Lotta Bergdahl stuff on the site today. What better way to cleanse the palate than with a reminder from Politico that, apart from occasionally freeing Taliban killers or gut-punching the U.S. energy industry with new emissions regulations, The One’s got nothing left to do as president except to invite Hollywood A-listers over for dinner and B.S. with Denis McDonough occasionally about how tough his job is? Makes me happy for him. Hopenchange was always more about the man than the mission; seems only right that he’ll spend the last few years of the era daydreaming about what he’ll do afterwards, like shopping in Manhattan and farting out million-dollar paydays on the ex-president lecture circuit. Finally, he can be the celebrity we always knew that he was.
I think this might actually explain a lot of what the administration’s been up to lately. People keep trying to distill an “Obama doctrine” from things like his red-line fiasco on Syria last year to his mystifying unpreparedness for the ObamaCare rollout to the prisoner-swap head-scratcher for Bergdahl. Maybe the Obama doctrine, at this late hour, is really just YOLO.
The interviews, which illuminate Obama’s thinking, outlook and choices as he navigates his second term, suggest a paradox. Often stymied at home and abroad, Obama recognizes that he is less in control of the Washington agenda than ever in his presidency — a reality that has left him deeply frustrated at times. Last week was a case study, with the Veterans Affairs scandal and resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki eclipsing Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan and major foreign policy speech at West Point.
Yet his newfound realism has also given him a palpable sense of liberation.
The president, finally, is much freer to talk about things that matter to him. He discusses issues of race in a far more personal way, more frequently, than he ever did in his first term. He is more prone to speak his mind on contentious social issues, to the point of volunteering that, in his younger days, “I got high’’ — an unusually blunt take on his past that aides say they would have prevented before his reelection, fearful of how his critics would use the sound bite.
Being president was tough for him because governance was never his strong suit. Being an ex-president, though, will suit him perfectly: No actual responsibilities but tons of stature, and he’ll be completely free to be the liberal he truly is at heart without worrying that it might cost Democrats a Senate seat or two in red states. Jimmy Carter’s been riding that wave for nearly 35 years after a disappointing presidency. No reason O can’t do the same. And the celebrities — oh, the celebrities.
The presidential dinners, inside the White House and beyond, are more and more frequent. At one dinner, not previously disclosed, the Obamas hosted U2’s Bono, Gen. Colin Powell, Apple CEO Tim Cook, investor Warren Buffett and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Another drew actors Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson, along with journalist Gayle King. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, attended a dinner with fashion industry insiders…
The late-night dinners don’t have an agenda. The protocol is that Obama has to leave first, participants say, but he seems to never want them to end. The bull sessions satisfy the president’s intellectual curiosity as he indulges in nuanced conversations about life, ideas and art.
He’s going to be a presenter at the Oscars someday. You know it, I know it, and he knows it, I think. The only suspense is whether he’ll wait until he’s out of office to do it or fly out to LA in 2016 for a last-hurrah presidential cameo. What would the YOLO doctrine dictate?