Michelle Obama says she didn’t know about the bin Laden raid in advance

Apparently the president’s wife was just as in the dark as the rest of us about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound May 1. As hard as it is to imagine that President Obama didn’t confide in his wife about what must have been one of the most agonizing periods in his life — ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Apparently the president's wife was just as in the dark as the rest of us about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound May 1. As hard as it is to imagine that President Obama didn't confide in his wife about what must have been one of the most agonizing periods in his life -- the tense lead up to the raid -- Michelle Obama says she didn't know.  

I knew something was happening, but when it gets down to that level of secrecy, there's just a small number of people who know anything ... I was actually out to dinner with girlfriends, and I didn't know until I walked in the door. It was later in the evening, and Barack had his suit on, because he was going to the press conference. And I said, 'What's going on?'

Her reaction, when she found out?

Apparently the president’s wife was just as in the dark as the rest of us about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound May 1. As hard as it is to imagine that President Obama didn’t confide in his wife about what must have been one of the most agonizing periods in his life — the tense lead up to the raid — Michelle Obama says she didn’t know.  

I knew something was happening, but when it gets down to that level of secrecy, there’s just a small number of people who know anything … I was actually out to dinner with girlfriends, and I didn’t know until I walked in the door. It was later in the evening, and Barack had his suit on, because he was going to the press conference. And I said, ‘What’s going on?’

Her reaction, when she found out?

I was, like, ‘Wow.’ Then I wanted to know the details: ‘How did it happen? Then what? And then what happened?’ I was probably like every media person … And then I sat down and talked to Malia to make sure she was aware, because the crowds [outside the White House] were starting to form.

Even Joe Biden — with his reputation for not always knowing when to keep his mouth shut — kept the secret from his wife. In a joint AARP Magazine interview with the first lady, Jill Biden said: "Joe left early and was gone all day. Didn’t come home for a meal-nothing. So I knew something was happening, but I thought it was about Libya. [When I heard,] I was grading papers and watching TV."

Coming up on the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the magazine also asked the first lady where she was that day.

I’ll never forget, because it was Malia’s first day of preschool. It was a beautiful, crisp, bright day. And I remember feeling optimistic that my little girl was going off to school, and the world for her was just opening up. We were in the car, and I had NPR on and thought, ‘What does this mean for my daughter’s life now? Has the world fundamentally been changed? Are we now a nation at war?’ So for me it was about the future.

Robert Zeliger is News Editor of Foreign Policy.

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