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Encore: All About Michelle Obama

Aired May 3, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Michelle Obama, she's compared to Jackie Kennedy, style icon, trend-setter, and model for women around the world, substance and style on her agenda. Michelle Obama making over the role of America's first lady, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: The subject is Michelle Obama. The guests are, here in Los Angeles, Patti Davis, daughter of President Ronald and Mrs. Nancy Reagan, best-selling author. Her newest is, "The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us." There you see its cover. This is a terrific idea for a book -- a whole bunch of wonderful women talking about the effect their mother had on them. And the first chapter is written by Patti and it is terrific.

Robin Givhan is in -- Givhan, rather -- is in New York, The Washington Post staff writer, focusing on the Michelle Obama story and the first family. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Also in New York, our old friend, Lisa Caputo, who was press secretary for First Lady Hillary Clinton and served as deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton.

And, by the way, a week from Saturday, May 9th, Patti will be signing copies of this book at the Reagan Library here in Southern California.

All right, Patti, what -- what's your grade? What do you make of Michelle Obama?

PATTI DAVIS, DAUGHTER, RONALD AND NANCY REAGAN: I think she's terrific. I think she has such a balance about her, her strength, her -- her obvious maternal instincts, her intelligence, her humor. She just -- she just has a great balance in the way she presents herself.

And you kind of have the feeling that could you do anything with her. You know, you could go walk the dog, you could take a hike, you could go to a formal dinner to...

KING: Or write a legal thesis.

DAVIS: Or write a legal thesis, if you were of a mind to do that. And, you know, she'd just -- she'd just be cool to hang out with whatever you were doing.

KING: Robin, do you see any -- any defects?

ROBIN GIVHAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I don't want to be the one to poke holes in the myth -- in the mythology. But I think that she has -- has really captured the imagination of the American people and also internationally.

But I also think that that is a difficult position to be in, because, in some ways, she has become less of a real person. And more of this sort of aura, practically, that people are projecting all of their desires onto. And I think, inevitably, there will come a point when they're disappointed.

KING: All right, Lisa Caputo, what's your -- what's your read on the first lady?

LISA CAPUTO, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, FIRST LADY HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, Larry, I think she's doing a fantastic job. And the reason I think that is she's being absolutely true to herself and true to her interests.

If you -- if you've observed her over the past couple of months, you've seen her really be active in her -- her now home community, in Washington, whether it's trying to foster and help the president with a bipartisan effort to really change the way business is done in Washington by yesterday, on the 100th day, hosting Congressional spouses at a food bank in Washington, I just thought was brilliant.

And, also, really hosting on a regular basis luncheons for Congressional spouses, Republican, Democratic, Independent, one or two times a month.

So I think she's doing the right things in terms of bipartisanship. But, as I said, also being true to her interest -- her interest in service and community, being active, speaking at the D.C. public schools, speaking at practically all the federal agencies, thanking public servants for their service, I think, is really brilliant.

KING: Yes. All right Patti, you can get real close to this. You are the daughter of a first lady.

DAVIS: Mm-hmm.

KING: What does your mother think of her?

DAVIS: Oh, she likes her a lot. Yes. She likes her a lot. I mean, she's very -- she has a lot of admiration for her. And -- and I think -- you know, my mother is perfectly aware that it's a different time. And Michelle Obama is a woman of a different generation than my mother, so she's not going to do the same things that my mother did or that any other first lady did.

KING: So are comparisons wrong to do?

DAVIS: I think they are for the first lady. I really do, because there is a generational factor. And, also, it's -- you know, none of the women are -- are really similar to one another. I think you have to compare presidents historically. I mean that's just a given.

KING: And politically. DAVIS: And politically. But I don't -- I think it's a little unfair to compare first ladies. I think as long as somebody is being authentic and true to themselves, which Michelle Obama certainly is -- I mean, there is nothing phony or manipulative about her.

KING: Robin, do you buy the comparison to Jackie Kennedy?

GIVHAN: Well, in some ways, I think that it is -- it's fair to compare them, only because it's a way for us to measure the different ways in which women in public life have progressed as the decades have passed.

