Michelle Obama has weighed in on the buzzy new book The Obamas by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. She isn’t thrilled about the chatter it’s generating about her alleged clashes with West Wing staff and dominance over the administration.
“I guess it’s just more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here,” Mrs. Obama, who claimed that she hasn’t read the book, said in an interview with CBS News’ Gayle King. “That’s been an image people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I’m some kind of angry black woman.”
The White House also pushed back on the deeply sourced book, which came out this week, calling it an “over-dramatization of old news” that relied on interviews with “people who the Obamas have not spoken to in years.” But after flipping through the book, I don’t think the first lady has much to be worried about — the portrait that Jodi Kantor paints of her isn’t all that scandalous. By now you’ve read some of the gossipy excerpts:
* Michelle Obama was unsure about uprooting her daughters to move into the White House immediately after inauguration, and considered remaining in Chicago until they’d finished the school year.
* She was initially unenthusiastic about having to show up for ceremonial events and photo ops. When White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel scheduled her for a Florida event appearance without consulting her, she attended — but showed her irritation by doing very few midterm campaign events.
* She was angry when Democrats lost their Senate supermajority by losing Ted Kennedy’s former seat to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election. The president voiced her displeasure about their ineffective strategy to his advisers.
* The president’s advisers felt that taking on health care reform was too ambitious and encouraged him to focus on smaller, more practical legislative wins. The first lady, however, prodded him to pursue his lofty campaign pledge.
It’s hardly surprising that a Princeton and Harvard Law-educated professional woman initially struggled with the confinements of being first lady, but she has since adjusted to the role and has found a way to make it her own. On Wednesday, for example, as part of her Joining Forces initiative for military families, she announced that 130 medical schools across the country have committed to improving their research and care around veterans’ health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
The anecdotes that have garnered the most controversy are the ones in which she expresses frustration over the poll-watching direction of her husband’s administration. But if you’re OK with a first lady who has opinions and makes them known, then the book isn’t damaging to Mrs. Obama. If anything, her efforts to push the president to fight for policies that he believes in, and to champion the spirit of his campaign, don’t cast her as an “angry black woman” — but reflect well on her character.