last week's presidential debate, but First Lady Michelle Obama prefers to look at the bigger picture.
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"You know, I'm biased," she told Yahoo! Shine on Tuesday during a small roundtable discussion before a rally in Leesburg, Virginia. "I think my husband has done a phenomenal job, not just in the debates, but over these last three and a half years, and I continue to just be in awe at how poised and consistent and honest he is, his ability to lay out a detailed, common-sense plan."
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Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation with the first lady:
What did you think about the President's performance during the debate?
I don't feel the horse-race of it. We just don't spend a lot of time talking about it. I'm so proud of him, and I make sure that he knows it every single day. We went out for our anniversary dinner and then, right after the debate, he left for a 35,000-person rally in Madison, Wisconsin. So what we always see… there's sort of the scrum, and then there's what's happening out in the world—that 35,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin, feel so passionate about this race that they want to make sure they're engaged.
How did you feel while watching the debate?
You saw the Olympics, with the video of the gymnasts' parents who were watching? That's how I feel. But you can't gesture, you can't yell, "Go, Baby! Yes!"
So I'm there, squeezing my hand, trying to make sure that I'm paying attention. On convention night, when we were back stage, the one thing he was saying [to their daughters] was "Just look like you're listening!"
The girls still don't have that focused poker face. So sometimes, they're at an event and they're like (she slumps down in her seat and looks bored).
Your girls have grown up so much over the last four years, right before our eyes. Do they ever have advice for you and your husband before big public events?
No. You know, they are so far removed from this world. I get so removed from this, because I get back home and into our lives and it is so not this. So, yesterday [on Columbus Day], I hosted a doggie play date. Literally. This has been a goal of Sasha's for quite sometime because she's really feeling, on top of everything else I have to worry about, that Bo does not have enough dog interaction.
They're just not connected [to politics]. Malia is just now asking me about my job when I was a vice president of the hospital. We just had a conversation about that this weekend, because now she's old enough to think about "Why did you do that job?" and "How did you feel about it?" Malia is just now starting to care about what we do because now she's getting into that stage where she's thinking about who she wants to be and how do you make decisions about careers. We just had that conversation. That's the first time she ever asked me about what I did in the hospital.
They don't ask about the election. They don't care.
How do you and the President keep work from invading your family life?
It's very easy to get out of the campaign mode and the worry about the debate or the polls or this or that, because when I go home, I'm still trying to figure out what they're [Malia and Sasha] are going to do this summer, what did that conversation mean, what lessons are we learning? There are still those everyday lessons that I feel are really important to have, to keep walking them through life.
And we do talk about Facebook and cameras. I think what they are more acutely aware of is that they are more… people have cameras everywhere. I think they're one of the first kids in the White House growing up where everybody has a cell phone and everybody is watching. You can't go off on somebody, you can't act bratty, because you may be having a moment, but somebody could use that moment and try to define you forever.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew in 2008?
I think it's still "Don't sweat the small stuff." Which is not new—it's something my mother says all the time—but I think a lot of the worries about how our family would adjust and how we could keep them whole, I think, underlying all of what happened in 2008 was just that worry. We were just tumbling into this life. What's it going to be? I'm sure that was in the back of my mind, with every rally with every move forward, it's like, "What are we moving into and what's this going to mean for our family?"
Now, I think I'm more comfortable knowing that "We are home." Wherever we are, whether we're in the White House or on the South Side of Chicago, whether it's in a little condominium, whether Dad's the president or Dad's not. Things are OK because the real importance of life is the family you build. I've experienced that, out of my comfort zone, so now I know we can do this.
What is the most difficult thing for you about the last four years?
Let me preface this: I have a hard time complaining about this job, especially in light of what real issues people have. But I can't walk outside. I can't take my dog for a walk—we have to have a doggy play date. The loss of privacy, the loss of anonymity. Trying to find a place where you can go and people watch, where you can just watch the world and no one even notices.
It's important for our daughters and our granddaughters to understand that you're always fighting, you're always in there, you always have to vote. It's not just about one election. It's a forever battle, and voting is our most powerful non-violent tool for change. If you want to define the country that you're going to inherit, then you've got to vote. Whatever you believe, vote. You don't have to agree with this party, but you've got to vote, and you've got to pay attention.