As far as the comparison to Jackie, I think it really comes down to that both of their ability to use fashion in a way that has been very powerful. So in terms of sort of the political element, I don't think so. But in terms of just the symbolism that they've been able to use, I think it's an absolutely fair comparison.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with more. Patti Davis wrote the Obama daughters a letter. What was in it? We'll ask in 60 seconds.



BEYONCE (singing): At last, my love has come along...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first lady of the United States. She's around here somewhere.


B. OBAMA: And to paraphrase one of my predecessors, I am also proud to be the man who brought Michelle Obama to Prague.


KING: Patti, you wrote -- you wrote a letter to the kids?

DAVIS: I did. Yes. I mailed it -- well, I mean I didn't mail it. I had the Reagan Library do it so it would get there.

KING: The purpose?

DAVIS: Oh, I just thought it was a nice thing to do, you know, and nobody ever wrote a letter to me. And I hadn't written a letter to anybody else. And I thought that was something that should change.

KING: What did you say?

DAVIS: Well, one of the things that I said was that I -- I thought there would probably come times when they would miss their normal life, without millions of eyes watching and millions of -- of people sort of intruding into their lives. But by the same token, there would come times when all of those millions of people would be a great comfort to them.

You know, there were a couple of times in my life, especially when my father passed away, when it felt like it was one big huge family of America. And I really, really appreciated that.

KING: Would you gather these kids are going to handle things pretty well?

DAVIS: Yes. Yes. Because they have a great family.

KING: Yes.

DAVIS: They have a great relationship with their parents. They really have that grounding there.

KING: Yes. And you sense -- you see it.

DAVIS: Yes, you do see it. Yes.

KING: Lisa Caputo will be leaving us for a couple of moments, but will be coming back with the later panel.

When we come back, we'll discuss how she single-handedly improved sales at J. Crew, Michelle Obama as a fashion icon, next. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Patti Davis remains. Her book, "The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us" available everywhere.

Robin Givhan is still with us, the fashion editor of The Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.

And we're joined now in New York by Andre Leon Talley, editor-at- large at Vogue magazine.

OK, Andre, you put her on the cover, did you not?

ANDRE LEON TALLEY, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, VOGUE: Well, we -- Anna Wintour and I worked very hard for the campaign. And then we just thought it was organically correct that she'd be on the cover. We'd be the first to have her on the cover. It was history and we loved it...

KING: All right, since she's buying...

TALLEY: We loved the process.

KING: Since she's buying stuff at J. Crew and maybe will next Target...


KING: ...why does this interest the American -- how is that a fashion icon? TALLEY: Well, I don't see Michelle as a fashion icon because she's buying at J. Crew, although that does help the fashion industry. You know, we are in a slump, too, as well.

Her support of a company like that, it represents, you know, fashion at a price -- affordable. So all the women in American can look up at Michelle, see her in a sweater and a skirt and T-shirt for $400 on a talk show and they say, hey, I can do that, too.

So, in a way, it's very smart how she approaches fashion, not just from a high fashion level, but as well as the soccer mom level.

You know, she went online and bought her own J. Crew outfits. And that's a cool thing.

KING: Robin, do you agree?

GIVHAN: Yes. I think one of the great things that Michelle has done when it comes to fashion is she has given women what the fashion industry has really failed to give them, which is essentially a woman who is not twentysomething, who is not a starlet and who is not a size zero, who enjoys fashion and incorporates it into a life that includes soccer practice and boardroom meetings and dinner parties. I mean, it's -- it's a fully evolved life and it shows that fashion has a place there.

KING: Your mom, no doubt a very stylish lady and wore clothes -- wears clothes beautifully, how important is all that in all of this scheme, what a first lady wears?

What does it mean?

DAVIS: Well, it's apparently really important because everything is scrutinized -- I mean everything. I wouldn't do well in that, but Michelle Obama is doing great.

KING: Do you like the way she looks?

DAVIS: I love it. I love it. But to have people analyzing everything you're wearing, even when you just go to walk your dog, is a lot of pressure, I think.

KING: What makes her, Andre, from a fashion standpoint, aside from where she buys the clothes, what makes -- is her height a detriment or a plus?

