First Couples

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 14 2012 @ 8:26am


In reviewing Jodi Kantor's The Obamas, David Remnick contrasts their happy union with history's more troubled presidential marriages:

Richard Nixon was so flagrantly indifferent to his wife that one of his aides, Roger Ailes, wrote in a memorandum, "I think it is important for the President to show a little more concern for Mrs. Nixon as he moves through the crowd. At one point he walked off in a different direction. Mrs. Nixon wasn’t looking and had to run to catch up. From time to time he should talk to her and smile at her." In Nashville, on her birthday, Nixon took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry and played "Happy Birthday" on the piano. The song complete, Pat ran to him with her arms outstretched in pleasure. Nixon spurned her embrace and signalled the master of ceremonies to resume the program.

John Cassidy assesses the state of political journalism today in light of gossip-driven books like Kantor's:

If this is a problem, it isn’t a new one. In a corridor outside my office, I have a shelf full of books about the Reagan Administration. There are tomes about Iran-Contra and Reaganomics, memoirs by cabinet ministers, accounts of the end of the Cold War. I’d be willing to bet that the one that sold most is "Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography," by Kitty Kelley. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the book that sold the second largest number of copies was "What Does Joan Say? My Seven Years as White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan," by Joan Quigley.

What is new, or newish, is the twenty-four-hour news cycle, which amplifies minor stories and happenings, such as the publication of Kantor’s book. This certainly makes the job of press secretaries and politicians more difficult. I’m not sure it does the public a great disservice, though. The frenetic pace of things means that minor stories are quickly replaced and forgotten. If a significant but dubious story goes up, legions of reporters and columnists and bloggers eagerly compete to tear it down.

More "controversies" from the Kantor book here and pushback from Michelle here.

(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk from Marine One after arriving at the White House on December 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. By Mark Wilson/Getty Images)