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The Obama girls will be the youngest kids to live in the White House in decades.

The Obama girls will be the youngest kids to live in the White House in decades.

As incoming President Barack Obama ponders economic-bailout plans in the Oval Office, some pretty heavy action will be taking place in the private quarters of the White House, too.

Malia and Sasha Obama, ages 10 and 7, respectively, are the youngest children to inhabit the White House in decades. And they will be facing some seismic challenges of their own, in child-development terms. The Obama girls will pass from childhood into the upheaval of the pre-teen and early teenage years in a venue that past presidential kid Luci Johnson termed a “museum, a public fishbowl and a prison.”

The loss of privacy, continuity and constancy imposed by their move to the White House — coupled with the monumental new opportunities it offers — will have a huge impact on the Obama children’s sense of identity and competence at a critical stage, child-development experts say. While the glare of the spotlight has burned some presidential kids, others have emerged unscathed and strong. A look at the risks and rewards, based on research and past examples, holds lessons for any parent raising children under unusual stress.

Malia and Sasha are facing some core “developmental tasks,” in child-development parlance: the need to build their own sense of personal identity, or their concept of who they are in relation to others and the world at large, and their belief in their competence as individuals. These growth stages must be accomplished in an ever-widening context of friendships, school, the neighborhood and the world at large.

The Obamas, child-development experts say, seem to be a picture of health, based on the deep affection and easy communication family members displayed last July in their only video interview together. Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have vowed to hold life as steady as possible for the girls, and are taking grandmother Marian Robinson to Washington to help.

Read on…

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WASHINGTON — The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.

Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.

By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.

Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.

While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.

“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.

 

In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

“It helps to have a relationship that Bush had with Baker, that’s no doubt true,” said Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, who was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton in the primary battles. “But if they are seen as working together effectively, I think that can be easily overcome. I don’t think he would have decided to appoint her if he didn’t want her to be effective.”

 

One close adviser to Mr. Obama said the president-elect also saw that Mrs. Clinton’s political skills would serve her well in the job, as happened with Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger. “They understood that statecraft is politics by another name,” the adviser said.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.

“They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did,” said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

After Mrs. Clinton’s speech in support of Mr. Obama at the Democratic convention, she crisscrossed the country tirelessly to campaign for him — so much so that he told aides he was impressed by the sheer number of events she was doing on his behalf.

Mrs. Clinton, it should be said, was herself diligent in advertising how hard she was working for the man who defeated her. When announcing her appearances, her press office included tallies of how many events she had held for Mr. Obama, and in how many states. At some rallies, organizers would distribute “Hillary Sent Me” buttons, as if Mrs. Clinton was being magnanimous by “sending” her followers to vote for Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Obama began calling Mrs. Clinton after some of the events — he dialed directly from his cellphone to hers one day in Michigan and another day in Florida — to check in and thank her for helping. By then, their intense primary fights over policy, which both sides now insist was more about heat than substance, had long receded.

“The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, we were always fighting big battles over small differences,” said a senior aide to Mr. Obama, adding that “in a campaign, conflict is what you go to.”

Substantively, the two were at odds over the Iraq war — Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it and Mr. Obama said he would have opposed it had he been in the Senate then — and to a lesser extent over negotiations with Iran. But although Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for being willing to sit down and talk to dictators, he has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first. Mrs. Clinton has said she favors robust diplomacy with Iran and lower-level contacts as well.

In the weeks just before the election, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton further mellowed, even as she found herself in a startling role reversal with her younger rival. As a celebrity senator and powerhouse on Capitol Hill, she had helped Mr. Obama in his Senate race and offered advice when he first came to Washington; now she was the workhorse for a political phenomenon.

Since the election, Mrs. Clinton has talked to Mr. Obama only a handful of times, even as two close advisers to Mr. Obama who held top positions in the Clinton administration — Rahm Emanuel and John D. Podesta — have served as key negotiators between her and the president-elect on the secretary of state position.

