Entries in Vanity Fair (2)


Obama Won't Feign Emotion, Outrage

JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImage(WASHINGTON) -- Ahead of his convention address tomorrow night, President Obama tells Vanity Fair that he's best when he believes what he's saying and, despite being known for his cool demeanor, he feels it's insulting for him to fake emotion.

"For me to feign outrage, for example, feels to me like I’m not taking the  American people seriously. I’m absolutely positive that I’m serving the American people better if I’m maintaining my authenticity. And that’s an overused word. And these days people practice being authentic. But I’m at my best when I believe what I am saying," the president told financial writer and best-selling author Michael Lewis in a wide-ranging interview, to be published in the October issue of Vanity Fair.

Obama said it's important for him to stay connected to Americans to avoid being overwhelmed by the decisions he faces.

“One of my most important tasks is making sure I stay open to people, and the meaning of what I’m doing, but not to get so overwhelmed by it that it’s paralyzing. Option one is to go through the motions. That I think is a disaster for a president. But there is the other danger,” he told Lewis, according to excerpts of the interview released today. “There are times when I have to save it and let it out at the end of the day.”
Being president is a game of probabilities, according to Obama. You need to have the confidence to own the decisions you make.

“Nothing comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable,” Obama told Lewis. “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 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision. You can’t be paralyzed by the fact that it might not work out.”  

One way to tackle the weight of the office, Obama explained, is to stay active.

“You have to exercise,” he said, “or at some point you’ll just break down.”

Obama, who sports high-tops stamped with "44" when he plays basketball, according to Lewis, also said it's important to stick to a routine.

“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” he told Lewis. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Michael Lewis, the author of The Big Short and Moneyball, was granted extensive access to the president. Reporters have spotted the author on several recent trips with the president and at the White House.

[Full excerpts can be read here.]

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Biography Reveals a Young Barack Obama in Love

John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Accounts of a young Barack Obama chronicled by one of his former girlfriends have shed new light on his reserved demeanor, detailing the “guardedness” of a young man searching for his identity.

In his new biography of the president, author David Maraniss publishes love letters and journal entries from Genevieve Cook, who met the 22-year-old Obama at a New York Christmas party in 1983. Excerpts published in Vanity Fair offer a new glimpse into the president’s years after graduating from Columbia University.

During the course of their roughly year-long romantic relationship, Cook chronicled a man who was charming and intelligent, but also distant and emotionally unreachable.

“The sexual warmth is definitely there -- but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all,” Cook wrote in her journal in February 1984. “I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive. [Tho] he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness – and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me.”

In a letter a month later, she told Obama that he has something of a “smoothed veneer,” a “guardedness” that she ultimately terms “the veil.”

Looking back at that period of his life, Obama admitted to Maraniss in a White House interview that he was “deep inside my own a way that in retrospect I don’t think was real healthy.”

Maraniss portrays a future president struggling with race and identity. Was the young man, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, with Kansan and Kenyan roots, foreign or American? Black or white?

In a letter to a previous girlfriend, the president wrote, “Caught without a class, a structure, or tradition to support me, in a sense the choice to take a different path is made for me. The only way to assuage my feelings of isolation are to absorb all the traditions [and] classes; make them mine, me theirs.”

While this is the first time the public is learning her name, Cook is referenced in the president’s memoir Dreams From My Father, in which he describes her as the white woman he met in New York.

Maraniss writes in Vanity Fair, “Early in Barack’s relationship with Genevieve, he had told her about ‘his adolescent image of the perfect ideal woman’ and how he had searched for her ‘at the expense of hooking up with available girls.’ Who was this ideal woman? Genevieve conjured her in her mind, and it was someone other than herself. She wrote, ‘I can’t help thinking that what he would really want, be powerfully drawn to, was a woman, very strong, very upright, a fighter, a laugher, well-experienced -- a black woman I keep seeing her as.’”

In his book, the president describes taking his New York girlfriend to a play by a black playwright and later fighting with her over race. “She couldn’t be black, she said,” Obama wrote. The president later acknowledged in talking with Maraniss that the incident did not involve Cook.

“That was an example of compression I was very sensitive in my book not to write about my girlfriends, partly out of respect for them,” the president told him.

Obama’s relationship with Cook is described by Maraniss as the “deepest romantic relationship of his young life,” and yet “when she told him that she loved him, his response was not ‘I love you, too’ but ‘thank you' -- as though he appreciated that someone loved him.”

Cook and Obama ultimately broke up in 1985. “I guess I hoped time would change things and he’d let go and ‘fall in love’ with me. Now, at this point, I’m left wondering if Barack’s reserve, etc. is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he’s sorted his life through with age and experience,” Cook wrote at the time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio