The Obamas, Jodi Kantor’s book about the First Family, goes on sale tomorrow, and The White House has already pushed back sharply against it. The President’s spokesman Eric Schultz called it “an overdramatization of old news,” and appearing yesterday on ABC’s This Week, David Axelrod — the President’s 2008 campaign manager — said that the book was not accurate: “You know, you can take any one incident and exaggerate.” Kantor, a New York Times reporter covering the First Family, did not talk to either the President or the First Lady for the book, although she did speak to 33 sources in the White House. The details getting the most prepublication attention all involve strained relations between the East Wing and West Wing, particularly an incident which occurred when Carla Bruni Sarkozy published a memoir with a quote from Michelle Obama calling life in the White House “hell.” Though presidential advisor Robert Gibbs worked overtime to contain the problem, the First Lady was said to be unhappy with the way he had handled it, leading Gibbs to curse her in a meeting where she was not present.
Other revelations from the book:
— Mrs. Obama felt that the President relied too strongly on a small group of aides, particularly chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who were all too tentative in their decisions — particularly when it came to the immigration reform and health care bills. According to Ms. Kantor, she would send her concerns to senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who would remove Mrs. Obama’s name from the emails and then pass them on to the President’s staff. Ms. Kantor quotes the President as saying, “She feels as if our rudder isn’t set right.” The First Lady was particularly scornful about the way Rahm Emanuel was doing his job. He, in turn, did his best to restrict the influence of Mrs. Obama’s staff, which grew so ineffectual that aides began referring to it, Ms. Kantor writes, “as ‘Guam’ — pleasant but powerless.'”
— Mrs. Obama chafed at the restrictions of White House living and at the confines of her new role, telling a staffer, “I don’t want to be Hilary Clinton. I can’t be that person.”
— According to Ms. Kantor, The First Lady could be oblivious to the realities of the economy, once wearing $515 sneakers when she volunteered at a food bank. Ms. Kantor says that Robert Gibbs was often the one deputized to inform her that she could not take pricy vacations or embark on ambitious White House redecorating schemes.