Michelle Obama: An 'Unrecognized Force'

First lady has been a powerful player in her husband's White House: Book
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2012 6:42 AM CST
Michelle Obama: An 'Unrecognized Force'
President Barack Obama and Michelle walk to the White House on December 14.   (Getty Images)

A new (unauthorized) book by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor depicts Michelle Obama as an "unrecognized force" in her husband's administration, according to an adaptation of The Obamas in the Times. Though initially reluctant to be a meddling first lady, she began voicing concerns when she felt her husband's big-picture agenda was getting sacrificed to mundane politics and even pushed the president to shake up his team of advisers, writes Kantor. Some highlights:

  • Clashes with Rahm: She had a testy relationship with former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and he "chafed" at her influence. The president once passed along a criticism of hers to his staff ("She feels as if our rudder isn't set right"), and Emanuel reportedly repeated it with disdain to others. The excerpts also note that Emanuel offered his resignation at one point, when his criticisms about health care reform went public.

  • Gibbs, too: Former press chief Robert Gibbs once cursed the first lady in a rage (she wasn't present) during a tense meeting on dealing with the fallout of negative comments she allegedly made about living in the White House. Gibbs had been arguing with longtime Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, who had passed along the first lady's objections on how the story was being handled.
  • Finding her niche: Her story as first lady "has been one first of struggle, then turnaround and greater fulfillment," writes Kantor. She objected to some of the more political duties, like campaigning during the midterms, but now she's "all in" in support of her husband's re-election fight.
  • Axelrod quote: “She has very much got his back,” says David Axelrod. “When she thinks things have been mishandled or when things are off the track, she’ll raise it."
Full adaptation here. More details on the tensions with Emanuel here. (Read more Michelle Obama stories.)

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