TALLEY: Certainly, her height is a plus. And, you know, she's fit. She obviously works out at the gym. You know, her arms are -- you know, as Peggy Noonan said in The Wall Street Journal, a very conservative Republican, you know, when you've got arms like that at her age, you should show them in the winter.

Her height is a big plus. But it's also the way she approaches fashion. When she spoke at that girl's school in England and she was so moved by the performance of those -- that girls' choir, she almost wore a collegiate outfit that day. But she didn't cross the line of avant-garde-ism with the argyle sweater and the full skirt.

She just knows how. And she loves fashion. Michelle obviously loves to get up in the morning and experiment with a sweater. She loves to belt her -- her waist so you can see her silhouette. And she loves color. And she's just -- I think she loves fashion.

She's a very confident woman. And it's not the most important thing on her agenda, but she certainly does take risks. She's not just a one note lady.


TALLEY: She's not to going to go and just wear one designer, which is a good thing. She has endorsed young designers that you probably never heard of, that's not a household name. I think she has a great sense of diversity about fashion talent -- I mean Isabel Toledo is from Cuba and she wore Isabel Toledo in the Inaugural.

KING: Robin...

TALLEY: Jason Wu...

KING: Robin, what part of the story, fashion included, is the fact that she's African-American?

GIVHAN: Well, I think that's a subtext that runs through everything. I mean one of -- you asked why is fashion important?

And, in many ways, it's particularly important for Michelle Obama because she's being described not only as strong and capable, but also beautiful and chic and stylish. And these are words that, in popular culture, aren't usually applied to black women, particularly black women with darker skin.

I mean, historically, they have been, to some degree, marginalized when it comes to discussions about beauty. And beauty is a way that we, in fact, judge people and determine how we value people.

So I think this conversation about how stylish she is and this idea that she's somewhat of a fashion icon is important because it says we are now recognizing a demographic that has long been, in some ways, invisible in this regard.

KING: Patti, isn't that a really good point?

DAVIS: It's a really good point, yes.

KING: Because this is all new to us, all of us.

DAVIS: It is. And it's gloriously new, you know, and they -- I don't know, I just know I woke up the night after the election and I had more hope than I'd had in the previous eight years.


KING: What do you think your father would have thought of him?

DAVIS: Oh, I think my father would have liked him a lot. Yes. You know, they have a similar calm about them.

KING: Don't they?

DAVIS: Yes, they really do. And both Michelle Obama and Barack Obama have that. They have a -- they have a real -- a serenity about them. And you get the sense that they are both very patient people, which I definitely believe patience is a virtue.

KING: Comfortable in their clothes? No, they walk easy into the room.


KING: Right?

DAVIS: Well, they're comfortable and they're in -- within themselves, you know?

KING: Yes.

DAVIS: And so they -- yes, they're comfortable, as well, in their clothes.

KING: What influence -- I meant in themselves. (INAUDIBLE)


KING: What influence -- Andre under...

DAVIS: I'm taking you literally.

KING: Andre understood me.

What influence has Michelle Obama had on you? Tell us at and see if your comments -- we'll see if we air your comments later in the show.

Don't go away.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We want everybody to think about moving their bodies, get out -- we don't have tennis. It's on the tennis court.


M. OBAMA: The peanut gallery back here.

And there isn't a day that goes by, particularly after having kids, that I don't wonder or worry about whether I'm doing the right thing for myself, for my family, for my girls.


KING: We're back with Andre Leon Talley of Vogue; Patti Davis, whose new book is "The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us"; and Robin Givhan, the fashion editor of The Washington Post.

Andre, what about that favorite, I'm told, leather and metal studded belt? She said the president doesn't like it and calls it "Star Trek," but she keeps wearing it. It's by Azzedine Alaia.

TALLEY: Azzedine Alaia. Yes.

KING: Do you like it?

TALLEY: I love it. I think it's just her fun way of saying, look, I'm in shape. I'm fit. I want to show my waist. I worked hard on my fitness program. I've got other priorities, which are my husband and my children, and my issues and my programs. But, hey, I look good, too.

And that is one of her favorite accessories. And It has gone over many outfits. She has made it cross lines over many dresses. She got off the plane in Europe with it. She had it on the purple dress. It's the right accessory. It's the perfect note for her.

