Barack Obama and Doris Kearns Goodwin: The Ultimate Exit Interview

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From Vanity Fair:

Goodwin likes to tell the story of the day in the spring of 2007, when a young Illinois senator phoned her, out of the blue, requesting that they meet because he’d just finished reading Team of Rivals. That call would begin a friendship. Since taking office, Obama has occasionally invited Goodwin, along with a small cohort of presidential historians, to come to the White House to discuss past presidents, their legacies—and his. And over the years she has had the president’s ear and provided historical context and, on occasion, counsel.

In their conversation, the president and Goodwin exhibit an easy camaraderie, sometimes completing each other’s sentences. They touch on everything from comedy Web sites to bodysurfing in Hawaii. But the central focus is on history, and on enduring questions. What is presidential temperament? How does a leader maintain perspective? When does the job of president feel the heaviest? What is good and bad about ambition?

Obama and Goodwin spent more than an hour over coffee, water, and scones (“I won’t be eating those,” said the president), followed by a brief chat in the Oval Office. Obama, in shirtsleeves, sat in a straight-backed chair, his long frame relaxed, legs crossed, as he responded or parried—always thoughtfully, sometimes intensely. V.F.’s Annie Leibovitz photographed at the start of the session and then re-entered, periodically, but mainly let them be.

The interview is right here at Vanity Fair.

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