In the article “Obama’s Way,” Vanity Fair writer Michael Lewis provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the conviction and decisions of the most powerful man in the world, at one moment an aggressive basketball player and the next debating whether to send young Coloradans into battles thousands of miles from U.S. soil. The president offered Lewis unusual access, letting him join the president’s unpublicized basketball games and see parts of Air Force One that most reporters are not allowed to see.
Here’s are four lessons about the president from the piece:
1. Obama likes challenges.
16 stitches. That’s what happened after Mr. Obama took an elbow to the face in a pick-up basketball game in 2010. Rather than have his group take it easy on him in subsequent games, the president asked his accompanying medic to bring a mouth guard next time.
In 2009, the commander-in-chief of the United States was presented with a Nobel Peace Prize. It was delicate situation. At that point, Obama had done little as president to deserve such an honor. But after his speechwriters came up with a draft he didn’t love, the president opted to write his speech himself.
“There are certain speeches that I have to write myself,” the president tells Lewis. “There are times when I’ve got to capture what the essence of the thing is.”
2. The president does not love the image of him presented in the press.
The president constantly talks about how he watches ESPN and expresses frequent disdain for CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. When one staffer accidentally switched the channel to cable news on Air Force One, Obama watched as the hosts and pundits described Obama’s thinking process, but quickly walked out, annoyed.
“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,” the president said. “Whether it is good or bad, it is not you. I learned that on the campaign.”
3. Obama agrees with Bush: the president is “the decider.”
The article traces the complicated path Obama toward in deciding to intervene in Libya last year.
“Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work,” he said. “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.”
4. He doesn’t sweat some of the small stuff.
The president does pick out his own clothes. But the president tells Lewis he sticks to wearing blue, gray and black suits not out of a lack of style or adventure, but to save his mind for other decisions. The president laments the fact that his life no longer has any spontaneity, but says he’s adapted.
“My wife makes fun of how routinized I’ve become,” he says. “It’s not my natural state.”
One thing that hasn’t changed? His 7:30am workouts. Located above his second floor bedroom, Obama works out most mornings for an hour and believes that without staying active the job of being president would exhaust him.