First Lady Michelle Obama has raised eyebrows by likening life in the White House to life in a “really nice prison.” Ms. Obama was speaking at the African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania, where she is traveling with President Barack Obama and their daughters. Former First Lady Laura Bush was also in attendance.
It was not the first time that Ms. Obama has complained about life in the White House–which has afforded her the opportunity to travel with her husband on a $60-$100 million trip to Africa, as well as to vacation in Spain and other exotic locales with a large entourage, all the while enjoying Secret Service protection.
President Obama himself has expressed similar sentiments. A mere two weeks after taking office in 2009, he and Ms. Obama escaped to a school in Washington, D.C., explaining: “We were just tired of being in the White House.” The president also plays golf with great frequency, and takes many vacations–alone and with family.
Ms. Obama’s remarks were particularly striking, coming just days after she and her children joined President Obama on a tour of the Robben Island prison facility where Nelson Mandela had been held for two decades. Following the visit, President Obama said that he and his family were “deeply humbled” by their experience.
In his 2012 book The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, author Ed Klein said of Obama: “”We come to know a strange kind of politician, one who derives no joy from the cut and thrust of politics, but who clings to the narcissistic life of the presidency.”
It is responsibility, not just politics, that Obama avoids.
Obama’s Africa tour sums up his absentee presidency perfectly. He tries to emulate world figures like Nelson Mandela; he is driven in a motorcade down Barack Obama Drive in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; he gives speeches declaring that he will not meddle in African affairs, as if Libya–and the past four years–never happened.
And yet, even as he takes his family on tours of historic sites and extols the virtues of the African Union, a member of that Union–Egypt–is being rocked by the largest political demonstrations in the history of the world, Obama has had little to say.
The Obamas certainly love the perks of the presidency. But they hate the office.