early and often

Obama’s Family Problems: How Hillary Clinton Fits In

Hillary Clinton Mother in Law

Photo-illustration:Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images

By now everyone knows that Michelle is a tricky player in the Obama campaign game: More people view her favorably than they do Cindy McCain, but on the flip side, twice as many people view her negatively, too. And today we learned that Obama’s kids, Malia and Sasha, are giving him trouble — not because they’re anything but political gold, but because the campaign doesn’t want to be seen as mining them as such. After taping a four-part family interview with Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos, Obama went on the morning shows today to say he regretted putting them in front of cameras. ”Generally, what makes them so charming is the fact that they’re not spending a lot of time worrying about TV cameras or politics,” he told Good Morning America. “We want to keep it that way.” (For the record, they totally were adorable: The best part being when Malia commented on her parents’ hand-holding: “Sometimes people think it is embarrassing. I like it.” Could you just die?)

But the person who is causing Obama the most awkward friendly-fire problems these days is Hillary Clinton. The Journal reported over the weekend that her donors are still too angry to give money to Obama. And today the Times points out that the reverse is true — despite repeated pleas from Obama, his donors remain unwilling to help her pay off her $23 million in campaign debt.

All of which made us realize: Hillary Clinton is Barack Obama’s political mother-in-law!

In life, your mother is allowed to say all the nasty things she wants about your boyfriend or girlfriend, mostly because she thinks she knows what’s best for you. Some moms hold back, though, because they’re afraid that you will marry that person, and then whatever they’ve said will be this terrible elephant in the room for the rest of your lives. In this metaphor, Hillary Clinton isn’t that kind of mother. She’s the mom who excoriated your significant other, telling you he or she isn’t good enough for you, and doing everything she could to prevent you from committing to that person above all other potential candidates.

But you did. And now your spouse is forced to deal with this awkward family situation, where everybody knows how the mother-in-law feels. But everybody has to pretend that they all love one another, in public and in private. They have to act as though none of the name-calling and tearing down ever happened and that they can work together in the future for the sake of the family. Because like it or not, your mother-in-law is on your team, and someday you may have to take care of her, like that time Miranda had to give Anne Meara a sponge bath on Sex and the City.

In plenty of families, this lie goes on and on, energetically repeated, until it vaguely becomes the truth. Obama and Hillary certainly seem to be doing their best: They’re appearing together in New York tonight at an Obama fund-raiser at the Grand Hyatt and tomorrow at a finance breakfast at the Hilton Towers. We’ll be at the breakfast with them, and you can be sure we’ll be watching to see whether Hillary makes any comments about the softness of Barack’s French toast.

Next week: Bill Clinton as grampy!

The Obamas Sit Down for Their First Family Interview [Access Hollywood]

Obama’s Family Problems: How Hillary Clinton Fits In