At one point, people might have laughed off an Enquirer story saying that the Obamas were on the verge of divorce. However, after they scooped the mainstream media on the John Edwards affair story, you have to pay attention — and people all over the world are doing just that, including The Australian.
Michelle Obama’s extended absence from Washington and a flurry of renewed speculation about the state of the first couple’s marriage are threatening to overshadow her 50th birthday party at the White House on Saturday.
Not for the first time in their 22-year marriage the Obamas are approaching what should be a happy family milestone under a cloud of rampant tabloid innuendo, summed up by a National Enquirer headline: “World exclusive: Obama marriage explodes!”.
The Enquirer has earned a measure of respectability in Washington with its reporting of political scandals – most notably its exposure of the double life of John Edwards, a former senator and once a Democratic presidential contender.
Yet its so-called bombshell Obama report was based on nothing more substantial than the vague allegations of an unnamed “Oval Office insider” who claimed the first couple “are now sleeping in separate White House bedrooms” – tame stuff compared with the adventures of the president’s French counterpart Francois Hollande.
In one sense the report was partly right: Barack Obama returned to Washington from his Christmas break in Hawaii last week while his wife remained in Maui to spend more time with friends, reportedly at a holiday home owned by the media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
…Mr Obama acknowledged long ago that his marriage to Michelle had ups and downs as they coped with the pressures of dual careers – she was formerly a lawyer and a hospital administrator – and the arrival of their two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
The latest tabloid report appears to have been provoked by the notorious incident at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service when Mr Obama and David Cameron posed for a selfie with Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the prime minister of Denmark – or as the National Enquirer described her, “a leggy blonde foreign leader”.
Certainly, it’s easy to spin a number of reasons that the Obama marriage could be in trouble. Michelle Obama doesn’t come across as the most pleasant woman in the world and it’s not hard to imagine a narcissist like Obama wanting to be with someone who’s going to tell him how wonderful he is, instead of a woman who knows him far too well for that.
On the other hand, divorce is difficult under the best of conditions — and the President and First Lady splitting up certainly isn’t “the best of circumstances.” A divorce would produce a tsunami of media coverage that would make the whole split several orders of magnitude more difficult. People would want to know every detail of the divorce, speculation would be rampant and any new relationships would be under the microscope — and their kids wouldn’t be able to avoid it watching TV or surfing the Internet.
So, is it possible that the Enquirer is right and the Obamas’ marriage is on the brink? Sure. But that last step in the relationship is a doozy and no matter how Barack and Michelle really feel about each other, they’d have to be reluctant to create the biggest media feeding frenzy since the world found out Bill Clinton was cheating with Monica Lewinsky.