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Getting some sleep: What Obama looks forward to after January 20

By Lalit K Jha
January 16, 2017 15:34 IST
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In what is his final on-camera interview during his eight year stay at Washington’s most famous address, US President Obama tells CBS that his family will be happy to be out of the White House come next weekend.

IMAGE: In his interview, Obama said he was looking forward to civilian life and catching up with his wife Michelle. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Looking forward to getting out of the “bubble”, outgoing United States President Barack Obama has contradicted the general perception of him living off taxpayers’ money in the White House, saying he bore all his family’s expenses, including the cost of toilet paper.

“You know, I mentioned how I’ve got a pretty thick skin in this job. You’ve got to have it. One thing that did kind of get under my craw sometimes was people talking as if when we went on vacation or… that people would be like, ‘Oh, spending taxpayer money’. It’s like, ‘No, no, I actually I’m paying for all of this’,” Obama said as he contradicted the general impression that he lived on taxpayers’ money and had never had to use his wallet.

“The only thing I don’t pay for is Secret Service and an airplane. And communications, because I don’t have any choice,” Obama was quoted as saying by the CBS News in his last interview before he hands over the reign to his successor Donald Trump on January 20.

“But, you know, we buy our own toilet paper even here in the White House. You know, it’s not free. I’ve got a grocery bill at the end of every month. You know, our toothpaste, our orange juice, that all gets paid. But it is true that I don’t carry my wallet that often,” Obama said.

Obama said that he is going to have some catching up to do in terms of how day-to-day things operate.

“I’m going to have some catching up to do in terms of how day-to-day things operate,” Obama said.

IMAGE: "We buy our own toilet paper even here in the White House. You know, it’s not free. I’ve got a grocery bill at the end of every month," said Obama. His comment was to refute claims that he spent taxpayers' money during his time at the White House. Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters

Obama said one thing is certain on January 21, the day after his presidency ends, that he will not set an alarm.

“Well, here’s one thing is I’m not setting my alarm. That, I’m certain of. That I am absolutely positive of. I’m going to spend time with Michelle. And, you know, we got some catching up to do. We’ve both been busy,” he said.

Obama, the first black American president, said he is looking forward to getting out of the bubble.

“I am looking forward to getting out of the bubble. I am glad that I’m leaving this place at a relatively young age, at 55. So I have the opportunity for a second maybe even a third act in a way that I think would be tougher if I were, you know, the age of some presidents when they left,” he said.

“There’s some bittersweet feelings about leaving the people here. Because even though all the team you assemble, you know, you’re going to stay in touch with them, it’s not the same, you know? The band kind of breaks up,” he said.

IMAGE: The avid golfer, Obama, also looks forward to the time he can go back to the sport. He said that though he was a bit older now, he felt physically very energetic. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

“I think I’m the best president I’ve ever been right now. And I think the team that is operating right now functions as well as any team that I’ve had. And so, you know, there is a part of you that thinks, ‘Man, we’re pretty good at this stuff right now. And you hate to see that talent disperse’,” he noted.

Though he is a bit older now, Obama said physically he feels very energetic.

“Physically, I feel probably as good as I’ve ever felt. And I’ve got as much energy as I ever did. But what you feel after eight years -- and I think you’d feel this no matter

what, but anytime you have a big transition, it gets magnified -- is time passes. Your kids grow up. I think they more than anything are making me feel as if, you know, you want to squeeze everything you got every single day out of this thing. Because it passes quick,” he said.

Obama said he is attached to only a few things inside the Oval Office.

IMAGE: When asked what he was attached to in the Oval Office, Obama said that watching his kids play outside through the window made his presidency sweeter. Photograph: Pete Souza/White House

“The objects in this room -- only a few of ‘em I really attach to. I think that I’ll always remember the bust of Dr King. I thought having an American here who represented that civic spirit that got me into this office was useful. Over there I’ve got the original program for the March on Washington that was framed and given to me by a friend,” he said.

“You know, I’ll remember the view out this window, because this is where we had our -- the playground that we put in when Malia and Sasha came in.  Being able every once in awhile to look out the window and see your daughters during the summer, swinging on that swing set, that made the presidency a little bit sweeter,” Obama said.

When Sasha and Malia Obama arrived at the White House in 2009, they were age 7 and 10. Their parents -- for the most part -- were successful in keeping them out of the limelight, except in the rarest circumstances.

“In the fall, Malia begins at Harvard after a gap year. Sasha is a sophomore at her private school in Washington. This month, the swing set was dismantled and given away,” he said.

Obama said after January 20, he will try to get some sleep.

“And do a little puttering. Because I haven’t had a lot of chance to reflect and absorb all this. I do not expect to be behind a desk a lot. I look forward to teaching the occasional class, because I was a professor. And I had fun doing it,” he said.

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Lalit K Jha
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