The New York Times' new mega-interview with President Obama won't appear in print until this weekend, but an online preview is already generating plenty of chatter in the political class. No wonder, says Chris Stirewalt at Fox News. This 8,000-word "inside-the-White-House account of trouble and turmoil in the Obama administration" is chock full juicy tidbits. Here are several of the key takeaways:
1. I let myself be portrayed as "the same old tax and spend liberal," says Obama
The president's tacit admission that he allowed the Republicans to paint him as a "tax-and-spend liberal" has garnered most headlines. "Republicans were quick to jump on the president's comments," says Dave Cook at The Christian Science Monitor. The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a press release calling Obama a "self-proclaimed 'tax and spend Democrat.'" In this heated pre-election climate, "presidential candor — even in limited amounts — can be politically awkward."
2. Huckabee is viewed as a GOP frontrunner
White House aides tell Baker they think Sarah Palin won't run, and Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions will be thwarted by his Massachusetts health care program. "If they had to guess today," writes Baker, "some in the White House say that Obama will find himself running against Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor." That's laughable, says Howard Fineman on MSNBC's "Hardball." They just named "the character they're least afraid of."
3. Obama the introvert
"Insulation is a curse of every president," writes Baker, but "Obama comes across as an introvert" more than any commander-in-chief since Carter. While he's fine in front of an "impersonal" audience of 80,000, he isn't good at talking to smaller groups of people. "Unlike Clinton, who never met a rope line he did not want to work, Obama does not relish glad-handing."
4. He's a fan of taupe
Obama recognizes that not everyone is a fan of his makeover of the Oval Office. "I know Arianna doesn't like it," he says, "but I like taupe." The Huffington Post founder was certainly critical of the revamp, notes Zeke Turner at the New York Observer. "We are waiting for Ms. Huffington to put pictures of her house and workspace on the internet so that Mr Obama... can say what they look like."
5. A Republican Obama trusts? Rep. Paul Ryan
Pushed to name a Republican he "trusts enough to work with on economic issues," Obama singled out Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who drew up a much-discussed "roadmap" proposal for GOP spending cuts. But Ryan is doubtful he and the president would find much to agree on, says Philip Klein at The American Spectator. The congressman tells Klein: "What I’m proposing is so antithetical to his ideology, that I’d just have a hard time believing he would embrace anything close to it."
6. Obama is just like Bush...
Although the two men are ideologically-opposed, Obama shares many of George W. Bush's presidential characteristics, writes Baker. "Obama says the easy issues never make it to him, only the hard ones; Bush often said the same thing. Obama says our war with terrorists will never end in a surrender ceremony; Bush often said the same thing. Obama says he does not want to kick problems down the road; Bush often said the same thing." Like Bush, Obama is extremely punctual — and like Bush, he "rarely revisits" a decision once he has made it.
7. ... but also like Clinton
The president is also like the previous Democratic resident of the White House, notes Baker. Clinton would mock Republicans during the 1994 midterms for not being "serious" about balancing the budget. "In our conversation, Obama used some variation of the phrase 'they're not serious' four times in referring to Republican budget plans." Both men are obsessed with the "intellectual underpinnings of a policy decision."
8. He has very few regrets
Obama steadfastly defends the policy decisions he has made, says Baker, and his aides agree. "What you do not hear in the White House is much questioning of the basic elements of the program," he writes. The problems instead lie with "the Republicans, the news media, the lobbyists, the whole Washington culture." Indeed, the president "acknowledges almost no regrets, no inclination to shift strategy in any major way" in this interview, says Michael Scherer at Time. "If Obama is right, then when the circumstances shift, he will be vindicated." But if he's wrong, then his "refusal to shift approach may only confirm the belief that it is all his fault."
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