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Obama: once out of office, I’m gonna stop being polite and start getting real


Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has a great new interview with President Obama in Vanity Fair. In the wide-ranging interview, they discuss Abraham Lincoln, Obama’s biggest regrets from his time in office, and how a visit to the pyramids reminded Obama that cable news doesn’t really matter.

But perhaps the most intriguing bit was when, in a brief discussion of Obama’s plans for his post-presidency, Obama hinted that he planned to start speaking out more like an activist than a president.

There are “things,” he told Goodwin, “that in some ways I suspect I’m able to do better out of this office.” He elaborated that because of the “institutional constraints” of the presidency, “there are things I cannot say.”

He went on to essentially say he wanted to use his post-presidential bully pulpit more like an activist than a venerable elder statesman. “There are institutional obligations I have to carry out that are important for a president of the United States to carry out, but may not always align with what I think would move the ball down the field on the issues that I care most deeply about,” he said.

And while vague, this is an intriguing hint that Obama is thinking about being a very different ex-president than we’ve been used to.

Recent ex-presidents have avoided controversy. But Obama suggests he’ll embrace it.

The typical recent ex-president has retreated into a career that involves some charitable work and some buckraking. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all mostly withdrew from the daily give and take


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