New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor’s new book, The Obamas, is chock-full of revelations about the First Couple. To save you the time of reading (and the cost of buying) Kantor’s account, we have compiled the Top 10 Obama Revelations that are contained in the book.
1. Alice in Wonderland Ball
The first Halloween celebration during the Obama Administration was a 2009 over-the-top costume ball with an Alice-in-Wonderland theme. Actor Johnny Depp came dressed as the Mad Hatter and Hollywood director Tim Burton decorated the White House “in his signature creepy-comic style,” according to the book. “He had turned the room into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies.” Also present was the original Star Wars character Chewbacca and fruit punch served in blood vials.
2. Michelle Obama’s Power
Michelle Obama was said to be the driving force behind a staff shakeup after Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, which cost Democrats their Senate supermajority. Kantor writes that Mrs. Obama was furious with both the President and his staff for not better anticipating Brown’s stunning victory. The Kantor book portrays the First Lady as being an “unrecognized force” in pushing a political agenda and often pushed her husband to take stands on tough issues like immigration and healthcare.
3. Michelle vs. Rahm
The First Lady clashed with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, blaming him for the slow action in getting ObamaCare passed through Congress. “Michelle and Rahm Emanuel had almost no bond. Their relationship was distant and awkward from the beginning,” Kantor wrote. Emanuel, who offered his resignation following the First Lady’s criticism, also battled with senior aide Valerie Jarrett, whom he viewed as a spy for the East Wing.
4. Gibbs vs. Jarrett and Michelle
The book describes a particularly heated exchange where press secretary Robert Gibbs hurled expletives at adviser Valerie Jarrett after she said the First Lady was unhappy with his response to an international flap. Gibbs response was to curse Michelle Obama as well and storm out of a staff meeting. Gibbs later told Kantor the incident was a misunderstanding and that Jarrett made up the complaint. He “stopped taking her seriously as an adviser to the President” as a result.
5. Alice in Wonderland Ball Cover-up
The White House was so concerned about how the Mad Hatter fete (see No. 1) would be viewed at a time of 10% unemployment that they kept word of the event under wraps. “White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans … that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton’s and Depp’s contributions went unacknowledged,” Kantor wrote. However, less frivolous White House Halloween festivities for Washington-area children were spoon-fed to the press.
6. Marital Quarrels
The Obama marriage had rough patches and the White House staff was often caught in the middle. “The advisors could feel hopelessly caught between husband and wife,” the book said. “The Obama marriage was awkward for everyone: for the aides, for the President … and for the First Lady.”
7. Michelle’s Clothes Fetish
Michelle Obama did not relish all the public demands associated with being the First Lady but a stylish wardrobe became her “compensatory pleasure” for putting up with the duties. “If I have to go, I’m getting a new dress out of it,” Mrs. Obama told friends, according to the book. She also wanted to appear to be sophisticated in order to dispel negative stereotypes about blacks.
8. Michelle’s Washington Hell
Michelle was reluctant to leave Chicago for life in the White House and wanted to stay in the Windy City for at least a few months until the Obama children finished the school year. A squabble between top staffers Robert Gibbs and Valerie Jarrett (see No. 4) stemmed from the White House response to press accounts of Michelle’s saying that living in the White House was “hell.”
9. Bowling Embarrassment
President Obama was so humiliated by the public ridicule after he scored 37 while bowling—much to the delight of late-night comedians—that he practiced at the White House bowling alley until he won a competition by rolling five consecutive strikes.
10. Barbershop Sanctity
After being contacted by a frantic aide while he was getting a haircut, President Obama gave the white staffer a lesson in black culture. “The relationship between a black man and his barber is sacred,” Obama said. “For failing to understand this truth, your punishment is to watch the movie Barbershop. And for further punishment, you will then watch the sequel, Barbershop 2.”