Michelle Obama de­nounces Trump for his ‘birther’ role

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Alexan­dra Al­ter NEW YORK TIMES

WASH­ING­TON – In her highly an­tic­i­pated mem­oir, “Be­com­ing,” for­mer first lady Michelle Obama mostly sticks to her long-stated prin­ci­ple of stay­ing pos­i­tive in the face of po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal at­tacks: “When they go low, we go high.”

But she doesn’t hold back en­tirely. Obama de­nounces Pres­i­dent Trump for his sex­ism and misog­yny and, most force­fully, for his part in pro­mot­ing the “birther” con­spir­acy the­ory that ques­tioned Barack Obama’s cit­i­zen­ship.

She de­scribed his cam­paign to dis­credit her hus­band as “crazy and mean­spir­ited, of course, its un­der­ly­ing big­otry and xeno­pho­bia hardly con­cealed,” as well as dan­ger­ous. “Don­ald Trump, with his loud and reck­less in­nu­en­dos, was putting my fam­ily’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never for­give him.”

“Be­com­ing,” which is due out Tues­day, from Crown, is shap­ing up to be one of the year’s big­gest block­busters, with a global first print­ing of 3 mil­lion copies, and a world­wide re­lease in 31 lan­guages.

The mem­oir is land­ing at a mo­ment when the for­mer pres­i­dent and first lady have re­turned to pub­lic life af­ter mostly lay­ing low in the months fol­low­ing the 2016 elec­tion. Barack Obama cam­paigned en­er­get­i­cally for Demo­cratic can­di­dates in the midterms, and Michelle Obama has launched a new ed­u­ca­tion project for ado­les­cent girls and an ini­tia­tive to pro­mote voter regis­tra­tion and turnout.

Now, she is about to travel the coun­try on a 10-city book tour or­ga­nized by Live Na­tion, the world’s largest con­cert pro­moter. At pro­mo­tional events in New York, Chicago, Los An­ge­les, Bos­ton and else­where, Obama will ap­pear at sports sta­di­ums with high pro­file mod­er­a­tors like Oprah Win­frey, Sarah Jes­sica Parker, Reese With­er­spoon and Va­lerie Jar­rett. (In some venues, front row seats with a “meet and greet” pack­age are priced at $3,000; 10 per­cent of the tick­ets in each city are be­ing given away to lo­cal char­i­ties, schools, and com­mu­nity groups.)

With the pub­li­ca­tion of “Be­com­ing,” the Obamas now seem set to make their mark not just in pol­i­tics, but in pop­u­lar cul­ture. Last year, they an­nounced a joint book deal with Pen­guin Ran­dom House that was ru­mored to ex­ceed $60 mil­lion, a large por­tion of which is go­ing to their foun­da­tion and other char­i­ties. This year, they signed a mul­ti­year pro­duc­tion deal with Net­flix, to pro­duce films and tele­vi­sion shows through their com­pany, “Higher Ground Pro­duc­tions.” (They re­cently ac­quired screen rights to Michael Lewis’ new book, “The Fifth Risk,” for their com­pany.)

“Be­com­ing,” which the New York Times re­ceived a copy of, is in many ways a fairly con­ven­tional first lady’s mem­oir: An in­sider’s view of what it was like to live through na­tional tragedies and other ma­jor events, in one of the most high pro­file po­si­tions in the world.

She de­scribes the highs and lows of her hus­band’s eight years in of­fice, like learn­ing the gut­ting news of the Sandy Hook mas­sacre in New­town, Conn., and how her hus­band sum­moned her to his side for com­fort, some­thing he rarely did dur­ing work hours, and the mo­ment he told her that the mis­sion to kill Osama bin Laden was suc­cess­ful.

But as the first African-Amer­i­can first lady, Obama’s ex­pe­ri­ence was far from typ­i­cal, and she writes about feel­ing greater scru­tiny than her pre­de­ces­sors.

“I was hum­bled and ex­cited to be first lady, but not for one sec­ond did I think I’d be slid­ing into some glam­orous, easy role,” she writes. “No­body who has the words “first” and “black” at­tached to them ever would.”

She de­scribes want­ing to pro­tect her daugh­ters from the glare of pub­lic life, and re­counts her dif­fi­cul­ties be­com­ing preg­nant and suf­fer­ing a miscarriage.

She re­veals, for the first time, that Malia and Sasha were con­ceived through in vitro fer­til­iza­tion, and de­scribes feel­ing re­sent­ful about ad­min­is­ter­ing shots to her­self while her hus­band was away at his job in the state leg­is­la­ture: “None of this was his fault, but it wasn’t equal, ei­ther,” she writes.

De­spite some re­veal­ing pas­sages and an in­ti­mate tone (she de­tails her early courtship with Barack Obama, de­scrib­ing a rush of “lust, grat­i­tude, ful­fill­ment, won­der”), Obama, not sur­pris­ingly, doesn’t let her guard down en­tirely, a pro­tec­tive pos­ture that is con­sis­tent with her pub­lic per­sona.

To­ward the end of the book, Obama takes aim at Trump, de­nounc­ing his poli­cies and tenor in sweep­ing terms.

“I’ve lain awake at night, fum­ing over what’s come to pass. It’s been dis­tress­ing to see how the be­hav­ior and the po­lit­i­cal agenda of the cur­rent pres­i­dent have caused many Amer­i­cans to doubt them­selves and to doubt and fear one an­other,” she writes. “I some­times won­der where the bot­tom might be.”

Af­ter the Wash­ing­ton Post and other out­lets pub­lished sto­ries about the book’s con­tent, Trump re­sponded Fri­day. “She got paid a lot of money to write a book and they al­ways ex­pect a lit­tle con­tro­versy,” Trump said. “I’ll give you a lit­tle con­tro­versy back, I’ll never for­give [Pres­i­dent Barack Obama] for what he did to our U.S. mil­i­tary. It was de­pleted, and I had to fix it,” Trump said. “What he did to our mil­i­tary made this coun­try very un­safe for you and you and you.”

As for the ques­tion that’s likely to come up re­peat­edly on her book tour, Obama tries to put to rest spec­u­la­tion that she’s gear­ing up for a ca­reer in pol­i­tics.

“I’ve never been a fan of pol­i­tics, and my ex­pe­ri­ence over the last 10 years has done lit­tle to change that,” she writes. “I con­tinue to be put off by the nas­ti­ness.”

New York Times

Then-first lady Michelle Obama and then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, right, and their chil­dren Malia and Sasha, with their new dog Bo at the White House in 2009. Her much an­tic­i­pated mem­oir is due next week.

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