Paula Abdul Feels Threatened By Kara DioGuardi As American Idol Judge

Paula Abdul Feels Threatened By Kara DioGuardi As American Idol Judge

Kara DioGuardi joins the show today in NY for the first round of auditions, where she'll meet her co-panelists face to face. When asked whether her judging style falls into the nicer, Randy/Paula brand of criticism or on Simon's blunt, sometimes forceful end, DioGuardi says she's not similar to anybody.

"I have my own style ... I'm honest," she says, "And pretty feisty."

Just hours after the announcement that "American Idol" will be adding a fourth judge, Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi, for the show's eighth season, Paula Abdul said she has concerns about the newcomer.

Paula said on Phoenix's KISS-FM that she's excited about DioGuardi coming aboard, according to, but added: "I am concerned about the audience and acceptance. Time will tell. We'll see."

She said that DioGuardi was added because the show's producers "wanted to try a change," and noted that the show "always tried for a fourth judge because it followed the format of the original show, 'Pop Idol.' We haven't had much luck with that working, but we're gonna give it another try."

Abdul replied with a "nope!" when asked if the four judges — Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, along with DioGuardi and herself — have sat down and given their chemistry a test run. She said DioGuardi will be involved in "everything" related to "Idol," adding that the judges are currently in New York for "Idol" auditions (for which "American Idol" expert Jim Cantiello tried out last week). "We shoot tomorrow," she added.

Abdul admitted that the presence of a fourth judge complicates the judging process.

"That's gonna be weird if it's a split decision," she said. "I'm sure Simon will get to make the final [call]. It takes the fun out of all the hard work I do to push those kids through."

Michelle Obama Stands By Her Man At The Democratic National Convention

Michelle Obama takes center stage at the Democratic convention before some 4,400 delegates and millions more glued to their televisions at home, to proudly proclaim to the world why she believes her husband should be elected president of the United States. She is expected to deliver a passionate speech in support of Barack Obama's historic bid for the White House.

She will need to do more than introduce herself as a potential first lady Monday night when she takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention in front of a nationwide TV audience.

The setting gives her an opportunity to reinvent herself after being portrayed by Republicans as unpatriotic for saying during the primaries that her husband’s campaign made her proud of America “for the first time.”

“She has been by all accounts a polarizing figure in this campaign,” NPR Correspondent Juan Williams said Monday. Williams, a FOX News contributor, said the “proud” comment defined her for a lot of voters.

“It’s off-putting to a lot of people, but especially to middle-of-the-road white America,” Williams said. “So tonight she wants to reinvent herself. She wants to say, ‘Hey, listen, that’s a distortion, a caricature of who I really am.’”

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a family of modest means. She fought her way into Princeton, and later to Harvard Law School, and began dating Obama while working at a corporate law firm in Chicago. They’ve been married for 15 years.

In the primaries, she was dubbed “the Closer” for her ability to persuade undecided voters to come on board. Now she’s the opener, the first-night star called upon to testify about her husband’s vision and values.

Like any candidate’s spouse, she is in the unique position of knowing the presumptive nominee best. Barack Obama has made no secret of how much he values his wife’s insight.

Asked by pastor Rick Warren at a forum last week whom he’d rely on most for advice in his administration, Obama said: “That’s Michelle, my wife, who is not only wise, but she’s honest. And one of the things you need … is somebody who can get up in your face and say, ‘boy, you really screwed that one up’.”

Not everyone is so trusting.

To a large extent, Michelle Obama faces a task that no other potential first lady has: She must reassure voters that she loves her country. Obama has said that her statement about being proud of America for the first time referred to having pride in the political process.

But the critics have not let up, to a point where her husband told people to “lay off my wife,” and the Obama campaign created a Web site solely to counter innuendo about both of them.

A summer AP-Yahoo News poll found the public hasn’t taken to her yet. Respondents were more apt to dislike her than Republican candidate John McCain’s wife, Cindy. But polls also show that Americans don’t know either woman well.

For many voters, her speech Monday night will be her debut on the public stage. While she has campaigned solo for her husband, some of the heaviest TV coverage she has received has been the Republican videos criticizing her “proud” remarks.

Michael Steele, former Republican lieutenant governor of Maryland, said Michelle Obama alone is responsible for her image, and that her speech is a chance to counter that.

“I think what she wants to accomplish is to show America that she’s a mom, she’s a wife, she’s a businesswoman … and that she is capable of being the first lady of this country,” Steele said. “And her challenge tonight is to do that in the context of perceptions, real or imagined, that Americans have of her. Some would say militant, some would say anti-American.”

Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis said he thinks Michelle Obama will be able to express her personal story of accomplishment as well as a full picture of what she and her husband are fighting for and why.

But Kirsten Powers, a FOX News political analyst, said Michelle Obama should not talk too much about herself.

“Michelle Obama really needs to connect with ordinary people and she needs to promote her husband, not herself,” Powers said.

Mrs. Obama did a walk-through at the Pepsi Center Monday afternoon with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. Both girls stood at the podium and practiced pounding the gavel.

The Obamas, their days of financial struggles well behind them, reported making $4.2 million last year.

Williams said Obama’s race is playing a big factor in the way she’s being portrayed.

