The Obamas didn’t talk to you for the book. So how did you get your information?
The story I wanted to write was never going to come from the Obamas’ lips. There’s so much they can’t say. I’d [previously] interviewed each of them on different topics, from religion to parenting to their marriage. I interviewed 33 White House staffers, most of them many times. I wouldn’t trade that for a quick interview with the president, because I’m not sure he’s at liberty to discuss the real questions I asked in this book. In a way, it goes to Barack Obama’s own predicament as president: He’s such a gifted storyteller. Yet can he really tell his own story anymore?
Well, ask him. I know of no federal gag order on the president.
Yet we should never judge a book without having touched its cover. This has got to be fun, considering that Kantor has accomplished one of the following feats: 1) Gathered only positive stuff from the 33 White House staffers and doesn’t feel compelled to sit down with the first couple to get their reaction; 2) gathered some edgy and negative stuff but still doesn’t feel compelled to sit down and discuss it with the first couple; or 3) knows the first couple so well that she can channel their thoughts and thus provide their likely responses to her reporting; after all, Kantor told Chicago: “They know exactly who I am. We have an intense relationship.”
Whatever the case, this approach probably wouldn’t fly at the New York Times.
And I’ve reached out to Kantor for a comment on the degree to which she’s presented her findings to the first couple and am awaiting a response.