Michelle Obama asks Hillary for advice

POLITICS - Michelle Obama wasn’t always an admirer of Hillary Clinton, but last Wednesday the soon-to-be first lady dialed up the former first lady for pointers on protecting her two young daughters from the media maelstrom of the White House.

“Michelle may not have loved the senator, but she always respected how the Clintons raised Chelsea,” said a Clinton aide. “They need to talk. There just aren’t too many people who have shared that kind of experience.”

An aide briefed on Obama’s side of the chat said she was “grateful” for Clinton’s “pointers” on “raising children in the public eye.”

It’s the latest phase in the soap opera that is the Obama-Clinton alliance, where the two first families negotiate new personal relationships as Hillary Clinton wrestles with her own ambivalence about Barack Obama, a man she once competed with and then worked tirelessly to elect.

“Senator Clinton did not just check the box for Obama - she went all out for him, which says an awful lot about how important she felt this election was, what kind of character she has, and the positive state of their relationship,” said Chris Lehane, an aide to both John Kerry and Al Gore during their United States presidential bids.

Since the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton headlined about three dozen rallies and fundraisers – working rope-lines where well-wishers often lamented her exit from the race. Bill Clinton hosted about 20 events for Obama.

Obama responded by lavishing praise on the pair – after months of questioning the legacy of the Clinton White House. More importantly, he embraced much of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s domestic agenda, especially her health care and green jobs proposals.

People close to the New York senator say she is still struggling to define her role in the Senate following a jarring and unexpected loss. But she’s sure of one thing: she desperately wants to play a major role in crafting the health care reform Obama has pledged to introduce.

The Obama-Clinton relationship is less fraught on the personal front, where Clinton seems surprisingly eager to mentor Michelle Obama.

The incoming First Lady, who had been privately critical of Clinton during the primaries, first reached out to the former First Lady six weeks ago for advice on how to provide some semblance of normality for her young daughters Sasha and Malia.

“They talked for 30 minutes the first time,” said a Clinton insider. “It wasn’t just for show – it was a real conversation.”

Last week, on election night, it was Hillary Clinton making the call, congratulating Barack Obama on his victory and consoling him after the death of his grandmother. It won’t be their last conversation. During that chat, the president-elect vowed to schedule a sit-down meeting with the Clintons in the not-too-distant future.

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