Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obama's Libya Decision in Vanity Fair

Writer Michael Lewis spent six months with Obama and wrote a story for the October issue of Vanity Fair. He seems to have a good handle on Obama's nature and some interesting personal details. I highly recommend reading the story and then listening to Lewis's interview yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air.

The principals reconvened in the Situation Room at 7:30 p.m. The Pentagon now offered the president three options. The first: do nothing at all. The second: establish a no-fly zone, which they had already conceded would not prevent a massacre in Ben­gha­zi. The third: secure a resolution from the U.N. to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians and then use American airpower to destroy Qad­da­fi’s army. “By the time I go to the second meeting I’m viewing the choices differently,” says Obama. “I know that I’m definitely not doing a no-fly zone. Because I think it’s just a show to protect backsides, politically.” In his Nobel speech he’d argued that in cases such as these the United States should not act alone. “In these situations we should have a bias towards operating multilaterally,” he says. “Because the very process of building a coalition forces you to ask tough questions. You may think you are acting morally, but you may be fooling yourself.” Read on
Obama's favorite place at the White House is the Truman Balcony. A bullet hole marks the spot, which is sad commentary on having the toughest job in the world and having to get shot at as well (Obama wasn't on the balcony when the nutter shot there):
Now, standing on the Truman Balcony, little came between him and the outside world. Crowds milled about on Constitution Avenue, on the other side of the south gate. Had he waved, someone might have noticed him and waved back. He motioned to the place from which, last November, a man with a high-powered rifle fired at the White House. Turning, with only the slightest trace of annoyance, Obama pointed to the spot directly behind his head where the bullet struck.

Back inside I had had a feeling unhelpful to the task at hand: I shouldn’t have been there. When a man with such a taste and talent for spacing is given so little space in which to operate it feels wrong to take the little he does have, like grabbing water to brush one’s teeth from a man dying of thirst. “I feel a little creepy being here,” I said. “Why don’t I get out of your hair?” He laughed. “C’mon,” he said. “As long as you’re up here, there’s one more thing.” He led me down the hall and into the Lincoln Bedroom. There was a desk, upon which rested some obviously sacred object, covered by a green felt cloth. “There are times when you come in here and you’re having a particularly difficult day,” said the president. “Sometimes I come in here.” He pulled back the cloth and revealed a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address. The fifth of five made by Lincoln but the only one he signed, dated, and titled. Six hours earlier the president had been celebrating the Lady Bears of Baylor. Four hours earlier he’d been trying to figure out what, if anything, he would do to save lives of innocents being massacred by their government in Syria. Now he looked down and read the words of another president, who also understood the peculiar power, even over one’s self, that comes from putting your thoughts into them. Vanity Fair