With invitations warning guests to "EBYC" Eat Before You Come and rumors they'll be dancing to star turns from Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay Z, it won't be your usual White House knees-up.
Michelle Obama was 50 yesterday and President Barack Obama will be feting his redoubtable First Lady tonight with a party that will give them the chance to let their hair down and forget their troubles for a few hours.
The email inviting guests to the snacks
& sips & dancing & dessert advised them to wear comfortable
shoes and practice their dance moves.
Purse-lipped Washington etiquette experts have touted at the informality of it all, but the Obama's have always been keen to appear accessible, even if the stand-offish reality is somewhat different.
The Obama's are the world's most scrutinized couple at the best of times, but it will be rare to find a guest at the bash who won't be secretly watching them with particular interest.
After all, the last time they were pictured together at Nelson Mandela's memorial the First Lady was looking none too pleased as the her husband posed for a selfie photograph with the leggy blonde Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
Indeed, if the U.S. tabloids are to be
believed, the relationship of Washington's golden couple is
facing problems that go far beyond dirty looks.
Under the headline Obama Divorce Bombshell!, the National Enquirer claims their 21-year marriage has dissolved in a string of ugly fights that were prompted by the Mandela memorial incident and far more outrageously Michelle Obama's discovery that Secret Service bodyguards had been covering up infidelity on her husbands' part.
It's an allegation the White House has declined to comment on, though after Bill Clinton's trouser-dropping scandals, Americans would be rather less sanguine about any extra-marital activity than the French appear to be over President Francois Hollanders' behavior.
Michelle Obama, the Enquirer claims, intends to stand by her husband until his presidency is over, at which time he will move back to Hawaii, where he grew up, and she will stay in Washington with their children.
For the moment, they are allegedly sleeping in separate bedrooms after Michelle Obama's attempt to mend fences backfired so badly on a recent Christmas getaway to Hawaii that he returned to Washington with their two daughters, leaving his wife behind.
The National Enquirer, it must be said, quoted only anonymous insiders in support of these sensational claims, and is hardly the most reliable source of hard news.
Obama advisers are certainly not talking
as if there is any scandal in the offing.
The couple are role models for parents all across the country, according to old friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett. Michelle Obama at the top of her game. She's fabulous at 50.
There was little conversation and even less romance. She was angry at his selfishness and careerism; he thought she was cold and ungrateful
- Washington reporter Richard Wolffe
Washington's media has ignored the story.
But everyone remembers how the Enquirer
famously got it right when it claimed the supposedly squeaky
clean Democrat presidential contender John Edwards had fathered
a love child by a former campaign worker.
Thin as its story may seem at the moment, might it be on to something again?
At least it was right on one point Michelle Obama did remain in Hawaii. The White House quickly offered an explanation, saying the extended stay had been a birthday present from her husband.
If you have kids, you know that telling your spouse they can spend a week away from home is actually a big present, said his spokesman.
Before returning home on Wednesday, Michelle
Obama holed up for more than a week at TV star Oprah Winfrey's
spectacular 12-bedroom house on a mountainside estate on Maui,
the second largest of the Hawaiian islands.
Their girls-only get-together was joined by Oprah's close friend, the TV presenter Gayle King, White House aide Valerie Jarrett and Sharon Malone, wife of the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Oprah has described the estate as a
place where she and guests sit on the porch sipping guava
cocktails, and ride horses to the top of the mountain to watch
the sun go down.
Why would anyone rush back to chilly Washington from such an idyll?
But if the rumors are true, and there
were more painful reasons for Michele's reluctance to rejoin
her husband, this would not be the first time such tensions have
Since he was elected President, two books have claimed the couple came close to splitting in their early years together, with Michelle Obama even drawing up divorce papers after deciding his burning political ambition was ruining their chances of domestic happiness.
In 2009, veteran Washington reporter Richard Wolffe claimed that the marriage almost collapsed nine years earlier because of Obama's political drive and the family's shattered finances.
There was little conversation and even less romance. She was angry at his selfishness and careerism; he thought she was cold and ungrateful, wrote Wolffe.
At the time, Michelle Obama had only recently become a mother their daughters Malia and Sasha are now 15 and 12. Her husband, whom she had met while they were both working for a Chicago law firm in 1989, was a mere State Senator in Illinois who had just been thrashed in a battle for a seat in Congress.
Michelle Obama hated the failed race for Congress in 2000 and their marriage was strained by the time their younger daughter, Sasha, was born, wrote Wolffe in Renegade.
Michelle Obama was holed up for more than a week at TV star Oprah Winfrey's spectacular 12-bedroom house on a mountainside estate on Maui
Wolffe noted, though, that they seemed
to have got over their past issues by the time they made it to
the White House.
We're going to be fine, he quoted Michelle Obama as saying. We're strong enough to take anything on and be OK at the end.
Yet, according to some accounts, Michelle Obama didn't take well to Washington life.
Former French First Lady Carla Bruni revealed in a book how Michelle Obama had asked what life was like there. Don't ask! It's hell. I can't stand it! Michelle Obama reportedly told her. Michelle Obama later insisted she had never said that.
