Michelle Obama 31.
(photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Popular first lady Michelle Obama has had testy relationships with some top White House advisers, and at times pushed the president to pursue politically difficult causes like healthcare and immigration reform, according to a new book.
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"The Obamas" by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, paints Mrs. Obama as "an expert motivator and charmer" and "an increasingly canny political player" ahead of the 2012 presidential election, expected to be a tough fight for her husband, President Barack Obama.
Mrs. Obama fought against political tactics espoused by Rahm Emanuel, her husband's former chief of staff, and Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, the book said, pushing her husband to replace advisers who she felt were "too insular, not strategic enough," according to excerpts from the book on the newspaper's website.
"'She feels as if our rudder isn't set right,'" the book quotes Barack Obama as telling aides.
The Obamas did not speak to Kantor for the book, which was based on
interviews with more than 30 current and former staff members. It will
be released on Tuesday.
The White House on Friday called the book "an over-dramatization of old
news" and said Kantor had not spoken to the Obamas since 2009.
"The emotions, thoughts and private moments described in the book,
though often seemingly ascribed to the President and First Lady, reflect
little more than the author's own thoughts," said Eric Schultz, a White
The book says Mrs. Obama, known for her campaign to promote healthy
eating and exercise, initially sought a low-key role in the White House,
and even considered postponing her move to Washington from Chicago
after the 2008 election.
She was worried about being the first African-American first lady, and
felt "everyone was waiting for a black woman to make a mistake," said a
former aide quoted in the book.
Tensions arose between Mrs. Obama and Gibbs, who worried about public
missteps. Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president and a friend
of the couple, tried to moderate, the book said.
Mrs. Obama supported her husband's "instincts for ambitious but
unpopular initiatives like the overhaul of health care and immigration
laws, casting herself as a foil to aides more intent on preserving
congressional seats and poll numbers," the excerpts say.
"She does think there are worse things than losing an election," said
Susan Sher, her former chief of staff, in the book. "Being true to
yourself, for her, is definitely more important."