Michelle Obama wasn't always an admirer of Hillary Clinton, but last Wednesday the soon-to-be first lady dialed up the former first lady for pointers on protecting her two young daughters from the media maelstrom of the White House."Michelle may not have loved the senator, but she always respected how the Clintons raised Chelsea," said a person familiar with Clinton's end of the call. "They need to talk. There just aren't too many people who have shared that kind of experience."An aide briefed on Obama's side of the chat said she was "grateful" for Clinton's "pointers" on "raising children in the public eye." It's the latest phase in the ruling-class soap opera that is the Obama-Clinton alliance, where the two first families negotiate new personal relationships as Hillary Clinton wrestles with her own ambivalence about Michelle Obama's husband, a man she once ridiculed as too callow to govern, and then worked tirelessly to elect.These tensions have created a somewhat schizoid relationship between Clinton and the Obamas--warm on personal matters, warier on political ones, and downright frosty on the still-unresolved issue of Clinton's mountainous campaign debt, which Barack Obama had pledged to help reduce.
Personally, I believe the Clintons are letting themselves be taken to the cleaners: For them, it's all give and no get. Politico.com goes on to report something I've blogged about several times: President-elect Obama still has not helped Senator Clinton retire any of her campaign debt--something which was widely reported last spring as part of his pledge to her if she would get out of the nomination race.
Then again, it's a free country, and the Clintons can let themselves be used, abused, and bruised by their own party for as long as they want. Politico.com reports Senator Clinton has already written off her taxes the $13 million she loaned her own campaign during the primaries. Ouch! And the Clintons didn't just support Obama; they hit the campaign trail with force and talked him up until Senator Clinton went hoarse. There's still the business of $7.9 million she owes to vendors. Maybe he'll come through and help her pay off that debt.
If President-elect Obama helps Senator Clinton, it will make him look not only Clinton-friendly, but more important woman-friendly. Woman-friendly is not his style, at least not so far. Remember he apologized to a reporter for calling her "sweetie" during the campaign? Now his wife's role as first lady will be, in her own words, "mom in chief." Take "Obama" out of the equation and this type of behavior seems positively retro. The trial balloon of ousted Harvard President Lawrence Summers as potential treasury secretary was yet another slap to Obama's multitude of female supporters.
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By Bonnie Erbe