To get a brief reprieve from the pressures of working in the White House, Kristina Schake, a former aide to the first lady, Michelle Obama, took a class about her favorite painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. She noticed that the Italian painter often showed Christ with bare feet, portraying his subject as a common man.
It was a lesson that informed Ms. Schake’s job in the East Wing when, as Mrs. Obama’s communications chief, she encouraged the first lady to take an undercover shopping trip to a Target in suburban Alexandria, Va., to showcase her dance moves on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and to make a cameo at the Oscars.
Positioning a public figure is not exactly the work of a Baroque master, and a trip to Target does not a work of-art make. Nevertheless, the lesson from Caravaggio was clear in Ms. Schake’s approach.Having helped shape Mrs. Obama’s public image into that of an accessible everywoman, Ms. Schake is about to face what may be her toughest challenge yet: working to get another first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, elected president.
Can you spell “worshipful”? Times writer Amy Chozick sure can!
Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to announce her candidacy this month, has brought Ms. Schake, 45, to her 2016 communications team to try to tackle an issue that dogged the 2008 Clinton campaign. Back then, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers argued she should emphasize strength and experience, rather than her softer side, a strategic decision that Ann Lewis, a senior adviser in that race, has called the “biggest missed opportunity” in the failed 2008 primary contest against Barack Obama.
Now, after two decades in the public eye, Mrs. Clinton must try to show voters a self-effacing, warm and funny side that her friends say reflects who she really is. In short, she must counteract an impression that she is just “likeable enough,” as Mr. Obama famously quipped in 2008. As the campaign’s presumptive deputy communications director, Ms. Schake will be behind the effort to transport the Hillary Brand beyond paid campaign television ads, policy discussions and the requisite sit-down with a nightly news anchor.
Ah, the famous “self-effacing, warm and funny side.” Who doesn’t remember that?
Read on, if you have the stomach for it.