President Obama is ready to trade in the dull policy debates in Washington D.C. for lofty philosophical debates in Manhattan. As Politico's "The Obama Paradox," and in-depth look at the West Wing, reveals, Obama is looking ahead to the end of his presidency — both his legacy and his next steps — while also doing more of what he wants while he's still in office.
Despite Obama's deep ties to Chicago, he's told friends that he wants to move to New York City. After his surprise trip to The Gap in March, Obama said he missed the city's streets and "was still talking about it weeks later." Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama misses the sense that anything can happen in New York. “What he cherishes and misses is the serendipity — you don’t know who you’re going to bump into or what they’re going to say,” Jarrett said. “He hungers for that.”
Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein's paint a picture of a president who has reached the limits of his patience with American politics. The "paradox" is that the president is both frustrated by the way congressional Republicans have controlled the political agenda, but excited by the freedom executive actions and a second term bring. That freedom means he can talk about and work on the issue's he's most passionate about, like climate change and race-related projects like My Brother's Keeper. It also means the president can play more golf. In 2012, he was criticized for playing his 100th round of golf, and in April the taxpayer cost of one of his trips drew complaints from conservatives. His golf game has become symbolic among his opponents for his ineptitude, but he and his aides are less worried about that kind of negative publicity.
Obama is also more willing to be seen with fancy — and wealthy — intellectual types. After visiting Rome and the Pope this year, the president attended a ritzy dinner with "renowned architect Renzo Piano, particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti, Fiat heir John Elkann and his sister, Ginevra," according to Politico. “He wanted to spend one evening talking about what is quite interesting in this country to talk about — art, science, community, architecture, cities and all that,” Piano told Politico. There was a time when Obama worried about being portrayed as an out-of-touch intellectual elite, but that was a time when he was running for re-election.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.