Michelle is not taking advice from anyone. This is Michelle being Michelle. She is very confident about her choices.

KING: Robin, what about the cardigans? She wore a black cardigan on election night.

GIVHAN: You know, I am a little ambivalent about all the cardigans. But I think one of the great things about Mrs. Obama, and one of the things that people are attracted to is the fact that every time she steps onto the public stage, she looks as though she has chosen her clothes based solely on what pleases her, and not some preconceived notion of what a first lady is supposed to look like, or what a Washington powerful woman is supposed to look like.

So I think, in many ways, she is injecting femininity and a certain degree of sexuality into this idea of sort of formal public attire. And I think it makes it very contemporary. I think that's what people are really latching on to.

KING: Patti said a very interesting thing during the break about her and the feminist and what we expect of the tough woman. Explain that.

DAVIS: Well, I said there is sort of outdated definition of -- idea of feminism is that if a woman is strong, particularly if she is accomplished professionally, that there has to be a toughness there, and almost a brittleness there.

And she proves that that is not at all true. That you can be -- she is a lawyer. She is a very strong woman, but she is very feminine. And she is sexy and she's warm and she is funny and she is a great mom.

KING: So she belies that image.

DAVIS: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Andre, as a fashion expert, is there anything you would advise her to wear that she's not wearing?

TALLEY: Oh, absolutely not. I would not advise Michelle. She needs no advice. As I said, she is doing it all on her own. She loves fashion. She wakes up and, you know, if she feels like she wants to wear a sweater, she wears a sweater.

By the way, those sweaters are practical, because she sometimes goes in and out of climates where sometimes it's warm, sometimes it's not. She needs to cover up.

I think it's a great uniform for her. She has made it modern again to have a sweater. And a sweater is a very classic garment for a woman to wear. She does no wrong in my book. She does no wrong. I think that she looked great in Europe. The way she embraced the queen of England and the queen of England embraced her, that was history in itself.

KING: Robin, anything you would advise the first lady? Like would you say, wear hats?


GIVHAN: I think the very last thing I would say to her would be to get involved in millinery. I think you can only get in trouble.


KING: However, I have a theory, and I want to introduce myself into this, Robin. I think most ladies look good in hats.

GIVHAN: Well, I think we have to remember what we have been sort of applauding her for, which is her authenticity and her ability to wear things that speak to her. I've yet to see her in anything on her head.

KING: Even on Inaugural Day, she didn't wear a hat?

DAVIS: No. Oh, I completely disagree with that.


KING: Well, we loved Jackie's pillbox, and your mother wore hats beautifully.

DAVIS: Not all the time.

KING: No, I understand what -- OK.

DAVIS: Not much. KING: Again they rack me down.

DAVIS: Maybe one.


DAVIS: Enough with the hats.

KING: All right. Forget the hats.

Actor Gary Sinise, you know, is quite a guy. He has done so much to help our troops, a truly selfless man. He has written a Web exclusive about his experiences and how they've impacted. You've got to read it. It's only at And we'll be back after this.


KING: Robin Givhan, you've reported that Michelle seems to have a certain ambivalence about all the focus being placed on her appearance and her fashion choices. Explain.

GIVHAN: Well, I think that for anyone who has a resume like Mrs. Obama does, and who obviously has a pretty lengthy agenda of things that she wants to focus on as first lady, to have so much attention being paid to her clothes is a bit overwhelming. You want to make sure that the other things don't get lost in that conversation.

But the fact that -- I also think that she has made a lot of fashion decisions that have drawn attention to her clothes. And she's not wearing things that fade into the background. And I think it's significant that she very rarely wears a traditional suit. I mean, she dresses in a way that does make her stand out from what we typically see in sort of C-SPAN Washington fashion.

KING: Is it a little bit overdone, Patti, a little bit much when we have comic books, a comic book, the Michelle Obama comic book?


DAVIS: Well, I hadn't seen that before. It's not a very good likeness of her.

KING: It's not a good likeness?

DAVIS: No. They should take that off the shelves.

KING: Can it get too much or is that just the nature of the beast?

DAVIS: Sure, it can get too much. I mean, you know...

KING: Your mother was annoyed by some of it, when it got to be too much.

