What do you read regularly to keep you informed or provide you with perspectives beyond the inner circle of your advisers?
[Laughs] Other than Rolling Stone?
That goes without saying.
I don't watch a lot of TV news. I don't watch cable at all. I like The Daily Show, so sometimes if I'm home late at night, I'll catch snippets of that. I think Jon Stewart's brilliant. It's amazing to me the degree to which he's able to cut through a bunch of the nonsense – for young people in particular, where I think he ends up having more credibility than a lot of more conventional news programs do.
I spend a lot of time just reading reports, studies, briefing books, intelligence assessments.
I'll thumb through all the major papers in the morning. I'll read the Times and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, just to catch up.
Do you read Paul Krugman?
I read all of the New York Times columnists. Krugman's obviously one of the smartest economic reporters out there, but I also read some of the conservative columnists, just to get a sense of where those arguments are going. There are a handful of blogs, Andrew Sullivan's on the Daily Beast being an example, that combine thoughtful analysis with a sampling of lots of essays that are out there. The New Yorker and The Atlantic still do terrific work. Every once in a while, I sneak in a novel or a nonfiction book.
I thought you were going to say Playboy.
Also, I thought this was important:
In working with the Republicans in this term, it seems clear that the traditional rules of give-and-take politics have changed – that the Republicans have been playing a "lose-lose" game with you. What's your relationship with the GOP leadership at this point? A little frosty?
It's not frosty. This isn't personal. When John Boehner and I sit down, I enjoy a conversation with him. I don't think he's a bad person. I think he's patriotic. I think that the Republicans up on the Hill care about this country, but they have a very ideologically rigid view of how to move this country forward, and a lot of how they approach issues is defined by "Will this help us defeat the president?" as opposed to "Will this move the country forward?"
Is there any way to break through that obstructionism by Republicans?
My hope is that if the American people send a message to them that's consistent with the fact that Congress is polling at 13 percent right now, and they suffer some losses in this next election, that there's going to be some self-reflection going on – that it might break the fever. They might say to themselves, "You know what, we've lost our way here. We need to refocus on trying to get things done for the American people."
Frankly, I know that there are good, decent Republicans on Capitol Hill who, in a different environment, would welcome the capacity to work with me. But right now, in an atmosphere in which folks like Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist are defining what it means to be a true conservative, they are lying low. My hope is that after this next election, they'll feel a little more liberated to go out and say, "Let's redirect the Republican Party back to those traditions in which a Dwight Eisenhower can build an interstate highway system."