Amid heavy media coverage of the Obamas' marriage, I can't help but wonder: Are we actually seeing something new here — a First Marriage that is both healthy and modern? Or is that notion a product of the media's infatuation with the Obamas?
A package of articles in the latest issue of New York magazine invites that conclusion. Riffing on a single, electric, Inauguration-night photo of the Obamas, with Michelle wearing Barack's suit jacket over her evening gown and the President seeming to lean on her, smiling, as their foreheads touch, Stacy Schiff writes, 'We're in uncharted territory here.' The chemistry between the First Couple is so obvious that 'if you're a woman, you want what she's having,' Ms. Schiff adds. After watching other high-level political wives struggle with their roles, she writes, 'only now are we discovering what a functioning marriage between equals actually looks like' at this level of politics.
In another article in the package, Amy Bloom asserts that in Ms. Obama 'we get .. a woman who seems to be loved and respected and enjoyed by her admirable husband, toward whom she feels the same way. You don't see much of that anywhere.'
While this is a seductive viewpoint, other Presidential couples have been both loving and respectful. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were famously fond of each other. And while George W. and Laura Bush are more private, their mutual caring and admiration seems evident.
What seems new to me is that Ms. Obama appears more comfortable juggling multiple roles in public, compared with past First Ladies. She's as relaxed showing her loving, nurturing side including her love for her husband — as with flexing her professional skills. While she's more openly affectionate than, say, Hillary Clinton, she also appears more independent and confident than some other, more traditional, First Ladies of the past.
Many of you have commented on our blog about the challenges of keeping marriage healthy and happy here, here and here. Do you take any meaning from the Obamas' marriage? Is this just the media's latest honeymoon with a new pair of political stars? Or are Barack and Michelle Obama indeed setting some kind of new standard?