Illustration for article titled Michelle Obama To Carla Bruni: Its Hell Being First Lady (Updated)

According to Carla Bruni, when she asked Michelle Obama what it was like being first lady, she responded, "Don't ask! It's hell. I can't stand it!" Alert Fox News: swap anti-Mobama meme from "Marie Antoinette" to the already-familiar "insufficiently grateful."

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This news comes to us via The Daily Mail, which culled it from an authorized tell-all that got the story directly from Bruni, not known for her discretion. The conversation allegedly took place at The White House during an official visit in March 2010.

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If that's what Michelle Obama indeed said, let's agree that it's an unfortunate gaffe, which she probably had a reasonable expectation wouldn't go beyond her and the First Lady of France, especially only a few months of uttering it. Let's also agree that while there are many amazing and inspiring things about being First Lady, including a platform for your causes and unrivaled access, it's a job Michelle always made manifestly clear she didn't want.

In any case, the right-wing Internet commentariat's response has already been a resounding, "The feeling is mutual!" And we are likely about to experience a return to the idea that Michelle Obama should be grateful, a word that when used during the campaign was, to understate it, unfortunate to use about a descendant of slaves alluding to the uglier sides of America. Particularly when many of those uglier aspects are still very much with us.

Back then, in 2007, the attitude was typified by The National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, who wrote on a Washington Post forum, "Her combination of bitterness, ingratitude, anti-Americanism, leftism, and, yes, elitism rubs a lot of people the wrong way. (Her hostility to men, as evidenced in this 2004 interview, is unpleasant, too.)" The "ingratitude" meme was also pushed by conservatives on television, and Michelle Malkin said of the audience who applauded at Obama's "For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my country" comment, Exhibit A of the ingratitude brigade: "What a sad, empty, narcissistic, ungrateful, unthinking lot."

And that was before that ungrateful lot elected that ungrateful woman's husband, and before she had the audacity to go on a bad-optics vacation. Well, this is going to be pleasant.

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Update: The White House is denying the account, and the French Embassy says, "Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy distances herself completely from the content of the book ‘Carla and the Ambitious', which was not authorized and the authors alone are responsible for its contents. The words attributed to the First Lady of the United States were never said."

Michelle Obama Thinks Being First Lady Is 'Hell,' Says Carla Bruni [Daily Mail]
Earlier: Debate Over Michelle Obama's Vacation Wardrobe Unites The Nation

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DISCUSSION

I was having this discussion with a friend the other day. I was saying that the job of the First Lady is a largely symbolic role where the woman is expected to up hold the archaic image of a proper wife. That a woman in that position is expected to do charitable works, take care of the children, host social events, and be at the ready for when her husband requires her presence. I find it a stiffling position for any woman to be in but especially for one who has ambition, or personal desires, or any sort of trait that marks them as an individual or simply hasn't been groomed for the job of First Lady (or as I like to call it First House Wife).

Michelle had a career and a life long before she got stuck with that role and as black woman it has to be more stifling because she cannot speak as she wishes, cannot assert herself as she might want and her life is dictated by the actions and schedule of the government and the view of the public.

So few women who have held that position have been able to do so as an individual (Truman, Eisenhower, Clinton come to mind - though I do not know all of women who've held the position).

Keep in mind I have a bias due to having a Prime Minister whose wife is anonymous. She shows up for a few photo ops but the media isn't really focused on what she is doing since she isn't running the country. The only PM wife of any consequence was Trudeau"s and that is because she was quite the personality (i.e interesting).

All this is to say, you tell 'em Michelle that job is harsh!