A new report from Politico captures President Obama’s mindset as he enters the final stretch of his presidency.
Obama is depicted as a president who has been deeply frustrated at times as his major second-term agenda items have been stalled. At the same time, the president appears to be looking forward to what’s next after he leaves the White House.
Here are five of the most interesting tidbits from the piece:
1. Obama wants to live in New York City
Even though Obama was raised in Hawaii and made Chicago his home, he has “told friends” he would like to move to the Big Apple after he leaves office, according to reporters Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein.
They note that Obama has roots in New York, having graduated from Columbia University, and he, “loves the city and the anonymity it can provide.”
“I just desperately want to take a walk through Central Park again, and just remember what that feels like,” Obama reportedly said at a Manhattan fundraiser in 2012.
New York? Come on, Mr. President. No one likes a copycat.
2. He’s traded in his high tops for golf spikes
Obama has apparently replaced basketball with golf as his number-one sport. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama made pickup basketball an election-day tradition and he used to play monthly in the early years of his presidency. But at age 52, he’s worried about getting injured. He’s playing more golf than ever now, including a trip to Florida in March for two rounds at the private Ocean Reef Club in the midst of the Ukraine crisis.
“He doesn’t really play ball anymore,” close Obama friend and former NBA center Alonzo Mourning said. “He expressed his concern about possibly getting hurt. He didn’t want to do the State of the Union speech on crutches or with a broken nose.”
3. He’s speaking out more forcefully on racial inequality
Obama rarely waded into racial controversies during his first term, afraid of providing fodder for Republican attacks (remember the Beer Summit?)
But he’s been more willing to talk about race after getting reelected. The piece notes Obama and members of his administration have spoken out publicly against voter ID laws, which civil rights groups say make it harder for black people to vote. The president started the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative this year, which is designed to provide outreach to teenage boys of color. He spoke frankly about his struggles growing up.
“I got high,” Obama said at the launch event in February, “without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.”
People close to Obama told Politico that the My Brother’s Keeper initiative could serve as a model for the type of charity work the president wants to do after he leaves office.
4. He enjoys schmoozing with celebrities, but not members of Congress
Obama has recently dined with the likes of Bono, Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson and Anna Wintour. During a trip to Italy in late March, he ate with a group of “interesting Italians,” including a prominent architect, physicist and the heir to the automaker Fiat.
The president reportedly enjoys the dinner conversations so much, “he never wants them to end.” But when it comes to wooing lawmakers, it’s been tougher to get Obama interested. Only recently, the White House has made a more concerted effort to invite members of Congress to ride on Air Force One or have Obama call key members more frequently.
5. The Obamacare website’s woes were a low point for the president
Congressional Democrats’ anger at the White House reached a fever pitch late last year, when the online healthcare exchange suffered debilitating glitches. A group of lawmakers facing reelection in 2014 met with Obama to convey their frustration.
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D), who has a tough race in a red state, made sure to highlight his exasperation in an interview with Politico. “This is all screwed up. Why aren’t we fixing this?’” is what he says he told Obama at the meeting.
Obama indicated that he was committed to fixing the site and keeping the Senate under Democratic control.
“I don’t really care to be president without the Senate,’’ Obama told the senators, according to those present.
6. Rahm Emanuel thought passing immigration reform would be a piece of cake
Obama and those around him were very confident coming off a win in the 2012 election, and they predicted that Republicans would work with them on key agenda items like immigration reform. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, bragged that passing an immigration overhaul would be as easy as “falling off of a log.”
The comments are ironic coming from Emanuel, a man who once had a poor reputation among reform advocates because he had long been wary about pressing for a sweeping bill that would legalize undocumented immigrants. During his time in Congress, he called immigration reform the “third rail of American politics.”
But the comments were also a sign of the White House’s overconfidence following the election. Last fall, with immigration stalled, gun control in shambles and the healthcare website experiencing problems, “senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote a three-page memo, concluding that the White House had failed to manage expectations on guns and immigration, deferred too much to Congress and lost its disciplined focus on the economy,” Politico reported.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.