Times: The Obamas Are the Perfect Imperfect First Couple


The Obamas probably couldn’t have expected a more helpful fluff piece about their marriage than the one The New York Times Magazine is going to run this weekend, even if they’d have written it themselves. They have long been at pains to present themselves as a happy couple, an inspiring couple, but not a perfect couple. And they admit it! The image of a flawless relationship is “the last thing that we want to project,” Michelle told writer Jodi Kantor. “It’s unfair to the institution of marriage, and it’s unfair for young people who are trying to build something, to project this perfection that doesn’t exist.” And this reassurance that they are perfectly imperfect is endlessly fine-tuned through Kantor’s reporting. It may be accurate, it may not be, but either way, it’s kind of boring.

The only segment of this story — which is otherwise chockablock full of anecdotes we’ve already heard, or fun First Couple patter that shows a pair of people who are in tune even over their own discord — that seemed to trip up both the Obamas and Kantor, was this one:

Then I asked how any couple can have a truly equal partnership when one member is president. Michelle Obama gave what sounded like a small, sharp “mmphf” of recognition, and the fluid teamwork of their answers momentarily came to a halt. “Well, first of all … ” the president started. His wife peered at him, looking curious as to how he might answer the question. “She’s got … ” he began, but then stopped again. “Well, let me be careful about this,” he said, pausing once more. “My staff worries a lot more about what the first lady thinks than they worry about what I think,” he finally said, to laughter around the room.

Later, Kantor goes back to describing the joyful, flawed Obamas as the unique pair who are “unusually willing, for a presidential couple, to kiss, touch and flirt in public.” It’s almost as though she, like the obsequious staffers surrounding the First Couple, is desperate for a laugh and a high note to get away from the hint of a problem that is real, and complicated.

The First Marriage [NYTM]