By Grace Masback
WANT Original Content
President Obama came to my hometown, Portland, Oregon, this week for a political fundraiser and a speech on trade at Nike. I didn’t have the money to attend the fundraiser and only Nike employees were invited to the Nike event. So, here are the interview questions (and some extras added for entertainment) I would have asked the President if I had been given the chance to meet him [and his likely answers]:
- President Obama, welcome to Portland. Let’s get warmed up with a not-so-political question. Portland is famous for its love of Birkenstocks, but it looks like this summer jelly shoes and clogs may be poised to overtake Birkenstocks as Portland’s favorite shoe. What is your opinion on the Birkenstock and these new footwear developments? Given the fact that you have teenage daughters you must have some insight.
Let me just start by saying I am a fan of Birkenstocks. I actually have a pair myself that I wear around the white house when no one is looking (shhh don’t tell Michelle). I love how comfortable and supportive they are. I have never tried wearing them with socks, which I know is the trend here in Portland, but who knows what the future will bring. As far as those other types of shoes you mentioned, I don’t think they have a chance of catching on. They are not nearly as practical or comfortable as “Birks,” not to mention the fact that they are incredibly ugly.
- It is good to know that Portland’s shoe choices have a presidential seal of approval. Now lets jump into some more serious questions. You may know that Portland calls itself the “City That Works,” a clear vote in favor of government having a positive role to play in making our country a better place to live. After six years of dealing with a dysfunctional Congress, do you still believe that government can make a positive difference?
Well Grace, I can understand your disillusionment and cynicism. After all, before I even took office, the Senate Minority leader at the time, Mitch McConnell, said that his #1 goal was to make sure that I was not re-elected. So, while I came in talking all about hope and uniting different factions, I was immediately faced with an opposition that declared it didn’t want to work with me. That said, my administration has made a difference by giving millions healthcare that didn’t have it before, by repairing America’s reputation abroad with our allies, by pursuing a positive agenda for the planet via environmental regulations, and by normalizing relations with Cuba
- You mention Mitch McConnell, who is now Senate Majority Leader. In your expert opinion how accurate would your say Jon Stewart’s spoof of Mitch as a turtle is?
Well I have to be careful what I say to this one because I wouldn’t want any of my friends across the aisle in the Senate and the House getting too offended, but…. I will tell you this – I know Mitch well and he certainly eats a lot of lettuce.
- Thanks for mentioning Cuba. I went there last August and was struck by how willing people of all ages were to have normal relations with the United States – I was welcomed with open arms and I bet you would be too – do you have any plans to visit Cuba?
I thought this was going to be a softball interview. As you know, my move to normalize relations with Cuba has caused a stir with many Americans, particularly many Cuban-Americans. I respect their passion on this issue, but it makes no sense in the 21st century to continue to fight a cold war era battle. We can do more to change Cuban society, to open it up, spread real democracy, and generate a thriving market economy by engaging with Cuba than by attempting to isolate the country. It also helps our relationship with many Central and South American countries, which is an added benefit. Did you bring back any cigars or souvenirs from Cuba?
- In fact, I bought a number of revolutionary posters, including a Che Guevera poster. It reminds me of your “hope” poster from the 2008 election – I’ll send you a picture of it. Speaking of hope, how do you hope to be remembered by future generations?
“Hope” is an important word for me – one of my books was titled, The Audacity of Hope. Too many people in our country and our world don’t have reason to hope and when you talk about the positive role that government can play, surely that is the lowest bar we should set for ourselves. My administration has been dedicated to giving people a chance, whether it be by extending benefits for those who lost jobs in the economic crisis that began prior to my time in office, to helping rescue the American auto industry, to improving access to early childhood education, or helping veterans after they serve our country. People don’t ask for a lot, but many people need a helping hand, and without government that hand often isn’t there, nor is hope. That’s how I hope to be remembered – that’s my legacy.
- As you may know, recent political dramas such as Scandal and House of Cards portray a very sinister view of life in the White House and the political scene in Washington. Which of these two programs do you think is the most realistic and does Washington really have that much, for lack of a better word, “scandal?”
