Author Michael Lewis' Six Months With President Obama
Senior Talent Producer, "Power Lunch"
The first time in the Beast, I was so excited I wrote furiously on my notepad taking in all the details — he saw me ignoring him — as I put my hand on the phone with the presidential seal, he yells out, "don't touch that!" I freaked and froze, and was mortified thinking I’d set off a bomb, and he turns and laughs at me so hard, “I got you!”
CNBC: So he’s a prankster?
Lewis: Yes, and I argue that he is not cold or aloof, that he actually laughs all the time — more than me. He loves jokes, and he is an optimist ... so, so, so self-confident.
He really believes he can return to normal, that he can go back and do everyday things given the chance. And I told the president, "No you can’t, you can’t go back and do stuff the way," and while I never ever saw him lose his temper ever, I did see him get annoyed, and that was only when I pushed him and said, "No, Mr. President you are fooling yourself, how can you possibly keep it real after being president?" He looked at me and said, "No Michael, you’re wrong, I can."
"If I had a day off, I would go body surfing in Hawaii and then I would take Sasha and Malia to New York City one day and go to the Museum of Modern Art and look at the paintings and people watch and make funny faces.” Obama really thinks he can do that.
CNBC: Obama - Blackberry or iPhone?
Lewis: The president is a two-thumb texter Blackberry user. But he also loves his iPad . In fact the whole White House staff uses Blackberries. I grabbed Carney’s Blackberry and he had 13,500 plus unread messages — in just the past few days — all White House emails go through him. So, I don’t know what’s on Obama’s Blackberry — the same amount or not.
CNBC: What about Obama’s odd relationship to the news.
Lewis: President Obama explained that "one thing you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama. That’s not you. Whether it is good or bad, it is not you. I learned that on the campaign. You have to filter stuff, but you can’t filter it so much you live in this fantasyland.” (Read More:Your Money Your Vote.)
CNBC: Obama on making decision on the Oval Office.
Lewis: The president pointed out that nothing comes to his desk "that is perfectly solvable.” Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision.
For instance, when the financial crisis was on hand. (Read More:Inside America's Economic Crisis.)
Personally, I think the banks should have been nationalized at that time because the bankers had back then, and still do, a sense of entitlement despite the fact that the government bailed them out and should have been taken over and nationalized.
But then, walking in the president’s shoes at the time, you realize how he came to the decision of 30, 40, 50 percent probabilities and how that American public reaction would have been — to do that action in a time of crisis. So it didn't happen and that is how decisions, every day, are made in the Oval Office.
You also realize how hamstrung the president is because of Congress right now and in the most stifling way of not getting anything done, so why run, or why run again if you can’t get things done like you wanted to. (Read More:Returning US Congress Faces a Crush of Big Tasks.)