DAVIS: I think it's inevitable. It's inevitable that it's going to get too much and it's inevitable that you are going to get annoyed by it. But, I mean, what are you going to do? And especially now, when there is 24/7 news coverage, and more than ever before, there's nothing you can do about it, so I don't know. You go and hit pillows and scream in some secret room in the White House, I guess.

KING: Isn't there an impact on the kids?

DAVIS: Yes. And I think...


DAVIS: Yes, and I think as they get older, there definitely will be. But again, I think they have such a strong family unit. And I think -- I mean, having spent a year writing about mothers and daughters, I was really...

KING: By the way, it's a terrific book.

DAVIS: Thank you.

KING: All of these people gathered together to write little essays about it.

DAVIS: I would have loved to talk to Michelle Obama about her mother, but she was a little busy at the time. But she has such a strong relationship with her mother. And you know what was...

KING: Oh, living in the White House.

DAVIS: Yes, but what was interesting was when they announced that her mother was going to be moving into the White House, there was this attempt to make jokes about it. Oh, the mother-in-law is moving in and all that. And the jokes really felt flat. Because people really sensed that, no, this is very authentic and very strong relationship, which she is also imparting to her kids.

KING: Andre, before you leave us, will there be more Vogue covers of her?

TALLEY: Oh, I'm sure, absolutely. The next eight years we'll be right down there trying to be the first.


KING: Thank you. Andre, always good seeing you.

TALLEY: Good to see you, Larry. Thank you so much.

KING: Patti Davis, and Robin, thank you so much for joining us, as well. You always add so much to this program.

GIVHAN: Thank you.

KING: Patti Davis remains. We'll be joined with three other contributors, including the return of Lisa Caputo.


KING: Patti Davis is with us. Lisa Caputo, the former press secretary to first lady Hillary Clinton, and deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton, returns. And we are joined now by Nancy Giles, social commentator and writer. She's a contributor to CBS News "SUNDAY MORNING." And Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for "Air America," contributor to

All right. Join in on all of this. Nancy, what do you make of her?

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR, WRITER: Well, I think one of the things about Michelle Obama that really inspires me is how she is making being educated a really cool thing. She is inspiring young women and young boys all over the country to go to school, to get a good education.

I think that she and Barack -- President Obama, by going to -- growing and going to public schools and then going to some of the finest universities that the country has to offer, they're being there really opened them up to all of these different experiences and I think makes both of them comfortable in all kinds of different settings.

And it's really something for young people to shoot for.

KING: How do you read it, Ana?

ANA MARIE COX, AIR AMERICA: Well, I think that there is -- I mean, you spent the whole program talking about how wonderful she is. I think what is amazing is how much she has had an impact on the way we thought about her in just this 100 days, also the campaign.

I called her office today to get some of their feedback on what they think of her first 100 days. And they told me something which I was really surprised by. She only does, at the max, three public events a week.

Now, doesn't it seem like we've seen so much more of her?


COX: She's had, like, such an amazing presence in all of our lives, in all of the media, but she's very serious about making time to be Sasha and Malia's mother. And she does her...

KING: Good point.

COX: She works her entire schedule around what they do. And so, really, maximum three events a week.


KING: Her husband does three events a morning.

COX: Exactly. KING: Lisa Caputo, you've worked for a first lady. Do you think you would like working for her?

CAPUTO: Oh, I think I'd love working for her. There's no question about it. I have friends who are working for her. Everything I know about her and hear about her is that she's absolutely extraordinary to work for.

And the thing about her is, she strikes the right balance. She's not only true to herself, but she's true to her family.

And she's not shy about being the mom-in-chief. And I think that's quite extraordinary because, you know, Larry, so much pressure is put on being a first lady. You have this great platform and this, you know, bully pulpit, so to speak.

And we tend to try to stereotype our first ladies and put them in a box that fits a label. They should stand for such-and-such cause. And what Michelle Obama has done is just be true to herself. And that should be respected.

KING: You mentioned earlier, Patti, you've got that new book, "The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us." Her mother lives with her in the White House. You count that a plus. And the public hasn't made fun of that.

