President Obama reports that daughters Sasha and Malia are having a great time in Moscow during the second international swing of their summer vacation. Sasha was so excited that she woke her folks up at 4 a.m. to talk about the trip."Sasha this morning around 4 a.m. just wandered into our bed and plopped down and started chatting," Obama told CNN's Ed Henry
a few hours later. "That was sort of a highlight, although I'm a little groggy now as a consequence."
ABC's Jake Tapper
asked Obama if Sasha and Malia were having fun in Moscow.
"You know they're great travelers. Sasha was walking down one of the halls of the Kremlin yesterday. She had her trench coat on, had her pockets in her trench coat. We called her Agent 99; she just looked like she knew where she was going. I thought she was going to pull out her shoe phone," Obama said.
(The Agent 99 reference: Agent 99 was played by Barbara Feldon in "Get Smart," the 1960s TV comedy. She was the sharp foil to the bumbling Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. Smart's shoe phone in its day was quite a prop because back then, who could have imagined a wireless telephone?)
Sasha, 8 and Malia, who turned 11 on July 4, visited London and Paris last month, departing the weekend after school was out for the year. Their summer vacation includes sightseeing in Russia, Italy and Ghana, traveling with their folks, grandmother Marian Robinson and godmother, Eleanor Kaye Wilson.
Traveling with his kids, Obama told CNN, "You know it makes a huge difference. The girls are just a joy. And then Michelle just, she's always -- she's a star at home and abroad."
While Mrs. Obama was greeted as an international superstar in two previous trips to Europe, Russia may be harder to crack.
Catrina Stewart in her Associated Press report from Moscow concludes Mrs. Obama "might face a bigger challenge in winning over a Russian public that has scant respect for women who grab the limelight from their powerful husbands."
"The institution of first lady in Russia is still quite young," said Alyona Doletskaya, editor of Russian Vogue and doyenne of the Moscow fashion scene. "So there are no huge expectations on the part of Russian public."
The report continued, "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's wife, Svetlana, is pious and discreet and met her husband as a schoolgirl. She supports charity and the arts but has assumed no independent voice on issues. She dresses conservatively."
The Washington Post's Robin Givhan
also said Mrs. Obama faces a tough audience in Moscow:
"Gardening skills notwithstanding, Obama's early reception here has been tepid when compared with the hoopla she generated in London and France. On that trip, her first time overseas as first lady, she was hailed for her sense of style and her ability to stand designer-clad shoulder to shoulder with France's first lady and former supermodel Carla Bruni Sarkozy. Obama caused a minor international kerfuffle when she put her arm around the waist of Queen Elizabeth II, went rogue and hugged the royal torso.
"And she made a memorable visit to a girls' school in London, where she gave the students an emotional pep talk about self-esteem and personal achievement. The conversation in Western Europe was all about soft-focus glamour and spunky independence. Here, it is precisely the opposite.
"There is little breathless anticipation about Obama's visit. 'Is she coming?' asked Elena Ignatieva, a 24-year-old secretary puffing on a cigarette in central Moscow, less than a mile from where (the) presidential motorcade had just caused this city's already snarled traffic to grind to a halt. Where curiosity exists, it's focused on how Obama runs her home. 'I'd like to know how she raises her children,' said Alyona Memkova, 26, who was belted into a bright green trench coat -- another secretary on a cigarette break."
While the clothes and accessories Mrs. Obama's wears are scrutinized in U.S. media, Moscow's reaction to Mrs. Obama's wardrobe amounts to a big shrug, Givhan reports.
"There was virtually no interest here -- in Russian headlines or interviews since the first lady's arrival -- in the coral-hued coat and Narciso Rodriguez dress that Obama had on as she stepped off Air Force One into an unseasonably cold July afternoon, and which she later wore, with flats, to the Kremlin, where her husband laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier," reports Givhan. "Afterward, she and daughters Malia and Sasha toured the historic site, which sits alongside Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral. There were curious onlookers as the family's motorcade snaked through the streets, but no cheering or waving throngs."
On the first day of her Moscow trip, Mrs. Obama toured an orphanage run by St. Dmitriy's Sisters of Mercy of the Moscow Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Reuters is reporting Tuesday that Mrs. Obama's own diplomatic efforts found a welcome audience. "With a constant grin and easy manner, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama charmed Russian children and nurses on Tuesday while her husband conducted summit diplomacy in Moscow.
"On day two of their trip, the wife of U.S. President Barack Obama visited a school for poor children and a nursing college, both attached to a Russian Orthodox cathedral a 15-minute drive from the Kremlin.
"'The work you do is very important,' she told a group of 22 nurses. 'Thank you for your warm hearts.'
The enraptured nurses grinned back at Obama -- who wore a slender, sleeveless, black and white knee-length dress -- and clutched her hand when she thanked them all personally."
Next stop: Italy.