‘We went to coun­selling’: Obama

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

For­mer first lady Michelle Obama blasts Don­ald Trump in her new book, writ­ing how she re­acted in shock the night she learned he would re­place her hus­band in the Oval Of­fice and tried to “block it all out”.

She also de­nounces Mr Trump’s “birther” cam­paign ques­tion­ing her hus­band’s cit­i­zen­ship, call­ing it big­oted and dan­ger­ous, “de­lib­er­ately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks”.

In her mem­oir Be­com­ing, set for re­lease on Wed­nes­day, Ms Obama writes openly about ev­ery­thing from grow­ing up in Chicago to con­fronting racism in pub­lic life to her amaze­ment at be­com­ing the coun­try’s first black first lady.

She also re­flects on early strug­gles in her mar­riage to Barack Obama as he be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and was of­ten away.

She writes that they met with a coun­sel­lor “a hand­ful of times”, and she came to re­alise that she was more “in charge” of her hap­pi­ness than she had re­alised.

“This was my pivot point. My mo­ment of self-ar­rest.”

She as­sumed Mr Trump was “grand­stand­ing” when he an­nounced his pres­i­den­tial run in 2015. She ex­presses dis­be­lief over how so many women would choose a “misog­y­nist” over Hil­lary Clin­ton, “an ex­cep­tion­ally qual­i­fied fe­male can­di­date”.

Her body “buzzed with fury” af­ter hear­ing the Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood tape, in which Mr Trump brags about sex­u­ally as­sault­ing women. She also ac­cuses Mr Trump of us­ing body lan­guage to “stalk” Mrs Clin­ton dur­ing a de­bate. She writes of Mr Trump fol­low­ing Mrs Clin­ton around the stage, stand­ing nearby and “try­ing to di­min­ish her pres­ence”. His mes­sage in words that ap­pear in the book in dark­ened print: “I can hurt you and get away with it.”

Mrs Obama has of­fered few ex­ten­sive com­ments on her White House years.

In Be­com­ing, she shares both pain and joy. She writes lov­ingly of her fam­ily and gives a de­tailed ac­count of her courtship with her fu­ture hus­band, whom she met when both were at the Chicago law firm Si­d­ley Austin; she was ini­tially his ad­viser. Sec­re­taries claimed he was both bril­liant and “cute”, al­though Mrs Obama was scep­ti­cal, writ­ing that white peo­ple went “bonkers” any time you “put a suit” on a “half-in­tel­li­gent black man”. She also thought his pic­ture had a “whiff of geek­i­ness”.

But she was more than im­pressed af­ter meet­ing him, by his “rich, even sexy bari­tone” and by his “strange, stir­ring com­bi­na­tion” of seren­ity and power. “This strange mix-of-ev­ery­thing-man,” when she fi­nally let him kiss her, set off a “top­pling blast of lust, grat­i­tude, ful­fil­ment, won­der.”

But through­out her hus­band’s life in pol­i­tics, she fought to bal­ance pub­lic and pri­vate needs, and to main­tain her self-es­teem. She ag­o­nised over what she feared was a car­toon­ish, racist image. She re­mem­bered be­ing la­belled “an­gry” and, by the Fox net­work, “Obama’s Baby Mama”.

At times, she feared she was dam­ag­ing her hus­band’s 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, es­pe­cially af­ter con­ser­va­tives seized on a line from one of her speeches — taken out of con­text, she notes — that for the first time as an adult she was “re­ally proud” of her coun­try. She sensed last­ing dam­age, a “per­ni­cious seed”, a “per­cep­tion” that she was “dis­grun­tled and vaguely hos­tile”. As the first black first lady, she knew she would be la­belled “other” and would have to earn the aura of “grace” given freely to her white pre­de­ces­sors. She found con­fi­dence in re­peat­ing to her­self a favourite chant: “Am I good enough? Yes I am.”


Michelle Obama

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