I traveled to New York City to speak at a Paley Center event about media bias, and on the Amtrak train, their magazine The National featured a gushy interview with Michelle Obama by 12-year-old journalist Hilde Lysiak, the daughter of former New York Daily News reporter Matthew Lysiak. The questions were very promotional, like Mrs. Obama and her PR staff wrote them up.
But that's exactly how Michelle Obama's interviews with adult reporters and anchors often sound. The former First Lady is always a role model, always wise and honest and inspirational. Lysiak loved her massively best-selling memoir, Becoming:
Her voice is honest and often vulnerable, especially when she experiences change, like going to a new high school or becoming the first lady. Frequently she asks herself, “Am I good enough?” But she is also mesmerizing and determined, asserting herself as a force from a young age.
This is how the puffery began: "There’s a scene early in Becoming when your mom helps you move out of your second-grade teacher’s class and jump up to third grade, where your new teacher is able to tap into your natural desire to learn. Do you believe that a love of learning is something kids are born with or something they get from their families and teachers?" Michelle began by saying "I believe it’s both."
Later, young Hilde touts Michelle's surplus of "grit" and her successful career:
HILDE: One thing I learned from reading your book is that you have a lot of grit. As a child, you lived in a disadvantaged community and later you worked hard to become a successful lawyer and then the vice-president of a hospital. Do you ever feel that because of the work of your husband your personal accomplishments have been overlooked?
MICHELLE: Ha—being married to the president of the United States comes with its own set of challenges, but being overlooked is not one of them! My life and my story have gotten plenty of attention since Barack became a public figure. And as an adult, I’ve come to realize that success isn’t measured by how many boxes you check or who notices your achievements, so I’m not really looking for any more gold stars.
The flattering questions wrapped up with the usual "lotsa people want you to be president" routine:
HILDE: A lot of people want you to run for president. You’ve publicly said that you aren’t interested, but everyone says that until they actually run. Just between us, if you thought the country needed you and you thought you could really help our nation, is there even a one percent chance you’d consider running?
MICHELLE: Just between us, and the readers of this magazine—there’s zero chance.
Just like there's zero chance Michelle Obama is going to be put on the hot seat by an interviewer.