Elizabeth Warren? How about Michelle Obama.




I was invited to the White House Christmas Party this year (there are 12 or so such parties in fact — ours was the print press party), and invited my nephew Anthony Katsivalis as my guest. Anthony has worked in politics (most recently on the Giannoulias Senate campaign), and now is an Internet marketing specialist in Chicago.

I’ve noted this before, and had the same reaction this year — Michelle Obama is a seriously impressive woman in person.

First, she’s beautiful. It’s something that I don’t think comes across on camera. But on meeting her in person, it’s the first thing you notice. And that’s why I mention it. (Cf. The first thing I noticed about Bill Clinton was his blue eyes — I’m an equal opportunity observer :)

The official White House portrait of First Lady Grace Coolidge with her dog Rob Roy.

The official White House portrait of First Lady Grace Coolidge with her dog Rob Roy.

Second, and more important, is her presence. Michelle Obama has the kind of grand presence that leaders have.

It’s hard to describe if you’ve not experienced it in person, but some of the greatest leaders in Washington (and I’m sure beyond) have a bit of an aura around them, that extends out a good several feet. For some, it’s an aura of pure power — Ted Kennedy’s was such. For others, it’s power and energy — such is the case with my former boss Marian Wright Edelman. In Michelle Obama’s case, it’s an aura of energy and vitality and, well, just good ole charm. Every time I’ve met the woman she comes across as the nicest, most sincere person on the planet.

I don’t know if Mrs. Obama has political aspirations, but she’s darn impressive, more so than people realize. With all the talk about Elizabeth Warren being drafted to run for president, progressives shouldn’t forget another perhaps less obvious and just as impressive choice: Michelle Obama.

Below is our photo with the President and First Lady. Every guest gets a photo. It’s something that has to be an incredible PITA for the first couple. Each guest gets ushered by, you chat briefly with the first couple, and then flash flash flash! And you’re gone. They’re quite literally having 900 flash bulbs go off in their face over a nearly 4-hour period. And they’re smiling the entire time. I don’t know how they do it.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet John Aravosis, AMERICAblog, and Anthony Katsivalis during the Christmas holiday Press Reception #1 in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Dec. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet John Aravosis, AMERICAblog, and Anthony Katsivalis during the Christmas holiday Press Reception #1 in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Dec. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

You literally only get seconds with each of them, so I had my greeting for the President pre-planned and tightly packaged like the ping from a submarine. I told the President that my former deputy on the blog, Joe Sudbay, was the person who famously asked Barack Obama about “evolving” on gay marriage. It was quite an interview, and it generated a lot of press. As a result, the President remembered Joe every time he saw him in the future.

Back to my nano-summit at the Christmas party, I thanked the President for everything he had done on LGBT civil rights, telling him I/we truly appreciated his work. (I ran into White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer in the hall, and told him the same).

Say what you will about President Obama regarding your particular pet issue, but on the civil rights of gay, lesbian and trans people, he ultimately came through. I’ve always believed that it’s important to thank politicians when they come through for you, even if the road had a few bumps along the way. And the man came through.

wh-xmas-party-dessert

I will admit to being all hands at the glorious dessert table. That’s a quite good huckleberry pie on the right, and at the other side of the table was a neat British “pudding.” Greg Sargent’s British wife was skeptical, but it was really delicious. (And being British, it of course had nothing to do with the American concept of pudding — it was more like a (very tasty) soaked cake.)

PS Mom noticed how short I look compared to Michelle. I’m 5-10, for comparison sake.

One more thing. As for the placement of my right arm — a question much discussed on Facebook the other night– it’s a bit hard to know exactly what transpired. You see, the moment you realize you’re 1.5 seconds away from meeting the President of the United States you feel an incredible, and unexpected, rush of energy that tends to wipe your brain numb. For the record, I had no idea I had made Mrs. O my main squeeze. I suspect in retrospect, being a gentleman and all, I was aiming for her waist. But being also a relatively short Greek, at least as compared to the average Obama-family denizen, I overshot my platonic greeting.

It just goes to show you: The best laid hands of mice and men oft go astray :)


CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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