In GQ’s “Men of The Year” 20th anniversary style, Barack Obama compares himself to sports figures when it comes to this whole “President of the United States” thing. Take Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, for instance, with whom he shares the ability to avoid “getting flustered in what’s around me.” Or NBA legend Michael Jordan, who embodies how to “to be in the moment, make the best decision you can, know that you’re going to get a bunch of them right, but a bunch of times you’re also not going to get it exactly the way you want it.”
All suited up and heading into his final minutes of the game, President Obama is more relaxed than ever (take his recent use of the term “pop off” for example). Owning his newly-displayed hold on the job of the “leader of the free world,” Obama chopped it up with Grantland founder Bill Simmons about his early days, what he has learned, his family, and all things in between. Reading like a robust discussion between old friends, Obama and Simmons swerve in and out of the heavy stuff, accenting the conversation with candid exchanges.
Though Simmons noted that President Obama was “measured,” the 44th POTUS still managed to answer a few telling questions. Peep seven things we learned from his latest GQ cover.
What he would tell himself back in 2008 before he became president:
“I would probably tell myself to communicate more effectively early on than I did,” “One thing I learned through some tough election cycles: You can’t separate good policy from the need to bring the American people along and make sure that they know why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
The only people he would pick up the phone for during a date with the First Lady:
“Malia and Sasha. [laughs] And maybe my mother-in-law. My national security adviser, Susan Rice, and Denis McDonough, my chief of staff. Those are the only people whose call I would take during a date night with Michelle.”
Why he feels more confident towards the end of his second term:
“There’s no doubt that the longer I’m in this job, the more confident I am about the decisions I’m making and more knowledgeable about the responses I can expect. And as a consequence, you end up being looser. There’s not much I have not seen at this point, and I know what to expect, and I can anticipate more than I did before. […] It’s a combination of me feeling looser because I’ve just been in this job a long time and have gone through some tough stretches. Not only do you not look like you have any fear, but you actually don’t have any fear. And I don’t at this point. The bets we made early on have paid off. Some of it does have to do with luck.”
The worst moments of his presidency:
Think about 2013, right after I’d been re-elected: Our goal was to lead with a big push on immigration reform. And then, before the second inauguration has even happened, [the school shooting at] Sandy Hook happens. Which remains, by the way, the worst few days of my presidency. I went up and visited with those families and—you know, Bill, you’ve still got small kids. These are 6-year-olds, right? And you have 20 of them who’ve been massacred.
Why his response to Ferguson was different than his response Trayvon Martin:
“When the Trayvon Martin case happened, I had an honest response as a father that I think resonated with a lot of people. When Ferguson happened, there was a gap between how quickly we could pull together a police task force, recommendations. And so in that lag, it feels as if I haven’t spoken to the moment as effectively. I suspect that if I were to do it over again, there might be something I could say that would’ve crystallized it more effectively. But Ferguson—the case itself was tougher because people didn’t know what was going on exactly. In some ways the [Eric] Garner case in New York was clearer because you had on videotape exactly what had happened, and some of the subsequent cases have been more obvious.”
Michelle Obama’s thoughts on him being president for longer than eight years:
“Anybody who thinks I could get away with telling Michelle I’m going to be president any longer than eight years does not know my wife.”
His thoughts on if he got to run against Trump:
“I would’ve enjoyed campaigning against Trump. That would’ve been fun.”