By JIM KUHNHENN (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama is a behind-the-scenes force in the White House whose opinions on policy and politics drew her into conflict with presidential advisers and who bristled at some of the demands and constraints of life as the president’s wife, according to a detailed account of the first couple’s relationship.
New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, in a book published recently, portrays a White House where tensions developed between Mrs. Obama and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and former press secretary and presidential adviser Robert Gibbs.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book, “The Obamas,” last Friday evening and The Times posted a 3,300-word adaption on its website that appeared to capture its most revealing accounts. The book is based on interviews with 30 current and former aides, though President Barack Obama and the first lady declined to be interviewed for the book.
The book portrays Mrs. Obama as having gone through an evolution from struggle to fulfillment in her role at the White House but all the while an “unrecognized force” in pursuing the president’s goals.
She is seen publicly as the friendly and popular face of the softer side of the White House, the one reading to school kids or promoting exercise as a means to reduce child obesity.
According to Kantor, early in 2010 as the president’s health care agenda seemed in danger of collapsing, Mrs. Obama let it be known she was annoyed by how the White House was handling the strategy. After media reports indicated Emanuel was unhappy pursuing the health care overhaul, Emanuel offered to resign, Kantor wrote. The president declined the offer.
By that spring, however, Kantor writes that Mrs. Obama “made it clear that she thought her husband needed a new team, according to her aides.”
Among the book’s most provocative anecdotes, Kantor recounts a scene in which Gibbs, frustrated after tamping down a