New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor is out today with her much-anticipated new book “The Obamas,” which promises an inside look at the first marriage.The book is based on Kantor’s 2009 NYT Magazine piece on the same subject. Kantor did not speak to the Obamas for the book, instead interviewing dozens of aides and staffers.
In the excerpts that have been released President Obama comes across as an intelligent, introverted president, a characterization that jibes with the cool and calm demeanor that has been a trademark of his leadership style in his first term.
However the real star of this book is first lady Michelle Obama. Kantor paints a portrait of an intelligent, professional, ambitious woman, who is fiercely protective of her family and who struggled in the beginning to find her role in the White House.
Her relationship with Obama, his staffers and the American public as told by Kantor, is often a rough one with plenty of internal conflicts and intense feuds.
Michelle Obama reportedly had doubts about Obama's choice of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff. Emmanuel had his own doubts about Obama, and once in the White House, they competed for the president's ear.
'They were the president's two spouses, in a sense, one public official and one private and informal,' writes Kantor.
Emmanuel even used his power to limit the influence of the First Lady's office. When Michelle Obama's Chief of Staff tried to get in on the President's morning meetings, Emmanuel prevented it. The end result of Emmanuel's efforts to isolate Obama was to render the East Wing like 'Guam -- pleasant but powerless.'
After a series of articles emerged portraying Emmanuel as the force keeping the Obama presidency on track, that Emanuel himself had been the source for, Obama's Chief of Staff offered his resignation.
But Barack Obama wouldn't let Emmanuel go, even though the articles were an embarrassment.
'Your punishment is that you have to stay here and get this bill done,' Obama told Emmanuel. 'I'm not letting you off the hook.'
Michelle Obama and Rahm Emmanuel fought to convince the president on the best way to pass health care reform.
While Emmanuel was prepared to address the issue through traditional means like polling and legislative victories Michelle wanted Barack to push harder, The Huffington Post notes.
When the President eventually sided with Michelle, it marked an important moment in his presidency.
'His decision to pursue the health care overhaul later seemed to mark the beginning of the end of Emanuel's tenure in the White House,' Kantor writes.
Meanwhile, the night HCR passed Michele was alone in a Waldorf Astoria hotel room in NYC with the girls.
According to The New York Times, Kantor reports that Michelle disliked the 'ceremonial duties' and 'stuffy annual lunches' required of first ladies.
How did she get through it? Shopping. Kantor says that fashion was Michelle's 'compensatory pleasure.'
'If I have to go, I'm getting a new dress out of it,' Michelle said.
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