Relations between Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama are “fraught with hurt feelings and resentment”, with America’s first lady “looking down” on the Democratic presidential frontrunner and her family, according to a newly published book . . .
Tensions between the two women date from the 2008 presidential campaign, when Mrs Obama’s husband, Barack, defeated Mrs Clinton for the Democratic nomination and subsequently took the White House, writes author Kate Andersen Brower in First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.
“The 2008 presidential campaign left deep and lasting scars on both the Clinton and the Obama camps, and they are still shockingly fresh,” says the book, which is published on Tuesday by Collins.
Mrs Obama, 52, has never forgotten how Mrs Clinton – herself a former first lady – ridiculed her husband’s “hope and change” message in patronising tones.
“The sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know that we should do the right thing, and the world would be perfect,” Mrs Clinton told a campaign rally in Ohio.
So antagonistic has Mrs Obama become towards her husband’s former adversary that she hoped the vice president, Joe Biden, would stand against Mrs Clinton in this year’s Democratic primaries and win the party’s nomination. After consideration, Mr Biden decided against doing so. The first lady is understood to be close to the vice president and his wife, Jill.
Her much cooler feelings towards her husband’s would-be successor were made abundantly clear by the fact that no couples evenings were scheduled at the White House while Mrs Clinton was US secretary of state and meeting frequently with Mr Obama.
“When Michelle Obama views the Clintons, I don’t want to say she’s looking down her nose at them – but she kind of is,” a former Obama adviser is quoted as saying.
Her disdain has been fuelled by suggestions of irregularities and misconduct levelled at the Clinton Global Initiative, established in 2005 by Mrs Clinton’s husband, the former president, who was prompted to issue an open letter defending its financial arrangements and rebutting media criticism.
“It fits into the narrative about the Clintons that they come off as just trying to claw their way towards success and money,” the book says.
The antipathy is mutual, according to Andersen Brower, a former White House correspondent who quotes Clinton loyalists as asserting that “Michelle has not done enough” in her capacity as first lady.
Mrs Clinton’s supporters are said to be particularly aggrieved at what they see as Mrs Obama’s failure to prioritise formerly sacrosanct White House programmes that consequently lost their federal funding.
In particular, Save America’s Treasures, a programme Mrs Clinton launched to protect historic sites and art works and was continued by Laura Bush, was allowed to lapse by Mrs Obama.
For her part, Mrs Clinton’s 2016 campaign is depicted as “vengeance” for her loss to Mr Obama in 2008, when she was devastated that the late Ted Kennedy, the former Massachusetts senator, failed to support her candidacy despite having been her mentor in the senate.
Mrs Obama is portrayed as loathing her role and has also had testy relations with her husband’s closest aides, including Rahm Emanuel, his first Chief of Staff, whom she accused of bullying her into campaigning. She is said to have presided over a faster-than-usual staff turnover.
Unlike Mrs Clinton, who was politically active during her husband’s presidency, she has no interest in receiving policy briefings.
In 2010, she allegedly told Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of the visiting then French president, on the subject of being first lady: “Don’t ask. It’s hell. I hate it.”
However, Mrs Obama – who earned $275,000 a year as vice-president of external affairs at Chicago University’s medical centre before her husband’s election – hopes to emulate Mrs Clinton in one respect, by writing her owns books after leaving the White House.
Her aides say she looks forward to the day when she leaves “a really nice prison” to earn money through book deals and public speaking fees, Andersen Brower writes. Mrs Clinton received a reported $8 million advance from Simon and Schuster in the final months of her husband’s administration to write about her years as first lady.
By Robert Tait, los angeles
11 APRIL 2016 • 9:55PM