Obama talks football, guns and war

Five takeaways from President Obama's interview with The New Republic


Alex Halperin
January 27, 2013 9:56PM (UTC)

The New Republic’s redesign has arrived and the magazine has released its cover interview with President Obama, conducted by publisher and editor in chief Chris Hughes and editor Franklin Foer. Hughes, who helped to found Facebook and later worked for President Obama's 2008 campaign, bought the venerable magazine last year and is behind its new found musculature.

Much of the transcript delves into Washington minutiae like Speaker of the House John Boehner’s ability to control his Republican caucus and the media’s flawed desire to find moral equivalence between the parties. But it also contained a few more far-reaching revelations. Here are five:

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1. On the difference between Democrats and Republicans:
"Democrats, we've got a lot of warts, and some of the bad habits here in Washington when it comes to lobbyists and money and access really goes to the political system generally. It's not unique to one party. But when it comes to certain positions on issues, when it comes to trying to do what's best for the country, when it comes to really trying to make decisions based on fact as opposed to ideology, when it comes to being willing to compromise, the Democrats, not just here in this White House, but I would say in Congress also, have shown themselves consistently to be willing to do tough things even when it's not convenient, because it's the right thing to do. And we haven't seen that same kind of attitude on the other side."

2. On guns:
Franklin Foer: Have you ever fired a gun?
President Obama: Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.

3. On violence in football:
"I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much."

4. On whether to intervene in Syria:
"I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations. In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? Would a military intervention have an impact? How would it affect our ability to support troops who are still in Afghanistan? What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? What offers the best prospect of a stable post-Assad regime? And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?

"Those are not simple questions. And you process them as best you can. You make the decisions you think balance all these equities, and you hope that, at the end of your presidency, you can look back and say, I made more right calls than not and that I saved lives where I could, and that America, as best it could in a difficult, dangerous world, was, net, a force for good."

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5. On if the Republicans will be a national party again:
"There is still shock on the part of some in the party that I won reelection. There's been a little bit of self-examination among some in the party, but that hasn't gone to the party as a whole yet."


Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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2012 Elections Congo Football Politics President Obama Syria The New Republic

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