Olivia Pope is undeniably a compelling and powerful character, and I hope that my own daughters will learn a thing or two from her assertiveness. On the other hand, Frank Underwood represents the ruthless cunning of so many politicians in Washington. Ultimately, because as far as I’m aware there is no super-secret spy agency called B-613 out on the streets killing people or complex love triangles between me, Michelle, and who knows who else I would have to say House of Cards is more realistic (though I am quite sure Joe Biden has no plans to unseat me as President). As far as problems in Washington, government will never be perfect. Some people are motivated to govern for the wrong reasons and these people tarnish the integrity of the American democracy. It is the job of the rest of the hardworking politicians who dedicate their lives to improving the well-being of the American people, to not let themselves be influenced by these problems and continue working in a way that will allow the United States to maintain its founding values of honesty and fairness.
- Your daughters are teenagers. They’ve grown up in and around politics. I’m worried that my generation is detached from issues and distant from politics and may not turn out to vote once we’re old enough. What do you say to your daughters about their civic responsibilities?
My daughters are a little more interested in fashion and boys than politics. Politics has meant countless nights apart for our family and the scrutiny that comes from living in the White House. Thank goodness that the Kardashians have attracted some of the attention away from my family. We’ve tried to allow our kids to have as normal a childhood as possible when your father is a Senator and the President. That said, I would expect them to do the right thing and register to vote as soon as they turn 18. They won’t be able to vote for me, but they should definitely vote.
- You may know that Oregon recently became one of the latest in a slew of states to legalize gay marriage. This stands in sharp contrast to a place like Indiana, which has recently garnered much media attention over its controversial religious freedom law. The Supreme Court seems poised to make an historic ruling concerning the marriage rights of LGBQT in the United States. What is your opinion on this topic?
That’s a tough question. I have publically supported gay marriage since 2012 and I am exhilarated by the progress that states around the country are making through their legislatures and judiciary systems to ensure the everyone has the right to be with the person they love. I am disgusted by the amount of intolerance and hate that still persists in our country, but I will be eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court decision and hope that the next couple years will represent even more of a turning point for the rights of those in the LGBQT community.
- How do you deal with the constant attempts to paint you as a “foreigner” and to demonize you – the whole story about your being born in Kenya, allegations that you are secretly a Muslim (as if that should matter), suggestions that you are preparing to declare martial law and demand a third term in office? Do you ever just want to give up and move back to Chicago?
Hey, it’s a little bit dispiriting. You’d like the dialog to be more positive and constructive. There’s an entire television network that seems dedicated to telling stories about me that have little or no basis in reality. But the truth is that the American people are much smarter than the media, liberal and conservative, gives them credit for being. They can see through the BS and make sound judgments about difficult issues. The whole effort to make me seem like a foreigner is just a clever form of racism, or a way to give racists cover, but these kinds of attacks are not unique. The Clintons faced the same kind of thing during President Clinton’s two terms – the Whitewater investigation, allegations that Hillary Clinton had an affair with a top Clinton advisor (who then died under “mysterious” circumstances), and mean-spirited comments about their daughter, Chelsea. The internet only exacerbates and encourages the trend toward both overt and anonymous commentary and criticism. I regret to say that it comes with just about any job in public life, including mine.
- OK, let me give you a “real-life” Portland scenario. You walk into a little café one morning hungry and looking for breakfast and a cup of coffee. You go up to order and realize the café is vegan and gluten free and the only type of milk they have for your coffee is almond milk. What do you do/what do you order?
I walk out of there as fast as I can and find the nearest Starbucks where I can buy a latte with real milk.
9. And if you had to order
Hmmmm maybe some kale?
- Thanks for sitting down Mr. President. Any final observations about Portland and your trip out here.
Well Grace, thanks for the probing and interesting questions. I love the Pacific Northwest. I love that Oregon voted for me in two Presidential elections. I have fond memories of campaigning here, including an impromptu visit to Hayward Field at the University of Oregon during the 2008 campaign. It’s a beautiful part of the world. You know, with my time as President winding down, I have to decide where to live after I leave office. With this great weather you have out here, maybe I need to put Portland on the short list.
Photo Credit: WANT