Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Loner and the Dominator

"The Obamas" by Jodi Kantor   Little, Brown and Co.  359 pages   $29.99

Kantor is a Washington correspondent for the New York Times and is also the former editor of that paper's Arts & Leisure section.  Credentials established, let us move on with tidbits.

After Obama was elected, Mrs. Obama believed it would be better to keep their daughters in their Chicago school, rather than moving them to Washington, DC, mid-term.  After all, he was traveling continuously and had been for several years.  It wasn't like he was home all that much.

She balked at the restrictions living in the White House necessitated.  She couldn't even walk the dog in the "backyard" without asking the Secret Service or other staff if the coast was clear -- no scheduled Marine One landings, no outdoor press conferences. 

To avoid the tour groups charging through this historic house meant that their daughters would be confined to the residential part of the house. 

They couldn't go visit friends; instead, the friends had to come to them.  Their best friends are two black Chicago couples.  What unites them?  They are all successful with high-priced educations, but they all fear that others are saying knowledgeably behind their backs, "Oh, affirmative action, you know."  

The Obamas especially enjoy Halloween.  For their first in the White House, held for the children of military service members and administrative officials, George Lucas sent the real "Chewbacca" from Star Wars,"  director Tim Burton turned the dining room into a Mad Hatters tea party.  Refreshments included bone-shaped meringue cookies and fruit punch served in blood vials.

A revealing tidbit Ms. Kantor included.  Obama walked out of a meeting and noticed a pile of magazines on a secretary's desk.  He asked, "Whose are those?"  and was told, "They just come (shrug)...But everything in the White House is yours, so technically they're yours."

Next day the scene repeated itself.  He said, "Whose magazines are these?"  "They're your magazines, Mr. President."  Obama grinned and walked away. 

But this was the best quote in the book:  "I'm the President.  Can't I get this done?"

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