Michael Lewis spends time with Obama

Michael Lewis at Vanity Fair gets really close up to President Obama in this piece.

One of the most interesting revelations is the fact that the US bombing of Gaddafi’s forces in Libya was an almost exclusively Obama decision, with almost all of his senior staff telling him not to do it. Quite impressive thing for Obama to do, I think.

Otherwise, the piece is a bit long-winded – I skimmed through parts – and a lot of the quotes from Obama sound like they could have been plucked out of one of his supposed-to-be-inspirational-sounding speeches – and could probably be cut from the article. But on the whole it’s a cleverly-crafted piece, paralleling Obama and his staff in a boardroom and an F-15 navigator forced to parachute out of his crashing plane over Libya. You also learn that Obama plays basketball with men 20 years his junior and several times better at basketball than he is. And if any of them should dare go easy on him, they’re not invited back to play the next time.

The piece really made me warm to Obama. At the same time, it seems like Lewis is not going too hard on Obama himself. This is a flattering profile. And I’m sure if Lewis were the kind of writer to destroy someone who he’s profiling, the White House would never have permitted the interviews. But it’s a good piece nonetheless. So interesting to learn little details about the president’s life. One of the most lovely moments is when Lewis asks Obama what he would do if he had a day completely to himself, out of the blue. Obama describes surfing by himself in Hawaii in a really poetic way.

I last saw a physical copy of Vanity Fair when I was in the waiting room at a medical clinic last week. I picked it up, having read Michael Lewis’s work online before, and I was surprised how little substance there seemed to be in the magazine. It was all glossy pictures of beautiful women, with paragraph-long “stories” – granted there were a few longer pieces, but not much. The most interesting thing I saw offhand was a piece on how it’s now becoming more acceptable to show male full frontal nudity on the big screen.

This article, on the other hand, was even more captivating than talk of penises. As usual, when Michael Lewis is writing, it’s hard to look away.


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