DAVIS: No. And I think -- well, I think the reason they haven't made fun of it is that it's so clear that it is a very strong and authentic relationship. And I think that a lot of her confidence probably came from that, from that relationship. You know?

And she is then, in turn, raising her daughters like that, and they're going to be two very confident young women.

KING: Ana Marie, you were on the White House lawn when Bo, the first puppy, was introduced to the country.

COX: That's right.

KING: What was that like, earth-shaking?

COX: Oh, earth-shaking, clearly. I have to say, the jaded press corps, every time that dog like did something cute, you heard this ripple of "aww" run through the entire press corps.

It was really wonderful to see them as a family. I think we've all seen it, but it is incredible how natural it all seems, and how just enthusiastic and unself-conscious the kids are. I think that that's a true sign of, like, what grounded parents they must have.

The kids actually ran up to the reporters. They were so excited about their new dog. I mean, I think that's pretty expected and natural and not the kind of guardedness we usually see with children that grow up in the public spotlight, who seem very trained or cautious around the media. They wanted to tell us about Bo. And the president wound up telling us about Bo, too. He told us he doesn't like -- he told us that Portuguese Water Dogs like tomatoes, which I haven't read anywhere else, but interesting, I guess.

KING: Yes, he would know that.

COX: Yes, sure. Teddy must have told him as a joke, is my theory. But also Michelle was there, and she was a little more guarded. Also, I noticed that she tried to get the dog to sit. She was the first one who tried to do that. So she might be the disciplinarian in the family.

KING: Puppies don't do that right away.

We'll be back with more on Michelle when LARRY KING LIVE returns.



M. OBAMA: I am an example of what's possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by the people around them.

My purpose here is to listen, learn and scoop some risotto.

I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America.


KING: If that doesn't move you, you're dead.

Nancy, we seem to know everything about her. If you were with her now, what would you want to know? What would you ask her?

GILES: Well, you know, just seeing that clip of her talking about Sojourner Truth, it almost -- it really almost made me want to cry, because you realize that as a black American, we did come to this country as property. We weren't considered full human beings. And just to see that trajectory and to see her as the spouse of the leader of the free world is so staggering.

I'm sort of stunned. I don't know if I can answer your question, Larry. I'm just thinking of that moment, and it's stunning.

KING: Lisa, what would you ask her?

CAPUTO: I'd ask her what she'd like to do as far as national and community service. She has been long dedicated to it. There's a fantastic opportunity with the new legislation, the Kennedy Serve America Act that the president has just signed. It's going to triple funding for national service.

And I would like to know kind of what she thinks about it and how she'll be active, because I think it will be a great platform for her.

KING: Patti, you mentioned to me when we were seeing the dog on the lawn how much of a piece of property the White House is and how much use they get out of it.

DAVIS: Yes. I've never really appreciated or even seen it. Well, I don't think any of us have seen it used like that, romping around with the dog and using all of that huge meadow and everything. And every time I see that footage, and every time I see the still photographs of that, I go, boy, that's a really lovely piece of property.

KING: Ana Marie, reportorially (ph), is she easy to cover?

COX: No.



COX: No, no, no. She is an incredibly private and controlled person, much like her husband. And I also think she guards her privacy pretty jealously, and I think that's because of her role as a mother.

I think that she sees herself as -- and she has said this again and again. Her role in this campaign was to be Sasha and Malia's mother. And she arranged her schedule during the campaign around their school schedule, and she continues to do that.

She's not interested in making news for her own sake. She really is interested in amplifying her husband's message. And then she has -- she has a very specific goal that she has with working with military families.

And she also -- I think this is something that doesn't get as much attention outside of Washington, which is she has become really interested in the community of Washington, sometimes what we hear in the political journalistic complex called the "real Washington," which is those thousands and thousands and thousands of people who will never set foot inside CNN, who will never set foot inside the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and who live and work here.

And she has really gone out of her way to kind of like make herself known to that Washington, which is, of course, primarily African-American. And I can tell you that my neighbors have a whole new interest in the city, have a whole new interest in what's going on politically. It's really actually kind of stunning.

KING: And I'm also told, Nancy, that she has -- she and her husband, when they're in the White House, they have dinner with the children every night.

GILES: Wow. Well, I'm stunned. I'm stunned by the fact that she's only doing three public things per week.

