Media, Politics

The power behind the White House throne

The power behind the White House throne

A new book about Barack and Michelle Obama suggests that America’s First Lady didn’t initially adapt as smoothly to her role as her polished appearances would suggest today. By REBECCA DAVIS.

“The Obamas”, by Jodi Kantor, will be published on Tuesday. All indications are that it will make for some interesting reading – and in particular with regards to Michelle Obama’s role in the White House. When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, the book reports, Michelle Obama reportedly found the changes to her lifestyle a real strain, resenting the fact that practically every decision she took, however banal, was monitored by presidential aides. 

Her major frustration, according to White House insiders, was adapting to what seemed to her to be a “shapeless post”, however. As a Harvard-trained lawyer, she reportedly didn’t see the point of participating in ceremonial events without any purpose beyond social niceties. She told advisers that she “wanted a more central role in communicating the administration’s message”, the book reports. Despite this, she was reportedly mindful of the precedent of Hilary Clinton, who won widespread resentment for what appeared to be meddling in her husband’s business. Barack Obama’s healthcare plan was a particularly important cause to her, however, and the stalling of the plan was a source of rising tension between Michelle and her husband’s erstwhile chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. At one stage, the book reports, Emanuel’s frustration was such that he forbade Michelle from attending high-level meetings, leaving her to lobby other senior advisers via email. 

What ultimately gave Michelle Obama both more power and the leverage she sought in the administration, however, was her spiralling popularity. The First Lady is expected to be a valuable tool in Obama’s re-election campaign this year – but very much on her own terms. DM

Read more:

  • Michelle Obama and the Evolution of a First Lady, in the NY Times.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.