New book describes tension between Michelle Obama and White House staff
A new book detailing life in the White House describes high tension under the tenure of Barack Obama as First Lady Michelle Obama struggled with his top aides over the direction of his presidency.
She “cherished the idea of her husband as a transformational figure” but battled with White House advisors on compromise deals he had cut with Republicans, growing frustrated that he was being viewed as an “ordinary politician,” according to the book out Tuesday by journalist Jodi Kantor.
The New York Times writer, who said she has interviewed some 30 current and former Obama employees along with friends of the couple, paints a picture of the First Lady struggling to find her footing within the White House ever since she moved to Washington with her husband and two daughters in 2009.
Crisis erupted, according to Kantor, from extracts of the book, in early 2010 when Michelle Obama felt the administration had cut too many deals compromising her husband’s signature health care reform legislation.
Obama’s then-top adviser Rahm Emanuel denied “he had grown frustrated with Mrs. Obama, but other advisers described a grim situation: a president whose agenda had hit the rocks, a first lady who disapproved of the turn the White House had taken, and a chief of staff who chafed against her influence.”
Key to the first lady’s frustration was anxiety “about the gap between her vision of her husband’s presidency and the reality of what he could deliver,” Kantor wrote in the book, titled “The Obamas.”
The first lady had sought to involve herself in promoting the president’s agenda, but advisers, wary of a similar situation under president Bill Clinton where his wife Hillary attempted to promote a health care in the 1990s, “mostly declined her offer.”