Submitting to interviews is usually a big part of the presidential job description. Conducting interviews, on the other hand, falls pretty far down on the list.
This is one area where President Obama falls outside the presidential norm, and he explained to NPR why he is doing so much questioning of his own lately, for example in interviews with novelist Marilynne Robinson, naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and teenager Noah McQueen.
Obama responded that sometimes he just wants to “shine a light on somebody who I think is extraordinary” — and that as president, it’s easy to get a hold of the people he finds fascinating.
“You know, one of the best things about this job is that you can talk to anybody,” he said. “It turns out you pick up the phone if somebody is doing something interesting, something that inspires you, you can usually get them to take your phone call.”
NPR’s Steve Inskeep then asked the president about a hypothetical interview: What would Obama want to ask the next person to have his job?
Obama hesitated, then said he’d have to “give it some thought.”
But after a bit of musing, Obama came up with his response:
“I might just ask somebody, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ ” he said.
The president went on to say that being the most visible person on Earth gets old very quickly:
“And I suppose they would give a cliche answer because that’s what candidates do, but I will tell you as president, if you are interested just because you like the title or you like the trappings or you like the power or the fame or the celebrity, that side of it wears off pretty quick. At least it has for me.”