Obama Rolling Stone interview: three awesome bits

Yes, yes, President Obama talks about plans for energy policy and so forth in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine. But the intriguing bits include attitudes about ... his socks?

Craig Fritz/AP
President Barack Obama addresses guests at the home of Andy Cavalier, Tuesday in Albuquerque, N.M. The president has given an exclusive interview to Rolling Stone magazine.

Another top administration official has given an exclusive interview to Rolling Stone. This one won’t get fired, though, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal did after he famously told Rolling Stone too much. That’s because the official in question is President Obama himself.

Also, the interview is pretty restrained. In it Mr. Obama does not take extra slams at Republican opponents just because he’s appearing in a magazine that is kind of liberal. “It’s hard to characterize the Tea Party as a whole, and I think it’s still defining itself,” he says at one point, for instance.

Gee, you think?

There are some news points in there. He talks a lot about environmental policy, perhaps because it appeals to young people. One of his “top priorities” for next year will be to try to address America’s overreliance on fossil fuels, he says. He acknowledges that he might have to do this piecemeal, as opposed to pushing Congress to pass one big bill. But he says he’ll give it the effort he gave to getting his health-care reform bill enacted.

“I am committed to making sure that we get an energy policy that makes sense for the country and that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way,” said Obama.

But to us the truly awesome bits were kind of off-point. Here are three:

All the president's socks. Obama apparently is bored with his all-black hosiery options. He began the Rolling Stone chatfest by admiring the multicolored striped socks of the magazine’s cofounder and publisher, Jann Wenner.

“If I wasn’t president I could wear socks like that,” he said.

Mr. President sir, you’re the leader of what used to be called the free world, with the most powerful military forces ever assembled by humans at your command. You can wear striped socks if you want. As long as you don’t wear those baggy “mom jeans.”

All the president's music. Obama told Rolling Stone he has 2,000 songs on his iPod and it’s “a source of great pleasure to me.” Sounds like someone’s been up late after meetings in the Situation Room buying tracks from the iTunes shop on the secure White House computers.

The songs are “heavily weighted” toward “the music of my childhood,” said Obama. By that we figure he means the Stones and John Coltrane, say, as opposed to “Sesame Street Sings the Alphabet."

There is a lot of classical music and, perhaps surprisingly, a lot of opera in the president’s music stash. “There are days when Maria Callas is exactly what I need,” said Obama.

Exactly right. Watching four hours of Senate debate on C-SPAN would make anyone want to listen to Italian arias about how being betrayed by loved ones can make you suicidal.

Obama also said his “rap palate” is improving with the addition of some Lil’ Wayne, etc.

“Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things,” said Obama.

The president meets Dylan. How awesome is Bob Dylan? Only as awesome as it is possible to get. He played the White House in February, and Obama tells Rolling Stone that Dylan did not come over to the White House to practice the evening before, like most performers. He did not come over to get his picture taken with the president, like most performers.

No, Dylan showed up at his appointed time like the great American troubadour he is, and knocked off a beautiful rendition of “The Times, They Are a Changin’.”

“The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different,” said Obama.

Dylan finished the song, stepped off the stage, came up to Obama, and sort of tipped his head. He shook Obama’s hand, gave him a little grin, and then left.

“And I thought ... that’s how you want Bob Dylan.... You want him to be a little skeptical of the whole enterprise,” Obama told Rolling Stone.

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