Obama Laments That New Things Are News

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Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

President Obama had a long conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic this week, mostly about foreign policy. The president also managed to connect a point about his frustrations over how his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is portrayed to frustrations about how his relationship with Senator Elizabeth Warren has been portrayed during the current fight over the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Congress. More broadly, he doesn’t get why people think that these differences shouldn’t be aired publicly.

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I would get letters from people saying, “Listen, Mr. President, I completely support you. I agree with you on this issue, but you shouldn’t say these things publicly.” Now the truth of the matter is that what we said publicly was fairly spare and mild, and then would be built up — it seemed like an article a day, partly because when you get in arguments with friends it’s a lot more newsworthy than arguments with enemies. Well, and it’s the same problem that I’m having right now with the trade deals up on Capitol Hill. The fact that I agree with Elizabeth Warren on 90 percent of issues is not news. That we disagree on one thing is news.

He is right. When new things happen, it is usually news — and the same desire to watch ten seasons of Friends and its strangely captivating recipe of friends having relatively uninteresting fights about relatively minor things is the same reason people in politics will always be fascinated when some new point of contention ripples between the president and those he is supposed to pretend to like.

He is right. When new things happen, it is usually news — and the same desire to watch ten seasons of Friends and its strangely captivating recipe of friends having relatively uninteresting fights about relatively minor things is the same reason people in politics will always be fascinated when some new point of contention ripples between the president and those he is supposed to pretend to like.

President Obama also reiterated his confidence in both the airstrike campaign against ISIS and the Iran nuclear deal. Despite the fall of Ramadi, Obama said, “No, I don’t think we’re losing.” He then took the long view on the situation, as he often does. “We’re eight months into what we’ve always anticipated to be a multi-year campaign … It is important to have a clear idea of the past because we don’t want to repeat mistakes. I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in. And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.”

You can read the rest of the interview here.