KING: That's amazing.

GILES: Because, again, as Lisa was saying, you see her everywhere. You see her covering the territory, whether it's handing out food or starting that garden. She's like our Eleanor Roosevelt, almost. Yes.

KING: By the way, I want to congratulate Patti on this book. The book is "The Lives Our Mother Leave Us." It's "Prominent Women Discussing the Complex, Humorous, and Ultimately Loving Relationships They Have with Their Mothers. Great idea. You wrote a great piece.

DAVIS: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Patti. And thank you, ladies.

Next, a few moments with Michelle Obama before she became first lady.



M. OBAMA: It's my pleasure to introduce to you the next president of the United States, my husband, Barack Obama.


B. OBAMA: Now you know why I asked her out so many times, even though she said, no.


KING: It was my great pleasure to interview Michelle Obama during the campaign for the White House. We sat down in October last and she talked about the extraordinary history-making election which was then just weeks away.


KING: You obviously realize the historic nature of this. We are either going to have a female vice president or a black president.

M. OBAMA: Absolutely. Absolutely.

KING: The world ain't going to be the same.

M. OBAMA: Right. That's -- you know, and what a wonderful year this has been. You know, this has been an amazing year throughout. And I think my 10-year-old daughter summed it up best the night that Barack clinched the nomination. And I came home, woke up in the morning and I sort of, you know, explained that dad, you know, actually won the nomination.

And I said, don't you think this is amazing? You know, I said, this is this first time an African-American will have been a nominee. And Malia said, well, yes. You know, I realize what a big deal it is, she said. But it would have been a big deal if Hillary Clinton had won, too. She said it without blinking an eye. She said, because women didn't have the right to vote and there was inequality there.

It was a matter-of-fact. It's like, that's where we've come, where our 10-year-olds and 7-year-olds understand that this is big, but they know this is the next step. You know, this is where we've grown as a country.

And I think it's beautiful to watch our young people being able to see these changes in action, because they're going to grow up with a different reality than any of us.

KING: Speaking of Hillary, are you happy with the way she's supporting your husband?

M. OBAMA: She has been phenomenal. From the minute after this was done, right, she has always been just cordial and open. I've called her. I've talked to her. She has given me advice about the kids. We've talked at length about this kind of stuff, how you feel, how you react. She has been amazing. She is a real pro and a woman with character.

KING: And will she campaign and go all the way?

M. OBAMA: She has been campaigning. She's on the road. I don't know her schedule completely, but she has been raising money for the campaign, she has been working on her donors, she has been in swing states. She and Bill Clinton have been working hard to make sure that Barack is the next president of the United States.

KING: James Carville says it's over, you're going to win.

M. OBAMA: Oh, well...

KING: That's what he said.

M. OBAMA: ...nothing has ever been that simple in this race. You know, it ain't over until it's over. We are going to run through the tape. And there's still a lot of work to do. People have to get registered to vote. That's the first step. And we're encouraging people to go to our Web site,, to get registered.

Then there's early voting, because we want people to vote early so that they'll have time to help others to vote. And then we've got to work on get-out-the-vote. Because it's not just about winning. That's important. But it's about changing democracy. We want these numbers of voters to be high because people have to pay attention forever.

I tell people when I'm out on the campaign trail, we have to change the way we see politics forever. We can't go back to the way things were when we sort of voted and some people didn't and some people didn't pay attention. We have to be vigilant.

You know, it's not enough that Barack wins, he has got to have an engaged electorate to help him lead and make the changes that we need.

KING: The thought of being first lady, has it ever overwhelmed you?

M. OBAMA: You know, I think the more that I learn about the position, there are a lot of things to do. Fortunately, I'm a great multi-tasker so I start sort of getting my list in order and creating order out of my life.

But, it's not as much overwhelming. I try not to focus on that. Because things sort of fall into place, you know? I think about the opportunity. You know, I think about, OK, what can I do that is useful with this role?

I've spent a lot of time focusing on working the challenges of work/family balance with women and families. We talked about that when you asked me about Governor Palin. You know, what I'm hearing around the country is that there are women who are struggling to keep their heads above water. And these issues transcend party and even socioeconomic status.

