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Michael Lewis: Obama’s Way | Vanity Fair


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Michael Lewis on Obama.

GREAT article.

Long, but great.

I loved this part:

hen a new president is elected, the White House curatorial staff removes everything from the office the departing president put in it, unless they worry it will cause a political stir—in which case they ask the new president. Right after the last election they removed a few oil paintings of Texas. It took Obama longer than usual to make changes to the office because, as he put it, “we came in when the economy was tanking and our first priority wasn’t redecorating.” Eighteen months into the office he reupholstered the two chairs in his sitting area. (“The chairs were kind of greasy. I was starting to think, Folks are going to start talking about us.”) Then he swapped out the antique coffee table for a contemporary one, and the bust of Winston Churchill lent to Bush by Tony Blair for one of Martin Luther King Jr.

And he took one look at the bookshelves, filled with china, and thought, This won’t do. “They had a bunch of plates in there,” he says, a little incredulously. “I’m not a dish guy.” The dishes he replaced with the original applications for several famous patents and patent models -- Samuel Morse’s 1849 model for the first telegraph, for instance, which he pointed to and said, “This is the start of the Internet right here.”

Finally, he ordered a new oval rug inscribed with his favorite brief quotations from people he admires. “I had a bunch of quotes that didn’t fit [on the rug],” he admitted. One quote that did fit, I saw, was a favorite of Martin Luther King Jr.’s: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

This guy is an amazing storyteller. The opening paragraph has me hooked. This is what folks fail to appreciate about writers like Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell; they are darn good storytellers.

I appreciate that. Great storytelling!

This part gave me chills. This is what our nation has so often lacked:

Public opinion at the fringes of the room, as it turned out, was different. Several people sitting there had been deeply affected by the genocide in Rwanda. (“The ghosts of 800,000 Tutsis were in that room,” as one puts it.) Several of these people had been with Obama since before he was president—people who, had it not been for him, would have been unlikely ever to have found themselves in such a meeting. They aren’t political people so much as Obama people. One was Samantha Power, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell, about the moral and political costs the U.S. has paid for largely ignoring modern genocides. Another was Ben Rhodes, who had been a struggling novelist when he went to work as a speechwriter back in 2007 on the first Obama campaign. Whatever Obama decided, Rhodes would have to write the speech explaining the decision, and he said in the meeting that he preferred to explain why the United States had prevented a massacre over why it hadn’t. An N.S.C. staffer named Denis McDonough came out for intervention, as did Antony Blinken, who had been on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council during the Rwandan genocide, but now, awkwardly, worked for Joe Biden. “I have to disagree with my boss on this one,” said Blinken. As a group, the junior staff made the case for saving the Ben­gha­zis. But how?

Leadership!

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