In 2012, meanwhile, political writer
Edward Klein claimed Mr Obama had become so depressed about his
failing marriage in 2000 that friends feared he was
Mrs Obama had been furious because she
had warned him not to fight the disastrous Congress election
battle which he lost, said Klein.
During the dark days that followed his defeat, he turned to Michelle for comfort. But she was in no mood to offer him sympathy, wrote Klein, who claimed Michelle Obama's friends told him she had even drawn up divorce papers.
He had dashed Michelle Obama's hopes of creating a stable and secure future, he wrote. As a result their marriage was on the rocks, and Obama confided to friends that he and Michelle were talking about divorce.
Could the couple have reached such a crisis again?
In an interview published to coincide with her birthday, Michelle Obama provided glimpses of a woman who after devoting years to her husband's career and raising their children now feels ready to put herself first.
The formidable and often forthright First Lady, who has routinely been portrayed as the one who really wears the trousers in the Obama household, says she wants to be more like her mother.
She does exactly what she wants to do every single day without apology, Michelle said.
Long an icon of wholesomeness with her campaigns for regular exercise and healthy eating, Michelle Obama even admits she wouldn't rule out plastic surgery or Botox to keep her looks: Women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves.
Michelle Obama life is ever-evolving,
she says, adding: I've got to keep figuring out ways to have an
Obama husband knows the feeling. He must
wish the rumors of marital strife were the only cloud hanging
over the big party.
For the truth is that the promise of the most anticipated presidency since that of John F. Kennedy has long since dimmed.
During the dark days that followed his defeat, he turned to Michelle for comfort. But she was in no mood to offer him sympathy
- Political writer Edward Klein
Mr. Obama's popularity rating is just
over 40 per cent, with two-thirds of voters saying the U.S. is
heading in the wrong direction. Only the Watergate-plagued
Richard Nixon was doing worse at this stage of his time in
What don't Americans like? Pretty much everything.
After winning a second term from unenthusiastic voters, largely because his Republican opponent Mitt Romney was so uninspiring, Obama spent much of last year making many voters contemplate the unthinkable: perhaps even Romney would have been better.
Obama recently joked that if the Washington press is to be believed, his presidency has suffered 15 near-death experiences.
The disenchantment of even some of his most senior deputies has now been forcefully revealed by his former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
In an incendiary autobiography, Gates portrays Michelle Obama as dangerously aloof, arrogant, naive, indecisive and a worryingly detached commander in chief who has no passion for his nation's armed forces.
Whether forging policy on Iraq or Syria, Obama ignored his military commanders but then rowed back on his promises such as that red line he set over Syrians use of chemical weapons when it suited him.
Gates admits being deeply uneasy with the Obama administration's lack of appreciation, from the top down, of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war.
Hardly a ringing endorsement for the leader of the free world.
And this week, Gates icy verdict on his
old boss was echoed by another defense insider.
Sir Hew Strachan, an adviser to the Chief of the Defense Staff in Britain, claimed the U.S. President was chronically incapable of formulating military strategy, falling short even of George W. Bush.
At home, the second term to-do list has been mired in problems, in particular the furious political rows that surrounded the introduction of Obamacare, his big idea for a new healthcare plan to reform America's grossly inefficient health care system and extend health insurance to millions of poor Americans.
So what can he do in his final three years in power to win back the admiration he once inspired? Apart from reforming Americas immigration laws, the White House has run out of ideas.
It emerged this week that the Clintons
keep a grudge book listing the names of those who have wronged
Given the damage Mr Obama must have done to Hillary Clinton's chances of succeeding him in the White House in 2016, his name is surely top of the list.
As for the First Lady,
she plans to show
she's young at heart tonight by doing the Dougie, a hip-hop
dance popular with cool American teenagers.
Whether Michelle Obama feel the urge to slow dance with the President remains to be seen.
First Lady Hell: Michelle Obama Turned Her Office Into Worst Wing & Miserable Place To Work Former White House Staffer Claims
From the East Wing to the Worst Wing! First Lady Michelle Obama is under fire from a former staffer who claims that her management style and fashion crises have turned her office into the worst wing in scathing new report.
Reid Cherlin, a former West Wing assistant press secretary working from 2007 to 2011 for President Barack Obama, 52, and his administration, has blown the lid off the inner workings in Michelle Obama's office, claiming that it is a confining, frustrating, even miserable place to work.
In his essay for The New Republic, Cherlin claims former First Lady staffers complained about the pressure of working for the Michelle, 50, and that she her time spent with staffers created jealousy and discontentment and they fought over the access and responsibility from her directions.
The staffers reportedly griped that they weren't given the means to effectively do the job.
How can we be the caliber that we're expected to be with no attention and no resources and being an afterthought? All that can make for sparks.
Cherlin also claimed that the focus on fashion was just as important as policy issues for the Harvard Law School graduate.
Michelle Obama having the wrong pencil skirt on Monday is just as big of a f**k-up as someone speaking on the record when they didn't mean to or a policy initiative that completely failed, Cherlin said an unnamed former colleague revealed to him.