We need to give those issues a voice because I think women need a different model, a template for, you know, insuring that we're creating policies that actually make sense. I want to work on those.

But also, I've been having more conversations with military spouses. Not just women, but you know, you imagine -- if you could just imagine the challenges that a normal family is facing in these economic times. And then you add on two, three, four tours of duty.

And then you look at the fact that our military men and women are coming back. They don't have the resources they need, the health care, the mental health support. I want to use my platform to bring voice to some of those challenges. Because we have to remember in this country, when our troops go to war, their families go.

And they need to come back ensured that their families will be intact and whole. That they'll have homes to come back to, especially our reservists. They need to know that they're going to have jobs and insurance and a G.I. Bill that they can get an education. Those are the kind of things that I'd love to take on if I have the honor to do it.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Michelle Obama. Don't go away.


B. OBAMA: The rock of the Obama family, the closer on the campaign trail, give up it for Michelle Obama.


M. OBAMA: Today we do something amazing, we can elect my husband.




M. OBAMA: Let's get this done! Can we do this?


M. OBAMA: Can we do this?


M. OBAMA: I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.


CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!


KING: All right. Some people regard you as a role model. Who are your role models?

M. OBAMA: Well, first and foremost is my mom. You know, I come from modest means. My parents were working class folks. My mother didn't get a college education, neither did my father. But they are two of the most common-sense based people that I know.

KING: Did you scholarship to Harvard?

M. OBAMA: To -- undergrad I went to Princeton. And we -- financial aid scholarship and, you know, all loans for law school.

KING: Harvard Law School.

M. OBAMA: Harvard Law, right, right.

KING: Who else?

M. OBAMA: So, oh gosh, there are so many people. I mean, I've gotten to meet some of those folks and -- Lilly Ledbetter, I just met her. She's one of the champions of equal pay. And I got to meet her and campaign with her.

And this is a 70-year-old grandmother who is fighting -- she has long since lost her ability to gain any financial return from her Supreme Court loss, but she is out on the road, fighting hard to make sure that our daughters and granddaughters get paid equally for the work that they do.

And she's -- you know, she's a special lady, a working class lady, and a fighter. And I -- those are the kind of women that I'm drawn to.

KING: Historically, would Rosa Parks be on the list?

M. OBAMA: Oh absolutely. I mean, I could go on and on and on if you want to do a show on the -- you know, I met Maya Angelou. She's -- was also a terrific -- Dorothy Height, who I got an opportunity to meet, who is in her late 90s and she is smart and sharp and clear and focused and it was an honor to sit down and meet her. She's still chairing board meetings, you know. This is amazing, so many amazing women.

KING: As Election Day draws nearer, are you getting nervous?

M. OBAMA: You know, I think there's so much work to do. You know, that's the beauty of being way too busy, that you're -- you know, you're just too busy to be nervous or anxious about anything. You know, what I just want to make sure is that people continue to be engaged.

I mean -- we're seeing the kind of turnout and engagement, you know, we're knocking on doors. We knocked on 100,000 doors in Missouri. We've made millions of phone calls.

I want our troops to continue to be engaged and to run through the finish line because, again, this isn't about the win in November, this is about leading long beyond that.

KING: Are you surprised that McCain pulled out of Michigan?

M. OBAMA: No, I mean, I didn't -- I don't have a reaction because I don't know their strategy.

KING: Have you been to Michigan?

M. OBAMA: Oh yes. I was in Michigan -- I was in Michigan twice last week. I did a debate watch party and a rally and the weekend before that, the Bidens and Barack and I, we did a big rally with over 30,000 people in Detroit.

But again, we're still playing hard in every state that we're focused on because again, it's not just about winning the state, but it's making sure that folks in Detroit, for example, are registered. That we increase those registration numbers so that people now get in the habit of being engaged in politics.

So it's not just about winning a state. It's about really changing how people view their role in democracy.

KING: It's an always an honor seeing you.

M. OBAMA: Thank you so much.

KING: Try to do one more visit before the election?

M. OBAMA: I would love to. I would love to.

KING: Loved having you.

M. OBAMA: Thank you.


KING: Our first lady, Michelle Obama. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.