Politics

President Obama Says He 'Didn't Fully Appreciate' How Weak Presidency Is Until Taking Office

| by Sean Kelly
President Obama on the phonePresident Obama on the phone

In a new GQ interview, President Obama told Bill Simmons that he “didn’t fully appreciate” how “decentralized” the presidency is until he took office.

“When you’re in the seat and you’re seeing the housing market collapse and you are seeing unemployment skyrocketing and you have a sense of what the right thing to do is, then you realize, ‘Okay, not only do I have to persuade my own party, not only do I have to prevent the other party from blocking what the right thing to do is, but now I can anticipate this lawsuit, this lobbying taking place, and this federal agency that technically is independent, so I can’t tell them what to do. I’ve got the Federal Reserve, and I’m hoping that they do the right thing—and by the way, since the economy now is global, I’ve got to make sure that the Europeans, the Asians, the Chinese, everybody is on board,’” he said.

“A lot of the work is not just identifying the right policy but now constantly building these ever shifting coalitions to be able to actually implement and execute and get it done.

Obama’s realization is one that every president before him came to as well, as the nature of Washington has been to form a strong coalition and gain support for the issues he supports, rather than to use his title to make definitive decisions.

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One of the biggest issues President Obama has advocated for in his presidency is gun control — something that has been met with strong resistance from politicians on the right. Despite little progress on gun control in a general sense, Obama maintained that his administration hasn’t been “asleep at the switch in terms of executive actions.”

“There are maybe a few more that had to be scrubbed by lawyers because, essentially, with every executive action, we can count on it being challenged by somebody in Congress or, in this case, the NRA,” he said.

“We want to make any executive action we take as defensible as possible legally. In the absence of a movement politically in which people say, “Enough is enough,” we’re going to continue to see, unfortunately, these tragedies take place. The main thing that I’ve been trying to communicate over the last several of these horrific episodes is that, contrary to popular belief, Americans are not more violent than people in other developed countries. But they have more deadly weapons to act out their rage, and that’s the only main variable that you see between the U.S. and these other countries.”

Sources: GQ, Vox / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons