Obama to Moneyball Scribe: What It's Like to Be Prez

Author got unusually extensive access for Vanity Fair piece on leadership
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2012 11:47 AM CDT
Obama to Moneyball Scribe: What It's Like to Be Prez
President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office after arriving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 4, 2012.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Obama's working wardrobe is sparse, a collection of similar blue and gray suits. "I'm trying to pare down decisions," he explains. "I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." That's just one of the nuggets the president revealed to author Michael Lewis (of Moneyball and Liar's Poker fame), in an extensive series of interviews to be published in October's Vanity Fair. The magazine today previews the piece, which focuses on leadership. "Teach me how to be president," Lewis asked. Here's what Obama said:

  • On his duty to the American people: Obama says he views every decision through that lens. "I don’t know George Bush well. I know Bill Clinton better. But I think they both approached the job in that spirit."
  • On the decisions he does make: "Nothing comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable. Otherwise, someone else would have solved it. So you wind up dealing with probabilities. Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30% to 40% chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that."
  • On the loss of serendipity: "You can't wander around. … You don't bump into a friend in a restaurant you haven't seen in years. The loss of anonymity and the loss of surprise is an unnatural state. You adapt, but you don't get used to it—at least I don't."
  • Living in the White House: "The first night you sleep in the White House, you're thinking, All right. I'm in the White House. I'm sleeping here. … There's a little bit of a sense of absurdity. There is such an element of randomness in who gets this job."
  • On that president guy: "One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama. That’s not you. Whether it is good or bad, it is not you."
For more, check the source. (More Michael Lewis stories.)

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