Joan Smith: Is Mrs Obama related to Miriam Clegg?

The New York Post raised the spectre of a woman making a covert bid for power

Related Topics

I've never given much thought to Lady Macbeth's political views, but it's probably safe to say she wasn't overly concerned with her husband's plans for healthcare. In our more enlightened times, everyone knows women have their own opinions and tensions are likely to surface in a political marriage. That's why some simple rules have been devised to help clever women negotiate the minefield: bake cookies, support your man, attend fund-raisers, support your man. Are you listening, Michelle Obama?

Apparently not, judging by reaction to a new book about the Obamas. Its author, Jodi Kantor, says aides to the President told her about a "grim" situation in his inner circle two years ago, with much of the conflict apparently caused by Mrs Obama's uncertainty about her role. Kantor's book appears to be a serious attempt to analyse the problems the Obamas encountered in the White House. But, in an election year and with the high hopes that greeted Obama's presidency mostly unrealised, it's been seized upon by political opponents.

The New York Post described Mrs Obama as a "behind-the-scenes force in the White House", raising the spectre of a woman making a covert bid for power. Kantor writes more soberly about "a first lady who disapproved of the turn the White House had taken, and a chief of staff who chafed against her influence". Mrs Obama opposed Rahm Emanuel's appointment as her husband's chief of staff, clashed with him on healthcare and was turned down when she asked to attend his morning staff meetings. Kantor claims the President sided with his wife against Emanuel and pursued a vision "more in line with the one he shared with the First Lady". Emanuel resigned in October 2010.

A wife discussing politics with her husband? I expect it took hostile commentators all of three seconds to summon to mind the requisite historical comparison. Critics of Mrs Obama, a British newspaper reported yesterday, "view her as a Lady Macbeth figure". I assume this is a reference to the infamous episode when Mrs Obama urged her husband to assassinate Mitt Romney – or do I mean Newt Gingrich? And I'm wondering whether Mrs Obama could be related to the "militantly ball-breaking" Spanish lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, whose views on sharing childcare – she is married to Nick Clegg – caused adverse comment last year.

Actually, the biggest thing going for Obama at the moment is the choice collection of weirdos competing for the Republican nomination. I can see that the notion of embracing gender equality could be a stretch for some candidates, and Michelle Obama isn't exactly a Stepford wife. But attacks on the partners of centre-left politicians speak volumes about a culture that's still struggling with the idea of a relationship between equals. Shouldn't politics be about more than a contest over who has the biggest balls?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform