What is the president's working day like? Thanks to Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum, we now have a fair idea. The journalist was allowed to spend 24 hours in the Oval Office earlier in the summer observing the White House staff and learning about Obama's daily routine. What he discovered was "a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives." Here are five key revelations from Purdum's article:
1. Obama gets to work at the same time as you do
Although the president rises at dawn, he doesn't sit down in the Oval Office until "just before 9:30," according to Purdum. Obama's early morning is much like that of any other hardworking, middle-aged dad: a 45-minute stint in the gym, followed by breakfast with his family and a skim of the morning's papers. Of course, before his working day begins he also reads the president's Daily Brief, a "classified summary" of intelligence, news, and rumors from around the world to which few working dads have access. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is usually at his desk by 7:30.
2. Welcome to "F--knutsville"
The main thing you notice from spending time in the White House is that Washington is "broken," writes Purdum. Not only is Congress mired in "partisan gridlock," but there is also a "profusion of lobbyists," not to mention the most "hyperkinetic, souped-up, tricked-out, trivialized, and combative media environment any president has ever experienced." All of that has inspired the notoriously foul-mouthed Rahm Emanuel to invent a coarse nickname for the nation's capital: "F**knutsville."
3. Obama and Emanuel's Hawaii plans
From 9:30 a.m. until about 4:30 p.m., Obama's day is filled with meetings and briefings on everything from intelligence to the economy, federal activity, and foreign policy. "Every day feels like a week," reports Purdum. The White House agenda became so cluttered and stressful last December that Obama and his chief of staff joked they would quit it all to "open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii." Fed up with the difficult decisions of the presidency, the pair would "sell only one color and one size." Staff meetings would begin with Obama saying "white," and Emanuel replying "medium."
4. Dinner with Michelle and the kids
Obama's working day officially ends at 6 or 6:30 p.m. — though emails and calls from the president resume at 8:30 or so until late at night. In between, Obama makes time for a daily dinner with his wife and daughters, a "rare moment of perspective" in the fractious timetable of his presidential life. "He had a father who abandoned him," chief aide Valerie Jarrett tells Purdum, "and he always wanted to be a present and involved father." It is the only part of his day that is "sacrosanct."
5. Obama's drink of choice: A martini
The president is neither a high-living nor a hard-drinking man, but he allowed himself a "rare martini" on the night the health-care bill passed in the House. Junior staffers were given a tour of the Lincoln Bedroom, and the night ended at around 1:30 a.m. Obama admitted to being "out of sorts" the next morning, writes Purdum. "I never drink that late," the president complained to Emanuel.
Read the entire article at Vanity Fair.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 9 Harvard dropouts who became fabulously successful
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- How China sparked an Asian frenzy for killer submarines
- The real reason conservatives should be outraged that police killed a white youth
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- The dangers of our passionless American life
- 5 deliciously creative oats recipes
Subscribe to the Week