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One-on-one with Michelle Obama

  • Story Highlights
  • "There's nothing rational about politics," says Michelle Obama
  • Obama admires, supports her husband and gives her "unbiased opinion"
  • O'Brien sees Obama as pretty, calm, thoughtful and passionate
  • Harvard-educated Obama wants to be identified as a devoted mother
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By Soledad O'Brien
CNN
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CNN's Soledad O'Brien talks one-on-one with Michelle Obama, who speaks candidly about the joy of motherhood, campaign fashion, politics: the sport, and the working woman's impossible juggling act.

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Michelle Obama tell CNN's Soledad O'Brien her thoughts on politics and family Friday in Chicago.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- If Michelle Obama is tired, she doesn't show it.

She arrives at our interview with perfect make-up and public relations person in tow, and laughs about how hard it was to get her husband, presidential candidate Barack Obama, to understand that what she wears on the campaign trail actually matters.

If anything, she comes across as a realist. When I ask if it's annoying to think about her clothes while she's out stumping for her husband, she shrugs, "it just is."

In fact she says, "there's nothing rational about politics." And it took a little convincing for her to support her husband's presidential ambitions.

But now she's in it all the way. And it's true, you can't miss the fabulous patent-leather boots. They were a big hit, she tells me, in Iowa.

The first thing you notice about Michelle Obama is her calm demeanor -- she seems unflappable; impossible to startle. She laughs easily and doesn't take herself too seriously. She's pretty, stands about 6 feet tall, and is thoughtful and passionate.

We compare the ages of our children: Hers are 6 and 9, both girls. My girls are 7 and 5, and my twin boys are 3. "Twins?" she laughs. Then she gives me a two-handed high-five.

For days, my family and friends bombarded me with e-mails to ask Michelle -- ask about race, they say. Ask about the mudslinging, about her kids. Ask if she's ready to raise young girls in the public eye.

Of the last question, she says: "I think my 9-year-old is a little, has a little trepidation because of that ... and we are going to do our best to make sure that we protect them and make sure that they continue to be the center of our lives even in the midst of all this turmoil."

In fact, If Michelle Obama wants to be identified as anything, it is a devoted mother. That might be a tough sell, considering her education (Princeton, Harvard Law School).

Her job as a hospital executive at the University of Chicago is on hold while she's on the campaign trail, and I ask her if it's been hard to give up her career. Before I finish the question, she says "no." What gives her joy is her role of mother.

What would she do as first lady? She doesn't aspire to an official adviser position in her husband's administration. In fact, Michelle Obama says, "I don't have any burning desire to be involved in policy." She thinks she could do more, in her role as first lady, by focusing on the impossible juggling act working women, like the two of us, try to pull off every day.

"And if we're struggling, just imagine with folks who are getting up, working shift jobs where they don't have the flexibility to go see their kids' ballet performances, where they don't get sick days off, where they don't have insurance, they don't have access to quality and affordable childcare," she says. Video Watch Michelle Obama talk with Soledad O'Brien »

If you watched Thursday's presidential debate, you probably noticed that the tone of the two top Democratic candidates' campaigns has changed a lot lately, from less mean to almost laughably civil. Obama won't take the bait when I ask her about former President Bill Clinton's comment that electing her husband was "a risk," a "roll of the dice." She deflects. "It's politics as a game, it's a sport. What I get impatient with is politics as a game".

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Yet she speaks about "the other candidates" -- um, that would be Hillary Clinton, I say. She smiles but won't name names. "I don't want to be criticized", she says, but in a way, that shows she's really not too worried about being criticized.

She's on message about Barack, whom she loves and supports and admires, and she wants the world to know more about him: "There is no one in this race who can bring about a whole different view of who we are and how the rest of the world sees us. That's just a fact," she smiles, "in my unbiased opinion," she laughs. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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