Michelle Obama: East Wing insider intrigue

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First Lady Michelle Obama runs a tight operation in the East Wing and former White House press staffer now journalist Reid Cherlin pumps out a piece on insider intrigue in The New Republic titled “The Worst Wing: How the East Wing shrank Michelle Obama.” The Chicagoans in Mrs. Obama’s inner inner East Wing circle–present and former chiefs of staff Tina Tchen and Susan Sher,  and White House chef/ Let’s Move chief Sam Kass are put under the Cherlin microscope:

Excerpt: “When Sher returned to Chicago at the end of 2010, Tina Tchen, another Chicago lawyer who’d been working in the White House Office of Public Engagement, settled into the chief-of-staff job. Former employees say that Sher and Tchen both emphasized competence and conflict-avoidance over grand vision. Most important, both were comfortable taking orders from Valerie Jarrett, the first lady’s self-appointed enforcer and avatar. Let’s Move! saw its first two directors wash out—one a veteran political organizer and the next a pediatrician—to be replaced in 2013 by Sam Kass, the Obamas’ longtime chef and garden-master.”

Another excerpt from Reid article: “Former staffers describe a high-stress, high-stakes workplace, in which Mrs. Obama scrutinized the smallest facets of her schedule. Aides in both wings of the White House say she insists on planning every move months in advance and finalizing speeches weeks ahead of time—a rigidity nearly unheard of in today’s chaotic political environment. “For her, trust is huge, really feeling like people were protecting and thinking about her,” says one alum. “And then, also, she’s a lawyer. She’s really disciplined. She cares about the details. She’s never going to wing it.” The alum explained that staffers would often want to run an idea by Mrs. Obama casually, to get her read on it. “That kind of doesn’t work for her,” the alum said. “You have to fully think it through and be ready for questions.” It didn’t help that the West Wing, which was often absent during the long pre-planning phase, could swoop in on the day of an event to gripe about its execution. (I worked in the White House press operation until March of 2011, but rarely worked closely with the East Wing.)

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