Friday, May 17, 2013

Marital awkwardness when one spouse is the President

I had come to understand that equality was a serious issue in the Obama marriage, and that in the White House, the president and first lady are not treated in the same way at all.

So I summoned up my nerve and asked them, "How do you have an equal marriage when one person is president?"

The first lady immediately made a sound like "hah!" as if she was glad someone was finally asking that question. And then she did something very smart: she let her husband answer the question.

He tried. Barack Obama is normally so eloquent, but he botched his reply three times, stopping and starting over. It was such a hard question to answer -- Michelle Obama had been his supervisor at the law firm where they met, and yet she had made sacrifice after sacrifice for him, and now they were living in a world where he was like the sun, with everyone else rotating around him. Finally on the fourth try, he half-joked that his staff was more concerned with satisfying the first lady than satisfying him.

Then Michelle Obama stepped in to rescue him, giving the obvious politic answer: They were equals in their private lives if not in their public lives. The whole exchange was incredibly illuminating.
--Jodi Kantor, Slate, on Michelle bailing out Barack