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Andy Winchell RSS Feed (SUMMIT, NJ, US)

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The Obamas
The Obamas
by Jodi Kantor
Edition: Hardcover
143 used & new from $0.01

62 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, different from most other political books, January 14, 2012
This review is from: The Obamas (Hardcover)
Readers experienced with political insider books will recognize in The Obamas many of the dynamics present in other books about past administrations. Like Bob Wodward's books about the Bush Administration, Jodi Kantor obviously received a lot of information from aides working in the White House. Unlike Woodward's books, though, The Obamas comes at its subject more from the personal side than the political side. Rather than focusing on the workings of power in the West Wing, The Obamas describes at length the effect that President Obama's family has on him and his administration. The book also depicts how living in the White House and constantly being in the public eye affected the Obamas and how they responded.

One theme of The Obamas is their growing understanding of perception and images. Michelle Obama in particular is very conscious of the way that she is depicted in the media. She finds looking good by wearing nice clothes with professional makeup to be empowering. She makes conscious efforts to present herself well, do things well, and set a good example. There is a pair of scenes early on when Michelle is photographed wearing casual clothes on casual occasions, one while walking the family dog on White House grounds and another white visiting the Grand Canyon, and the First Lady received some unflattering press as a result. Ironically, when she dressed in expensive clothes, people noticed that as well and remarked accordingly. The book shows how the Obama Administration in general and Michelle in particular developed an improved sense of the value of imagery. Michelle if anything became more acutely conscious of how she dressed. Similarly, merely putting Michelle in a room of children or showing President Obama with his wife and daughters produced images that the public loved to see.

The White House's negative reaction to The Obamas confirms some of the other major themes of the book. The Obamas, for understandable personal and political reasons, want to limit and control the information that the public receives about their life in the White House. The Obama Administration also sometimes exhibits a tin ear about how the public will respond to something. The White House is reacting as if the book is somehow akin to Michelle being photographed in ordinary clothes (i.e., a failure to control the depictions of the First Family) rather than a humanizing portrayal of people who are trying to do their best under highly unusual circumstances. Michelle could have said "I haven't read the book and shouldn't comment." The White House could have said "We are too busy working on the issues facing our country to concern ourselves with the book." Instead, the White House's odd reaction is perhaps the best indication that the book gets its subjects largely right.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 19, 2012 3:29 PM PST

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