COMMENTARY: Michelle Obama A Tough Boss? By What Standard?

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  • According to a guy who never directly worked for her, First Lady Michelle Obama is a tough boss. That was the takeaway from a story in The New Republic entitled The Worst Wing: How the East Wing Shrank Michelle Obama written by Reid Cherlin, a former White House assistant press secretary.

    Chief among his criticisms are that Mrs. Obama is an “exacting” boss who has the nerve to have an inner circle of people she trusts working with her and that gaining access to her if you’re outside that circle can be difficult. And, he goes on to say, if you do gain access to her, you must be prepared with information that defends whatever it is that you need to discuss. If you are among the staffers with the least access to hear, the writer says, you are constantly jockeying for position among other staffers who have the same limits. Because of this, you’re constantly stressed out.

    This rather reminds me of the security guard who sued Universal Music Group for among other things, “the constant marijuana use” of the artists who came into and out of the building. Not to mention the added stress of finding people passed out in bathrooms, having to endure rowdy parties, rappers with handguns and finding the occasional bra and panty strewn around the offices. Just what did you expect?

    The idea that working for the First Lady is stressful should be a given. The White House does an enormous amount of ceremonial and state events, and Mrs. Obama must be a presence at almost all of them. We’d imagine that long hours and increasing demands come with the territory.

    The writer talked to some of the “stressed out” former staffers who offer gems like this:

    “For her, trust is huge, really feeling like people were protecting and thinking about her,” says one alum. “And then, also, she’s a lawyer. She’s really disciplined. She cares about the details. She’s never going to wing it.” The alum explained that staffers would often want to run an idea by Mrs. Obama casually, to get her read on it. “That kind of doesn’t work for her,” the alum said. “You have to fully think it through and be ready for questions.”

    My goodness. Who would have thought that Michelle would be such an ogre, asking for her staff to be prepared? The writer, who admits that although he worked in The West Wing, and “rarely” (his words) with the East Wing, the First Lady’s domain, nevertheless seems to know all about it.

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