But Mrs. Clinton has talked several times to Michelle Obama about raising a family in the White House and private schools in Washington. On Friday, Mrs. Obama said the two Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, would attend the Sidwell Friends School, just as Chelsea Clinton did.

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Chicago, and Mark Leibovich from Washington.

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WASHINGTON — After a school search that set off weeks of frenzied speculation among parents here, President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, announced Friday that their two daughters would attend Sidwell Friends School, the prestigious academy that has educated generations of this city’s elite.

The Quaker-run Sidwell, which was established in 1883, has educated the children of at least three presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. And there was an added bonus: grandchildren of Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who are friendly with the Obama girls, attend Sidwell.

The Obama family had considered two other private institutions, Georgetown Day School and Maret School, for their girls, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

But Sidwell has long been described by some as the Harvard of Washington’s private schools. Its tuition runs as high as $29,442 a year.

“A number of great schools were considered,” said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. “In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now.”

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington strongly lobbied the Obamas to consider a public school, but that was apparently never an option.

The Obama girls currently attend private school, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where annual tuition runs as high as $21,480, and the family did not tour any public schools on their recent visits.

Since Election Day, guessing which school the Obamas would choose became one of affluent Washington’s most popular parlor games.

Camera crews staked out the schools in hopes of a glimpse of Mrs. Obama (who visited Sidwell and Georgetown Day twice) and the girls (who visited schools once this week). Parents hotly debated the merits of each.

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First lady Laura Bush said today that Michelle Obama did not ask for advice when she visited the White House earlier this week with her two daughters.

Instead they discussed closets.

“We talked about is what any women would talk about as one is moving out of a home and somebody is moving in,” the First Lady told “Nightline.”

The White House she noted, has great closets.

Traveling to Panama for her last solo foreign trip as First Lady, Mrs. Bush gave her only television interview to “Nightline.” In a candid and wide-ranging interview to air Monday night she talked about a range of issues, including her meeting with Michelle Obama and her daughters Malia and Shasha.

In fact, one of Mrs. Bush’s twin daughters, Barbara, accompanied Mrs. Bush on the trip and also agreed to a rare interview.

“It was great,” said Barbara Bush of the Obama girls visit. “They’re really sweet and they’re excited, but they also have the same concerns that we had when we were 18 when our dad became President.

“I mean, it’s a huge adjustment, and they’re not used to Secret Service, and they’re not — and they’re switching schools, and they have to make new friends. I mean, we felt… people feel like that regardless of how old they are. So it was really fun to get to meet them and to get to see them being excited about their move, and to get to talk to them about the same things that we had to deal with, regardless of age.”

Barbara said she and her sister Jenna showed the Obama girls the bedrooms they occupied as first daughters.

She and Mrs. Bush both said they imagined the Obama girls would select the same rooms that the Bush girls chose for themselves. They were the “obvious” children’s rooms, said Mrs. Bush.

Asked what her advice to the Obama girls would be, Ms. Bush said, “I think my advice to them is just when they move, just make really good friends and surround themselves with people that will protect them because they love them, regardless.”

“We were lucky” she contined. “We had great friends in Texas, and we were talking with them, and Malia has really good friends that are in fifth grade with her and at home, so they’re going to come visit her. I mean, they’ll be fine. They’re really cute, smart girls. ”

Mrs. Bush reflected on her own children’s lives.

“We really wanted Barbara and Jenna to be able to have a totally normal life, to not take advantage of the so-called podium that they might have, because we wanted them to get to be high school, college-age kids, which they were when we moved there,” she said.

“So it’s, you know, it’s really a balance as you work through the whole idea of how your family can accommodate the publicity and the klieg lights that are on the President of the United States.”

Mrs. Bush said if she was asked for advice she would urge anyone occupying the White House with children to ” err on the side of privacy for children. I think it lets children grow up and make childish mistakes, which, of course, they will out of the limelight. And I think that’s really the best.”

Watch Cynthia McFadden’s interview with First Lady Laura Bush Monday on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET.

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Source: ABC NEWS

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3/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

4/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes