Michelle Obama hits back at 'angry black woman' critics

A trouble-maker? An "angry black woman", who dislikes living in the White House, who's constantly interfering in her husband's official business, and who hates going on the campaign trail with him? Not me, no way, Michelle Obama declared yesterday.

But the fact the questions were posed is testament to her influence.

If the first lady is to be believed, she hasn't so much as glanced at the book The Obamas by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor.

It is the first detailed behind-the-scenes look at the presidential couple, depicting Michelle as an unseen force in the Administration, who clashes with aides and chafes at the constraints of life in a mansion once described by Harry Truman as "the crown jewel of the American penal system".

"I never read these books," Obama told Gayle King of CBS.

In truth, she said, "I love this job." Of course, there were difficulties - most notably to ensure that "my girls [Malia and Sasha]" emerged unscathed from life in the White House fishbowl. Nonetheless, being first lady had been "a privilege from day one".

First ladies are always influential. Some, like Hillary Clinton, who led Bill's healthcare reform effort, and Rosalynn Carter, who used to attend Jimmy's Cabinet meetings, were virtually official advisers.

Others, like Laura Bush, have been quiet and self-effacing.

Most powerful of all probably was Nancy Reagan, who terrorised staff and used an astrologer to help shape Ronald's schedule.

Among her recent predecessors, Obama perhaps most closely resembles Clinton. But every first lady has faced the challenge of preserving a family normality.

The book tells of tensions between Michelle and two of the President's closest former advisers, his first Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs, his first White House press secretary.

But she says she "never had a cross word" with Emanuel. As for Gibbs, he was "a good friend, and remains so".

Yes, she cared deeply about her husband and his political fortunes, she told CBS, "I am one of his biggest allies. I am one of his biggest confidants."

But she denied she sat in meetings, a la Rosalynn Carter. Alas, "I guess it's just more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here - that's been an image people have tried to paint of me ... that I'm some kind of angry black woman".

Inevitably, "there will always be people who don't like me," she added, but "I'm just trying to be me, and I just hope that over time, people get to know me".

- Independent

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