The Obamas, Back at the Very Beginning
By Scott Butterworth
Le Monde, the Paris daily newspaper that is one of Europe's most influential, published on Saturday an interview with Barack and Michelle Obama that was conducted more than 12 years ago, before the president-elect had begun his first political race.
The 1996 interview includes some interesting quotes, especially from Michelle Obama on her ambivalence about getting into politics (more on the jump). It was conducted for a book about American marriages, which was never published, and it occurred on the brink of Barack Obama's run for a state Senate seat.
ABC News translated the report into English and posted it on Jake Tapper's Political Punch blog, along with an apt disclaimer that the Obamas' quotes may be less than perfectly accurate, since they had been translated from English to French to English.
One especially insightful section of the interview comes from Michelle Obama, as she expresses her misgivings about her husband's expected path into politics.
"Once you're involved in politics, your life becomes public and the people who scrutinize it are not always well-intentioned. I'm rather secretive and I like to surround myself with people I care about and whose loyalty I trust," she said.
"When you start in politics, you have to confide in all sorts of people," she continued. "We may go in that direction, even though I also want to have children, travel, and spend time with my family and friends. It's not certain that we will succeed. But we're going to be very busy with a number of different things, and it's going to be interesting to see what life has to offer to us. We're ready to take on that adventure for various reasons, for instance, for the opportunities it can open to us."
She later added, "Barack helped me overcome my shyness, take on risks, and try a less traditional path, just to see how it would go, because that's how he was raised. I'm the more traditional in the couple and he's the more audacious. I'm more cautious. I think it shows in photographs. He's more extroverted, more expansive. Me, I'm more 'Let's wait and see how things present themselves and how it can benefit us.' "
In remarks that, 12 years later, seem prescient to issues he is facing as a president-elect, Barack Obama tells the interviewer that he and his wife want children. (Their eldest child, Malia, will not be born until two years later.) But he notes, "I think that the issue will be finding a balance between public life and private life, which will mean finding a balance between my temperament that leans towards risk-taking and ambition, and Michelle's instinct for stability, family and strong values. The way we go about dealing with these issues will be crucial."
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