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.

He references a former First Lady advisor, Kristina Schake, who, he says, did her “best” despite these difficult conditions and was so good, she was approached about a job by the communications director in the West Wing, while at the same time negotiating an increased role in the East Wing with the First Lady. But once it was found out that, according to the writer, the West Wing had approached her, Schake was viewed as someone who violated Mrs. Obama’s trust. Hmmm, that sounds…. reasonable to me, that I might be upset if someone on my staff was looking to go work with my husband’s instead. (Schake ultimately left to work for L’Oreal.)

There might be some legitimate criticisms of what could be expected to be a high-pressure, high-stress environment, but you won’t find them in this article. If Michelle was prone to screaming fits and firing people at whim, the story might make more sense. But as is, it reads as a racially coded diatribe that suggests that a woman, a Black woman, who is exacting and demanding in job that requires her to be, is somehow suspect.

Black women in the workplace know exactly what that’s about. It’s about everything you do being viewed through a prism of race that suggests your leadership isn’t as valid as the white boss doing the same thing.

Michelle Obama clearly has a thick skin or has developed one by now. She will likely shake off the article and the mega-trolls spewing their hate in the comments section. (Hey, New Republic – comment moderation is key to any intelligent discourse unless you enjoy your site being hijacked by racists). And in truth, what the writer did in emphasizing that Michelle Obama prioritizes her “family responsibilities” shows that she’s truly living out her concept of First Lady in the way that many think she should – as a loving mother, wife and daughter who views her primary role as taking care of her family.

If that’s what makes her a tough boss, we think she’s OK with that.

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14 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Michelle Obama A Tough Boss? By What Standard?

  1. JanCorey on said:

    Michelle and Barack have guaranteed that there will never be another black president elected in the United States for the entire endeavor/life of this country.

      • Timekeeeper on said:

        Joy. Please do not bother to waste your time. The Koch Brothers, Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity actually have paid informants ( paid very handsomely in fact0 to simply patrol minority websites for the express and sole purpose of distortion, bigotry and hate. Your best bet is not even reply, for this is what they want. They “get off” on this knid of stuff. Over the past year and a half, whenever Trayvon Martin , Obama, or any one else they feel is worth calling out is mentioned or any issue of concern for minority peole is concerned these people get an alert in their inbox that tells them to come on this site and throw out their usual Red Meat, so please be advised.

      • JanCorey on said:

        Joy, it appears the truth in my comments are still confusing you to the point that you appear to be nothing but a troll. Look at the picture of Michelle, what an idiotic expression on her face. The USA deserves far better than this black couple can give to a position that they collectively hold right now. They will be the first and the last black presidential-couple in the history of the United States, and thank God!

      • JanCorey on said:

        Sosickofyou, I never ever made a comment like you so incorrectly claim sicko, but I do happen to agree that Bush was one of the greatest presidents to ever hold the office; both Bush’s.

    • VirilisAfricanum on said:

      Just two observations. First, below your stated, “Michelle and Barack have guaranteed that there will never be another black president elected in the United States for the entire endeavor/life of this country.”, but I don’t think I read any substantive information to support your assertion; was that a complete sentence or thought, or were you just being coy?
      Second, I noticed you used the phrase, “Thank God”, which would appear to indicate that you are a person with a religious faith. If that is the case, then why in God’s name would you opt to use vulgar language and veiled in racist undertones? What religion is that? If, by chance it is one of the Christian branches, I would suggest you double-check 2nd Peter, Romans, Ephesians, Matthew, and Mark.
      Finally, if you are indeed, a Wounded Warrior as your avatar seems to allude to (and as too am I), why do you feel it necessary to advertise your status (or support) for, or as a part of our distinct community in such a non appropriate way; on a site with this type of format?

      • JanCorey on said:

        VirilisAfricanum, just two observations. First, I see your IP-address is listed on the troll list on the NCIC sites which may explain why you attack others who are better informed than yourself and second, I have never ever used vulgar language to describe the context of any comment I have ever written so again, clearly, you are nothing but a troll as you so well document here. Plus, your lack of understanding of behavior/conduct is something you are still about twenty years from fully understanding given your mental disabilities. Good luck to you anyways and God bless you in your recovery.

      • VirilisAfricanum on said:

        Huhmm? JanCorey – I noticed in your response below, that you immediately resorted to calling me a (internet) troll, that I was less informed than you are, ostensibly about any /everything I presume; that I lacked the intellectual capacity to grasp contextual nuance, and that I am mentally disabled; moreover, you pejoratively wished me good luck and God’s blessings….riggghhhhht, no, thats not vulgar at all, maybe there’s a more appropriate word for your writings. It appears we cannot have an intellectual conversation with you. Therefore, I’ll let you have the last word, as I don’t think it practical for any of Us to continually respond to you (but I suspect that we’ll hear from you under a different screen name) until the moderator decides to flag/block your comments.

      • JanCorey on said:

        VirilisAfricanum, you are a troll as listed on one of the Troll-Busters sites which list your IP-address and labels you specifically as a troll, which they have forwarded to the FBI for review of potential charges against you in your racist-rants and attacks against others. Look it up yourself and you will see, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you receive a knock at your door soon from the FBI as they have an outstanding record of prosecuting trolls like you VA. Best of luck to you and start saving your loose change so you will have a commissary-account for yourself for treats and snacks to help you to occupy your time soon.

  2. Timekeeeper on said:

    Every time you think they have hated Michelle ( and Barak) form every angle, they somehow pull a new one out of their, ….. Well, you know.

  3. I said it. on said:

    This “former White House Assistant Press Secretary” is a whiner who doesn’t know how to make a valid point. Perhaps this was written in jest and he’s really trying to show why the FLOTUS is the perfect person for the role.

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