The Obamas: Jodi Kantor’s Account of the White House Life of a President and First Lady
When the Democratic Party chose Barack Obama to be its presidential nominee in 2008, it was groundbreaking news; when he won the White House that November, it was historic. The symbolic triumph of becoming the first black family in the White House did not escape the Obamas, and yet the attention and lifestyle changes that came with their new elite status initially did. Those first few months were crucial for the First Couple as they adjusted to their new lives together. New York Times Washington correspondent-turned-author Jodi Kantor had a vicarious look inside the White House walls at that time in their lives via interviews with thirty-three White House staff members while writing her book, The Obamas, the most intimate, comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at their marriage during those first 1,000 days.
Kantor portrays the First Lady as critical to the Obama administration and to the President himself. The couple had believed they could maintain a normal life, a belief especially important for their two young daughters. But an early dose of reality came to the First Lady when she realized that her house in Chicago was no longer the home she remembered -- Secret Service had erected concrete barricades on opposite sides of their house, black curtains were drawn to protect from possible snipers, pedestrians were rerouted, and every move had to be cleared with the President's Security Detail -- the White House was their home now.
Socially in Washington, the Obamas kept a small circle of confidantes; their gatherings, private. As a result, Kantor explains, Michelle has held a highly influential role in the President's life, despite episodes of tension between the First Lady and the West Wing. (Kantor highlights one particularly uncomfortable incident between then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the First Lady. When a French book came out saying that Michelle Obama disliked living in the White House, she was displeased with Gibbs's handling of the situation. Regarding her reaction, Gibbs reportedly responded: "F--- her too!") President Obama may have his aides advising him throughout every day, he has said, but "at the end of each day, it is Michelle -- her moral voice, her moral center -- that cuts through all the noise in Washington and reminds me of why I'm there in the first place." Reading this book, we further experience the loyalty and wisdom he demonstrates within his marriage.
What makes The Obamas different from other books written about the President and the First Lady is its distinctly apolitical approach. Kantor offers insider information and insight on a personal level -- an exploration of the Obamas as a couple, and as individuals, entering a new momentous phase in both their public and private life.