“I think it’s also a factor that she’s an educated professional black woman,” he said. “It’s as if you’re adding multipliers to this math problem. This is someone who’s had strong statements about race in America, she’s had strong feelings about how she’s been treated by whites. … This really is a unique individual and so many of the issues and controversies that swirl around her might not pertain to every black woman who was going be a potential first lady, but it does apply to her.”

Michelle Obama, The Power Behind Barack Obama

In the past year, Michelle Obama has been on the campaign trail, often standing in for her husband, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama. In doing so, the potential first lady has put her own career on hold.

Trained as an attorney, Michelle Obama left the legal field early. She has spent most of her career in the public and nonprofit sectors. And like many working women, Obama says she has struggled to balance her professional and family life.

At a recent luncheon in Chicago, the applause swelled as Obama, taller than most in the room at 5-foot-11, strode to the podium.

"[I'm] always living with the guilt that if I'm spending too much time at work, then I'm not giving enough time to my girls," she said to the mostly female audience. "And then if I'm with my girls, then I'm not doing enough for work — or you name it. It's a guilt that we all live with in this room. Can I hear an amen?"

Her Early Career

Michelle Obama's maiden name is Robinson. After she earned degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law School, Michelle took her first job at the Chicago office of Sidley Austin, where she was part of the firm's marketing and intellectual-property practice groups. Published reports say Michelle Robinson worked on teams representing AT&T and Union Carbide. She met Barack Obama while at the firm, mentored him, then left the job after three years.

In 1991, Michelle Robinson was hired as a mayoral assistant by Valerie Jarrett, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's chief of staff. Jarrett is now Michelle Obama's close friend and a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. Michelle Obama was not available for an interview, but NPR spoke with Jarrett.

"Usually, when issues get to the mayor's office, they have worked their way through the bureaucracy. And the problems are sufficiently complicated that it takes somebody with a very level head and an honest broker and a sense of right and wrong and reason to sort them through," Jarrett says. "So we were looking for a person who could help us do that, and Michelle was outstanding at that."

During her time at City Hall, Michelle Robinson became an assistant planning commissioner. That's also when she married Barack Obama.

His and her professional lives crossed again when Barack recommended Michelle to head up the new Chicago office of Public Allies, a leadership training group for young adults. He was a former board member.

Michelle Obama was a mentor to many of the young staff and created the organization's professional template, according to Public Allies' CEO Paul Schmitz.

"The mission of the organization was to identify and develop this next generation of nonprofit and community leaders. And Michelle interpreted that as trying to really find the people with the greatest passion for making a difference in their communities, regardless of their background — and helping turn that passion into a viable career path," Schmitz says. "And so that's a model that she really solidified for us that we've kept to this day — this belief that leadership has to come from all parts of the community."

Joining The University Of Chicago

After leaving Public Allies, Michelle Obama's next job was at the University of Chicago. First, she worked as the associate dean of student services. She left that position to work for the University of Chicago Hospitals.

The university's former CEO, Michael Riordan, who hired Michelle Obama, said her commitment to both family and work was front and center.

When she interviewed for the hospital job, Michelle brought her daughter Sasha, an infant at the time. Sasha slept while her mother got the details about the executive director of community affairs position.

In her hospital role, "What she helped us do was bring together sort of a strategy," Riordan says. Her approach, he adds, was to "have an asset-based view of the community. Go in. See what they're strong at and then build on from that.'"

Obama collaborated with churches and community groups. She recruited volunteers, increased staff diversity and worked with clinics and physicians to provide primary care to low-income patients who would otherwise use the emergency room.

Professional Life Under Scrutiny

After her husband won a U.S. Senate seat in 2004, Michelle Obama's professional life began to come under scrutiny. An online video said she received a pay increase of $195,000 just months after her husband was sworn in.

Obama was promoted to a vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals; her salary nearly tripled, from $122,000 to $316,000 a year.

"A lot of people help mentor young people; a lot of people help teach," says former political consultant Joe Novak, who runs a Web site that criticizes the health care industry and another that is critical of the Obamas. "But when she got to the power of influence about being married to a U.S. senator, about being the wife of a rock star, what did she do to affect positive change? What she did is help a hospital, a not-for-profit hospital, carry out a strategy of maximizing profits."

Former hospital chief Riordan calls the criticism of Michelle Obama silly, and he says Barack Obama was not a factor in her promotion or her raise.

"If you want good people to solve difficult issues, I think the market sort of sets what's the price that we have to pay to attract and keep those people," Riordan says.

Last year, Michelle Obama resigned from the board of Tree House Foods, which sells products to Wal-Mart, citing increased demands on her time. The resignation came after her husband said he wouldn't shop at the store because its workers are not unionized.

A Work-And-Family Focus

Now on leave from her hospital job, Michelle Obama works voluntarily to help elect her husband president. She has not said what issues she would champion if they make it to the White House, but discussing work and family remains her agenda on the campaign trail.

"If there's one thing that I've seen out there, as I've traveled around the country over this last year, is that women need an advocate in the White House now more than ever before," she has said.

If her husband does not win his presidential bid, will Michelle Obama resume her career? Her good friend Valerie Jarrett says that's a hypothetical that's not being considered.