He said staffers wanted more access to the First Lady, and when they were included in meetings that became vital status symbol, a way for staffers to measure their worth.
Every meeting was like an identity crisis, whether you got invited or not, Cherlin claimed a former staffer told him.
They don't want to work for her; they want to be friends with her, another reportedly said.
The White House defended Michelle in a statement to The New Republic, saying: From day one, the First Lady ambitiously set out to make a measurable impact on the lives of everyday American families. Michelle Obama is laser-focused on moving the needle wherever and whenever possible.
She lost her job after calling Michelle Obama an "Ape in heels." Now she's returning to work.
Pamela Taylor, whose racist comments about Michelle Obama propelled a small West Virginia town into an unflattering national spotlight and prompted the mayor to resign, will return to her job as head of a government-funded nonprofit group later this month.
Taylor was removed from her position as executive director of the Clay County Development Corp. after she used a derogatory term in a Facebook post about the coming shift from Michelle Obama to Melania Trump. It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House, she wrote last month, adding: "I'm tired of seeing a Michelle Obama the Ape in heels."
After images of the post went viral last month, a Clay County Development Corp. representative told The Washington Post that the nonprofit organization's board had removed Taylor from her position. The uproar also prompted Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling, who commented approvingly on Taylor's post, to resign.
Now, according to a letter from the Clay County Development Corp.'s acting executive director, Taylor is scheduled to return to her old role Dec. 23, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. A call to the nonprofit group was not returned Tuesday morning.
In response to Taylor's reinstatement, Robert Roswall, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, and Cynthia Beane, acting commissioner for the state's Bureau of Medical Services, wrote a letter to the nonprofit's board requesting copies of its anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, as well as an explanation on how its employees have been trained.
Roswall and Beane wrote that in light of recent events surrounding Ms. Taylor that made national media, the county must receive specific assurances that no actions of discrimination/harassment will be conducted or viewed as acceptable practices within the work environment for the Clay County Development Corporation.
Furthermore, please provide specific guarantees that neither Ms. Taylor, nor any other employee, has in any way conducted themselves in a discriminatory manner with any recipient, or potential recipient, receiving state services that your organization administers, said the letter, dated Dec. 7 and addressed to Eunice Thomas, president of the organization's board.
Clay County Development Corp. uses state and federal funds and works with the county to provide services to elderly and low-income residents. In 2014, the organization ranked second among the county's top employers, according to Workforce West Virginia.
As such, the letter states, the organization should already have in place policies on affirmative action and anti-discrimination or harassment practices.
After Taylor's comments went viral, an online petition calling for her and Whaling to be fired began filling with digital signatures, ultimately logging nearly 200,000 of them.
Tuesday, as news of Taylor's reinstatement spread, the petition was updated.
While this petition was previously a success, the update read, we've just learned Pamela will get her job back on Dec. 23. Please share this petition to show you won't stand for racism from public sector.
Efforts to reach Taylor on Tuesday were unsuccessful, but she told NBC affiliate WSAZ earlier that she understood why her Facebook post may have been interpreted as racist, but that it was not her intention.
She said she was referring to her own opinion about Michelle Obama's attractiveness, not the color of her skin, according to the news station.
Taylor reportedly told WSAZ that the heated public response to her Facebook post had become a hate crime against me, saying that she and her children had received death threats. She said she was planning to file a lawsuit against people who had slandered or libeled her amid the uproar, according to the news station.
In a previous statement to The Post, Whaling, the now former mayor, said her comment was not intended to be racist at all.
I was referring to my day being made for change in the White House! I am truly sorry for any hard feeling this may have caused! Those who know me know that I'm not of any way racist! Again, I would like to apologize for this getting out of hand.
There is a long and ugly history of comparing black people to apes.
In the 19th century and well into the 20th, popular media from movies to fiction to political cartoons frequently portrayed blacks as more simian than human, social psychologists Phillip Atiba Goff and Jennifer L. Eberhardt wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
It was an association that provided cover for slavery itself, as well as anti-black violence. Lynchings in the United States were often justified by relying on this dehumanizing association, and it surfaced in the Rodney King controversy in Los Angeles: LAPD Officer Laurence Powell had referred to a black couple as something right out of Gorillas in the Mist moments before he was involved in the King beating, they wrote. Like nooses, the N-word and white sheets, referring to blacks as apelike is among the most violent and hurtful legacies of our nation's difficult racial past.
Racist ape memes have surfaced repeatedly around the Michelle Obama. Several years ago, the Awl catalogued Michelle Obama in a piece called Primate in Chief: A Guide to Racist Michelle Obama Monkey Photoshops.
The town of Clay has approximately 467 residents, according to a 2015 census estimate. The estimated population of Clay County is 8,910. Two-tenths of 1 percent of Clay County's residents are African American, according to census data. More than three-quarters of the presidential votes cast in the county went to Donald Trump.
The controversy left Clay scrambling to save its reputation.
Local officials condemned Taylor's comments and the mayors response, emphasizing that the incident was not reflective of the community.
Council member Jason Hubbard publicly apologized to the first lady, asking outsiders to not judge the entire community for one or two individual acts, according to the Associated Press.
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