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When Michelle remarks—as she did, now famously, at a fund-raiser hosted in Beverly Hills—that Barack forgets to “secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale,” she’s playing the martinet as hammily as she played the big hungry bear in South Carolina.“Occasionally, it gives campaign people heartburn,” David Axelrod, the Obama campaign’s chief strategist, admits.“She’s fundamentally honest—goes out there, speaks her mind, jokes.Obama seems like an iconoclast precisely because she’s normal (the norm for a candidate’s wife having been defined, in the past, as nonworking, white, and pious about the democratic process).Obama is also cool in the other sense of the word; her tastes, references, and vocabulary—“freaky,” “24/7,” “got my back,” “American Idol,” Judge Mathis—if not exactly edgy, are recognizable, which, for a political spouse, makes them seem radical. I just assumed, you know, there’s no way anybody’s gonna hear about that. She is often called “regal”—whether in —but her bearing is less royal than military: brisk, often stone-faced (even when making jokes), mordant. Sharing the stage with a large, fuzzy piece of poultry might have daunted a more delicate sort of aspiring First Lady, but Obama took her eclipse by Cocky with the seen-it-all aplomb of one of the human characters on “Sesame Street.” That day, she was wearing a pair of high-waisted pin-striped sailor pants, a gray cashmere sweater, and a strand of pearls, but, though she is stylishly appointed, she is not dainty.” [#unhandled_cartoon]Someone who was involved in the preparation of the speech recalls a more nuanced dynamic, as Michelle calmed an irritable Barack. “In South Carolina in particular, because she had family from there, it made a lot of sense for her to speak in the African-American community,” David Axelrod said.
More sugar for the kids.” Obama’s dismissiveness is not that of the spoiled princess, as her detractors have suggested, but that of the wary striver: why get used to things being good if they could fall apart at any moment?January afternoon at the University of South Carolina’s Children’s Center, in Columbia, Michelle Obama scrunched her five-eleven frame into a small white wooden rocking chair. “The bear will tromp through the forest on his big hungry feet and”—sniff, sniff, sniff—“find that strawberry, no matter where it’s hidden.”The kids burst into giggles. She is unquestionably accomplished, but she is not a repressed intellectual, in the mode of Teresa Heinz Kerry.The state’s Democratic primary, which her husband, Barack, needed badly to win, was in forty-eight hours. Obama picked up another book, from the “Olivia” series.“I have Olivia in my four-year-old class! More than anything, she seems to enjoy talking about her husband and her daughters (Malia, nine, and Sasha, six).Obama picked up a picture book, flared her nostrils, and began sniffing noisily, in the manner of a bear foraging in the woods for dinner.“Boom! She can give the impression, in the midst of the campaign’s endless roundtables and kaffeeklatsches, that she’d rather be talking them. Having traversed vast landscapes of race and class, often as a solo traveller, she evinces the discipline and, occasionally, the detachment of an Army brat. Her mother and her older brother both say that she has never once phoned them in tears. When Stevie Wonder, whom she was escorting to the stage at a rally in February, tripped on a riser, sending her tumbling down next to him in front of thousands of people, she exhibited no embarrassment or alarm, turning what could have been a blooper-reel nightmare into a non-event.
Her lack of pretense has made her popular with the portion of the electorate, and the media, for whom prim Laura Bush seems out of touch.