The Obama Tapes

The Obama Tapes

This week’s issue of the magazine contains “Going the Distance,” a portrait of Barack Obama, drawn from interviews with the President at the White House and on Air Force One during a fund-raising swing through Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. There was also an on-the-record call just as the piece was closing for publication. I think I will get no argument that the piece was long enough, thank you, but there were some moments that further illustrated the President’s capacity to argue both sides of a question and, when needed, to opt for a magnanimous non-answer rather than launch a rhetorical missile. So, for the record …

First of all, yes, I did ask about Chris Christie—and got nowhere quick. Obama’s answer fell into the magnanimous non-answer category. (“Well, I like Christie personally, and we’ve had a good working relationship on specific issues like the Hurricane Sandy recovery,” he said. “Beyond that, David, I just don’t have enough facts to offer a judgment.”) I think it is safe to say that Obama saw no advantage in stepping into that particular puddle.

And, yes, I also asked about “Duty,” the new memoir by Robert Gates, who served as Defense Secretary for both George W. Bush and Obama—and who was, at times, critical of both. Gates got a lot of attention for suggesting in his book that Obama had lost faith in the mission in Afghanistan. When I asked Obama about that, his response resembled the ink cloud a squid expels. Obama said that Gates had sent him an inscribed copy, and I asked what it said.

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