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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."

By Post Editor  |  January 11, 2009; 7:16 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Barack Obama  
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Next: Rocky Week Ahead for Holder


Darn, the header switched back!

Posted by: JakeD | January 12, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, JakeD, I've seen the error of my ways. You have always been right, and I have always been wrong. I wish that McCain would have won instead.

Posted by: JakeD | January 12, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: nodebris | January 12, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

What happened to "44 Transition to Obama Presidency"? Did the WaPo revert back to "The Trail Election Day 2008" because someone finally dug up Obama's LONG FORM birth certificate? Is that "dementia" too?

Posted by: JakeD | January 12, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Try to be kind to JakeD. Senior Dementia is a cruel, sad thing.

Posted by: nodebris | January 12, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse


• What happened to Homeland Security warnings of "heightened risk" during Presidential transition?

• How about the late November FBI warning about possible Northeast train station attacks?

• "Amtrak Joe" Biden's longstanding warnings about security flaws along the Amtrak Northeast corridor -- why isn't he waving this whistle stop tour to a halt?


OR (if link is corrupted):

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 12, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't work hard at anything anymore -- I'm retired with plenty of time to waste here -- I honestly desire the next American President (whomever that is) to get right to work re: Americans out of their homes, employment, and into bankruptcy, etc. And, if Obama is a "natural born" citizen, then great, so be it -- let's get him sworn in legally and out the gate -- if he is not, however, Acting President Joe Biden needs to get to work on our problems ASAP.

Look, I am not being unduly partisan here. If my State's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had somehow "won" the election for President, then I would be asking that same exact questions about him not being a "natural born" citizen as well. Keep in mind, also, that I would have voted Alan Keyes for President in a heartbeat, so I certainly cannot be labeled "prejudiced" as against African-Americans. And, finally, I will never resort to ad hominem personal attacks against you.

Posted by: JakeD | January 12, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

JakeD, Just wondering: Do you work hard at seeming ignorant, prejudiced, petty, small-minded, or does it just come naturally to you? Because really, there are so many problems in our world right now, it seems you could find something better to do with your time and energy than write foolish posts like the one you've shared here.

Posted by: HWoodHills | January 12, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't the "very beginning" be which country pResident Evil Obama was born in?

Posted by: JakeD | January 11, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

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