"That Kind of Shuts You Up, Doesn't It?"

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Oct 06, 2008 5:19 PM
I have finally gotten around to reading "When Michelle Met Barack," a glowing little piece in The Washington Post.  Obviously intended as a puff piece, it nevertheless offers some insight into the personalities of the people who are obviously hoping to be our next President and First Lady.

First, about Barack:

Near the end of the piece, its author discusses the conflict the Obamas had over whether to get married.  Michelle hoped to get married; Barack "put her off, arguing that marriage was a meaningless institution and that the only thing that mattered was how they felt about each other."  Apparently, one night at a fancy Chicago restaurant, Barack "went into his usual tirade against marriage, a dissertation that went on until they ordered dessert."

At that point, he took out a box with a ring, and said to his wife, "This kind of shuts you up, doesn't it?" 

Don't get me wrong.  That kind of talk doesn't disqualify someone from being President.  But it sure isn't the honeyed speech we've all grown to know and love in recent months, is it?  Barack's outspoken antipathy to marriage sounds like it's been infused with "anti-institutional," radical ideology, more than reflecting a frequent male hesitation about commitment, doesn't it?  Is this how he talks and feels when he's off-camera?

Second, about Michelle

I have worked as an associate in a big law firm, and the work can be tedious and the hours, long.  Michelle Obama's reaction to those facts of life strike me as bizarre.  She was, apparently, recruited by the glitziest, most interesting department at the big, prestigious law firm Sidley Austin, but even that wasn't enough.  According to the piece:

 Quincy White, the partner who helped recruit Michelle and who headed the marketing group, remembers finding her a challenge to manage. White, who is now retired from the firm, says he gave her the most interesting work he could find, in part because he wanted to see her advance, but also because she seemed perennially dissatisfied.  . . . 

[The work was] [t]oo monotonous for Michelle, who, White says, complained that the work he gave her was unsatisfactory. He says he gave her the Coors beer ads, which he considered one of the more glamorous assignments they had. Even then, he says, "she at one point went over my head and complained [to human resources] that I wasn't giving her enough interesting stuff . . ."

For anyone who hasn't worked as a law firm associate, it's hard to overstate just how outrageously aggressive such a move is.  To complain about a partner, one who heads a department, no less -- to try to cause him a problem -- because your work isn't "interesting" enough?  Are you kidding?   

Wow.  What a piece of work.  Good luck to Mrs. Obama's staff . . . that's gotta be a hardship post.