If You Voted for Barack, You Voted for Michelle

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The Obama’s, a new book by NY Times reporter Jodi Kantor, claims that Michelle Obama’s influence goes well beyond nutrition into critical changes in the staff and policy. Kantor had access to at least 30 White House staffers/advisors and has interviewed the Obamas, though not for this book.

The Obamas are disputing the substance of the book because they were not specifically interviewed for this book.

According to the book, Michelle force-fed the liberal orthodoxy to the politically minded staff on an ongoing basis.

Michelle, allegedly, was no fan of Rahm Emanuel or Robert Gibbs. The Iranian princess, Valerie Jarrett, didn’t like Gibbs much either.

From a NY Times preview piece –

Early on Sept. 16, Robert Gibbs was scanning the news when a story stopped him short: according to a new French book, Michelle Obama had told Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French first lady, that living in the White House was “hell.” It was a potential disaster — the equivalent of the $400 haircut, Mr. Gibbs feared, coming just weeks before election day and on the heels of a vacation in Spain that had drawn accusations of lavish spending.

Mr. Gibbs asked her aides to find out if she had said anything even close (no, the answer came back), and then fought the story back for hours, having the book translated and convincing the Élysée Palace to issue a denial. By noon the potential crisis had been averted.

But at Mr. Emanuel’s 7:30 a.m. staff meeting the next day, Ms. Jarrett announced that the first lady had concerns about the White House’s response to the book, according to several people present. All eyes turned to Mr. Gibbs, who started to steam.

“Don’t go there, Robert, don’t do it,” Mr. Emanuel warned.

“That’s not right, I’ve been killing myself on this, where’s this coming from?” Mr. Gibbs yelled, adding expletives. He interrogated Ms. Jarrett, whose calm only seemed to frustrate him more. The two went back and forth, Ms. Jarrett unruffled, Mr. Gibbs shaking with rage. Finally, several staff members said, Mr. Gibbs cursed the first lady — colleagues stared down at the table, shocked — and stormed out.

Mr. Gibbs later acknowledged the outburst but said he had misdirected his rage and accused Ms. Jarrett of making up the complaint. After the book incident, he “stopped taking her at all seriously as an adviser to the president,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding, “Her viewpoint in advising the president is that she has to be up and the rest of the White House has to be down.”

Ms. Jarrett declined to discuss the incident; two East Wing aides said she had misspoken, and that Mrs. Obama had not made any criticism.

Mr. Gibbs worried about blowback from the First Lady’s lavish lifestyle –

But her husband’s advisers — in particular, Mr. Gibbs — were worried that the White House might appear oblivious to public anger about joblessness, banker bailouts and bonuses. The result was constant, anxious give-and-take between the East and West Wings about vacations, décor, entertainment, even matters as small as whether to announce the hiring of a new florist.

“We all have watched what happens when people get caricatured,” Mr. Gibbs said in an interview, explaining why he policed such personal matters. With a mistake like John Edwards’s $400 haircut in 2007, “there’s no way to correct that.” Other aides said there was a reason Mr. Gibbs became the main enforcer of the rules of political life: because Mr. Obama, all too aware that his wife never wanted that life, would not. Read here: NY times and WH Dossier

This is from Sam Stein of the HuffPo who apparently saw an advance copy of the book –

When the whole enterprise seemed to have fallen apart, following the election of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, the first lady was furious. Instead of letting her husband down easy, which top staff hoped she would do, she lit into him.

“She feels as if our rudder isn’t set right,” the president told his aides. “They had the sense that was not the actual language she had used.”

Kantor writes, “To her, the Scott Brown victory provided grim evidence for what she had been saying for months, in some cases years: [her husband] had been leaning on the same tight group of insular, disorganized advisers for too long; they were not careful planners who looked out for worst-case scenarios.”

Emanuel, naturally, had a different read. And according to “The Obamas,” he was indignant about how the first lady handled the Brown victory. “Emanuel hated it when people criticized the administration from lofty perches,” writes Kantor. “More fundamentally, the chief of staff was trying to convince the president to scale back his health care efforts, but the first lady wanted him to push forward. Emanuel wanted to win by the standard measures of presidential success: legislative victories, poll numbers. Michelle Obama had more persona criteria: Was her husband fulfilling their mission?”

In the end, Michelle Obama would win that fight. After several days of reflection, the president would push again for Congress to pass the full health care reform bill. And while he ultimately would succeed, the battles took their tolls.

“Barack Obama had made a choice in the contest of the worldviews that surrounded him, between his chief of staff’s point of view and his wife’s,” Kantor writes. “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.” Read here: HuffPo

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