(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.]
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