Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hillary, Michelle and All That Jazz

Not quite Renee Zellweger and Catherine-Zeta Jones, but two fascinating women will be performing in Chicago next month, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama dueling for dollars and votes in their home town.

Sen. Clinton will be going back to her roots for an “Illinois Lawyers for Clinton” cocktail reception--$1000 minimum, $10,000 to be a “designated host” and 25 big ones to qualify as a “chairman,” or should that be “chairperson”?

Meanwhile Mrs. Obama has been and will be whirling around the Windy City speaking in support of her husband’s candidacy.

The Obamas now and the Clintons at the same stage in 1992 offer a contrast in spousal styles. Back then, Hillary Clinton was defending her husband’s character on 60 Minutes. “I'm not...some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," she said. "I love him, and I respect him and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together.”

By contrast, Michelle Obama enjoys tweaking her husband. "He's a gifted man," she tells audiences, "but, in the end, he's just a man" and goes on to report that he forgot to put the butter away that morning.

"I'm like, 'You're just asking for it,'" she says, with an exasperated look at him. "'You know I'm giving a speech about you today.'"

While Hillary Clinton is still struggling even today to get out from under her husband’s shadow, the Obama marriage seems a union of equals, with the Senator until recently always just a step behind his wife’s career.

They met when Michelle Robinson was his supervisor during a law-school internship and have gone their separate ways at work together ever since. “Barack hasn't relied deeply on me for his career path,” she says, “and I haven't relied on him at all for mine.”

When he decided to run for President, she gave him an ultimatum. “It's a role model thing," she said. "You can smoke or you can be president." He stopped smoking.

If the Democrats win the White House next year, one thing is certain: A strong woman will be living there.

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