The White House after hours

Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

Fantastic article by Michael D. Shear in The New York Times about our night-owl President, who gets five hours of sleep and spends the dark hours mixing work and relaxation in the White House briefing room.

Great lede:

WASHINGTON — “Are you up?”

The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed.

Great eye for detail:

To stay awake, the president does not turn to caffeine. He rarely drinks coffee or tea, and more often has a bottle of water next to him than a soda. His friends say his only snack at night is seven lightly salted almonds.

“Michelle and I would always joke: Not six. Not eight,” [former White House family personal chef Sam] Kass said. “Always seven almonds.”

Great quote, from chief speechwriter Cody Keenan: “There’s something about the night … It’s smaller. It lets you think.”

And this:

There is time, too, for fantasy about what life would be like outside the White House. Mr. Emanuel, [former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel,] who is now the mayor of Chicago but remains close to the president, said he and Mr. Obama once imagined moving to Hawaii to open a T-shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white). Their dream was that they would no longer have to make decisions.

During difficult White House meetings when no good decision seemed possible, Mr. Emanuel would sometimes turn to Mr. Obama and say, “White.” Mr. Obama would in turn say, “Medium.”

Now Mr. Obama, who has six months left of solitary late nights in the Treaty Room, seems to be looking toward the end. Once he is out of the White House, he said in March at an Easter prayer breakfast in the State Dining Room, “I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep.”

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