The Obamas And The Presidency


Ta-Nehisi and I discuss the first hundred days - audio as well as transcript! - here. Money quote:

AS: What I think that they've done quite quickly is establish a very powerful presidential aura. It reminds me a little bit of how Reagan began to epitomize a certain kind of American President. With Obama, it's not always predictable. He's very young. He's racially different, funny name, all the rest of it. It could have been that he would not have seemed like a President you could imagine, but he does seem to have become part of the furniture pretty quickly.

TC: That's totally true. And I'll just throw this one last thing in here. Going back to Michelle, one thing that I came across was that her job at the University of Chicago was very much about managing a very difficult relationship: the relationship between the black neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago with the University of Chicago, and particularly with the hospital there. That is a very delicate place to be.
On the one hand the community can feel like, "Oh, you're selling us out, you're taking their side" and on the other hand, the University literally hired you to make their relationship better. I think going to the whole politics of it, I think that gives you invaluable experience in terms of how not to fall into a trap that people lay for you. And the South Side of Chicago is, in many ways, socially conservative. In ways that you would just never suspect because of the way black folks vote. But it's an extremely socially conservative place.

AS: Their family, their White House is a very socially conservative unit inasmuch as Grandma is also in the house. And the kids--

TC: And the dog. [Laughter]

AS: The whole thing is also absurd, how "Leave it Beaver" it is really.

TC: That's hilarious. [Laugher]

AS: Who would have thought that the first black couple would do this? Maybe they have to do this. The truth is: I don't think it's that much of an act. It is who they are.

TC: I think it is too. I think given how he came up, he's always hungered for a kind of normalcy. And I think, given how she came up, it's what normal for her.

(Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty.)