that criticism — and tried to maintain their marriage and family life in the midst of a very public spotlight — in her new book, The Obamas.

"My goal was to write a book about the presidency that treated the president and the first lady as partners, which is what I truly think they are," she tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

Initial Reservations

According to Kantor, the first lady initially had serious reservations about her husband's ambitions for the White House.

"She was worried, in part, about the impact on her family. But she also had concerns that it may not be the right time," Kantor says. "Her chief of staff told me that during that time, the decision just weighed on Michelle Obama — because she really believed that her husband could accomplish great things as president, but she wasn't sure if it was the best thing for their family. And how do you make that choice between what is best for you personally versus the contribution you think you can make to the country?"

During the campaign in 2008, Michelle Obama continued to have a rough time.

"She was up against Bill Clinton, because that was Hillary Clinton's spouse," Kantor says. "In early events, she charmed lots of people ... But she also had problems. In the spring of 2008, she was accused of being 'an angry black woman.' Fox News called her a 'baby-mama.' There were a lot of ugly things said about her."

Friends and aides told Kantor that Michelle Obama was extremely hurt by the accusations.

"She thought of herself as one type of person, and to see that image so widely distorted — and it can happen so fast — it can be really disorienting for anyone," Kantor says.
Jodi Kantor spoke to more than 200 sources, including White House aides and close friends of the president, while researching her new biography on the Obamas. Kantor is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

Jodi Kantor spoke to more than 200 sources, including White House aides and close friends of the president, while researching her new biography on the Obamas. Kantor is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

So when the Obamas got to the White House, they made a conscientious effort to clamp down and surround themselves with people they already knew from Chicago — to keep some sense of normalcy.

"A lot of their instincts become very self-protected," Kantor says. "Again and again, in my reporting, I found the motif of them drawing up the gangplanks."

But recently, Michelle Obama has seemed much more comfortable with her role.

"She's really popular. She's much more popular than her husband, and that has really given her so much internal leverage because they need her so badly for 2012," she says. "She's totally key to their strategy, and if you look at her in the last couple of months, she's gone from appearing not too frequently to being almost ubiquitous. And she's become much more comfortable in public life, and much more comfortable politically. For 2012 ... she says she's all-in this time."
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Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 01:27 pm
It sounds like an interesting book, and I am looking forward to reading it.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who had a lot of experience in public life prior to becoming First Lady, as well as a well established high profile career of her own, Michelle Obama was rather suddenly thrust into the national spotlight and her own career and marital partnership were shifted to that of being helpmate to her husband. And, in addition, there was the issue of her being the first African-American First Lady, and the type of image she wanted to project in that role. So, the transition and the adjustments for her would be interesting to learn about.

I don't think that Jodi Kantor ever had direct conversations with Michelle Obama after 2008, so the book would have to be limited in what it could reveal on the basis of first hand information in that regard during Mrs Obama's actual time in the White House. But, First Ladies, particularly those in strong partnership marriages, do influence their husbands, so I'd simply like to learn more about this one, which is why I'll likely read the book.
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Reply Thu 12 Jan, 2012 01:37 am
I have no idea who Kantor is, but if the book is written in the same way as quoted I would say it is a very uninteresting style of writing and I would in no way be interested in the book. A bit better English is the least one could demand.
Reply Thu 12 Jan, 2012 01:44 am
I don't think those are excerpt from the book. I believe this was an interview. Perhaps badly written by the journalist..
Reply Thu 12 Jan, 2012 03:33 am
Good it is not the book.
For a journalist the English isn´t too good.
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