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Michelle Obama and Susan Sher: Life in the White House bubble

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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama rarely can break out of her "bubble," her staff wakes up to e-mails from the boss and she does not want her daughters to have cell phones, according to her former chief of staff Susan Sher.

Those glimpses at the life of the present First Lady came Tuesday at a conference, "The Legacies of America's First Ladies," at American University, organized by Anita McBride who was chief of staff for Laura Bush.

Sher, who resigned last month to return to Chicago, first met Mrs. Obama--then Michelle Robinson--when she applied for a job in 1991 in Mayor Daley's City Hall. Sher shared insights into running the East Wing operation on a panel with McBride and Melanne Verveer, Hillary Rodham Clinton's former chief of staff.

Sher related:

*The White House residence does not have wireless internet service. Mrs. Obama does not watch cable television

* The president speaks over all kinds of secure lines, but when it comes to land line phones in the residence, however, when a call goes through from the White House operators, it only rings in one room. So when the First Couple were on a trip in 2009 and wanted to say good night to Sasha and Malia, they could not get right through to the kids, because the phone did not ring in the room they were in.

"Sort of quaint," Sher said. The White House ushers, wanting to be responsive, offered to get the girls cell phones. Mrs. Obama said they didn't want them. With all the protection in the White House, "we know they are safe."

*"Unlike me, our current first lady is a morning person," Sher said, with emails waiting for her when she got up, often "thoughts and ideas" that needed a reply.

*Mrs. Obama has talked about missing being able to shop at the Roosevelt Road Target in Chicago, a place Sher said the first lady can visualize "up and down every aisle." A while back, Sher asked her to go "on an outing" with her to see an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. "She got so excited" about the "field trip" because "the Secret Service told her that we can walk ....she didn't know it was literally across the street." Even these kinds of outings are rare, Sher said.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 2, 2011 6:07 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, March 2, 2011. Arts and Humanities medals was the previous entry in this blog.

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