New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, whose book on the Obamas comes out in January, reappeared on Friday’s front page to fawn over Michelle Obama, “First Lady Takes On the Role of Staff Energizer.”
Kantor’s book, “The Obamas,” certainly does not sound like it will afflict the comfortable couple in the White House: “Filled with riveting detail and insight into their partnership, emotions and personalities, and written with a keen eye for the ironies of public life, THE OBAMAS is an intimate portrait that will surprise even readers who thought they knew the President and First Lady.” That promotional tone matches Kantor’s previous Times coverage of the First Couple.
From Kantor’s latest First Lady fawn-athon:
Young campaign workers looked up from their pizza at Obama re-election headquarters in Chicago one evening last month to find an unexpected guest: the first lady of the United States, there to deliver a surprise pep talk.
After nearly three years of limiting her time in the public sphere, she is suddenly ubiquitous: headlining seven fund-raisers in October, promoting new initiatives for veterans and her husband’s stalled jobs bill, even appearing at job fairs run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business lobbying group that has frequently been a nemesis of her husband’s administration.
If the initial stage of her time as first lady was identified with glamour (magazine covers, a high-flying social secretary) and the second was about advocacy (for child obesity prevention and military families), she is entering a third stage: as an upbeat ambassador for a struggling administration, and more than at any time since the inauguration, a designated narrator of her husband’s story.
In an administration in which so much has gone awry, Michelle Obama has become a dependable source of good news. She makes announcements about successes (last week, she talked about new private-sector hiring commitments for veterans) and spreads the White House’s message in inventive ways -- for instance, appearing on an episode of the reality television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” devoted to housing for veterans.
Mrs. Obama wants to be a reliable, popular performer for her husband’s cause, current and former White House aides say, and five years after the start of her crash course in public life, she almost never flubs a speech or attracts negative attention, as she did for a Spain vacation in the summer of 2010. (Two exceptions: in September, she was criticized for wearing tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of borrowed diamonds to the New York fund-raiser and for pictures of her shopping at a Washington-area Target store that appeared to have been planned.)
The prospect of Mrs. Obama riding to her husband’s rescue has a certain twist to it: Will the president’s no-nonsense wife, who never wanted to be in politics in the first place, save the day for him?