Obama Wears Boring Suits So He Won't Tweet Pictures of His Penis

From the epic Michael Lewis profile of Barack Obama in the latest issue of Vanity Fair:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Sound familiar? Maybe Obama read New York Times science columnist John Tierney's book, Willpower. Or maybe he checked out Reason's interview with Tierney, where Tierney describes that science and even offers the president free words of wisdom:

reason: You write about decision fatigue. I think we’ve probably all felt that. But can you describe what it is and how it works from a scientific perspective?

Tierney: Willpower—the popular idea is that it’s something that you use to resist temptation and to make yourself work. But they’ve also found that this same energy is used in making decisions, simply deciding what to have for lunch, what to do at a meeting; all these things deplete the same resource. After a while, when you’ve depleted this resource, it’s a state called ego depletion. You’ve got less self-control, you’re more prone to give in to temptation, it’s harder for you to work, and you tend to make worse decisions. 

In this state of decision fatigue you’re looking for mental shortcuts, and sometimes you do something really impulsive because you just don’t think things through. You basically say, “Sure, I’ll tweet that photo of myself in my underwear; what could go wrong?” The other thing you can do is just defer decisions; you basically just duck them all day. Since I wrote the book and it was excerpted [in The New York Times], I’ve stopped trying to do anything important late in the day. And people at the Times magazine that ran an excerpt of this said, “You know, we’ve got to stop having meetings after 4 o’clock.” 

reason: Since you brought up the esteemed Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and his underwear tweeting brought on by decision fatigue, let’s talk a little bit about the implications of this idea in politics. Lately there’s been a lot of “never waste a crisis” legislating. When our legislators rush to do big things at the last minute, are we getting high-quality decisions?

Tierney: George [W.] Bush famously called himself “the decider,” and that’s what these guys do all day long: They make decisions. If you just keep doing that all day long, eventually you start making really bad ones and trying to make a lot of them and trying to make them late at night. It explains why someone like Eliot Spitzer, whom we write about in the book, someone that disciplined, that ambitious, [who] knew the laws [and] knew the risk…how does he get to be governor and then finally blow it? And there are probably lots of reasons in his psyche why he did that, but it’s just the fact he’s sitting there as governor making decisions all day long and then at night: “Sure, why not call the call girl? Why not transfer from my own bank account so it’s traceable?” 

Decide to watch the whole thing, quick, before you run out of juice!

Tierney also has some bonus advice for the president:

reason: Should we ban politicians from going on diets or quitting smoking while they’re in office?

Tierney: You know, Obama should not be trying to quit smoking while he’s in office [laughter]. Or at least he should be doing lots of Nicorette. One of the rules for New Year’s resolutions is do one of them, because trying to quit smoking, trying to diet, trying to make a decent decision about the health care bill, these things all draw on the same source of mental energy, and you can’t do it all at once. You need to figure out which one to focus on. Successful people are actually the ones who tend to minimize their choices. They focus on one thing and they set up their lives so they’re not constantly drawing on this same source. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Guess I need to start coming into work earlier.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

    And when you are tasked with making decisions for 350 million individuals, you need all the decision-making neurons you can spare.

  • Rich||

    Hence: "Lord , please show me a sign .... Heads! Very well, we'll launch the attack NOW!"

  • Brett L||

    I would use a magic 8 ball. It has more subtle choices.

  • Tman||

    "You need to routinize yourself"

    Smartest president EVAH.

  • gaijin||

    I heard Michael Lewis talk about this yesterday on Fresh Air...when I heard him describe how Obama didn't want to be distracted with the kind of decisions that most of the rest of us are (what to wear, what to eat), my first thought was that this is what it means to be king. I wonder if O has to wipe himself or if that is a drain on his decider powers?

  • Rich||

    "Fold or crumble?"

  • sarcasmic||

    What do you think interns are for?

  • Rich||

    It depends on what the definition of "for" is.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think I can fairly guess what our golfer in chief's definition is.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Well played. *golf clap*

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    +4

    ("Plus Four(s)" - GET IT!)

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I used to like that guy*.

    *Lewis, not Obama; I NEVER liked him.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I used to like Lewis too. Until I saw the interview with him on Bloomberg TV yesterday. He was so enthralled with Fearless Leader, I swear I saw him wipe Obama's spooge off of his chin. He recalled an anecdote where Obama essentially mistreated him, and Lewis loved it! He also made the claim that Obama would kill it on the trading floor of the NYSE, because he is so brilliant and competitive. But Fearless Leader chose law instead, because he, "doesn't care about money."

    Lewis jumped the shark.

  • Bam!||

    He did an interview, I think during his "Big Short" press tour, I think on Charlie Rose, where he said he believed Obama could provide great insight into where the country was at that moment. I lost all respect for him there.

  • mattrue||

    It sounds bad, but Obama could also probably name the management and starting lineup of the Chicago Bulls. Doesn't mean I think he knows something about getting the Bulls to the NBA championship.

    But he's definitely slobbering over him now and making some serious bank in the process.

    I've been losing respect ever since his commencement address at Princeton saying that "the lucky" should give back. It's a good sentiment, but the looters hear "the lucky must give something back, and all success is luck".

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    OT: Dollar no longer primary oil currency as China begins to sell oil using Yuan

    Is this true? If so, why isn't this being reported more widely. In the words of Chris Burke, this is a "big fucking deal".

  • Bam!||

    Isn't the Yuan pegged to the dollar?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Not since 2005.

  • Tman||

    That's OK, Bernanke will just do another round of QE! No problemo senor!

    Oh......right.......shit.

  • R C Dean||

    This has been going on for years. More and more countries are making arrangements to stop using the dollar as the reserve currency. Typically in bilateral deals. I seem to recall that Iran made arrangements to get around the sanctions on its foreign trade by agreeing to sell oil for gold. With India, yet.

    Its very bad news for the dollar, as it will clear the way for massive devaluation/inflation and price instability for us.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Which is ironic, since it's our own devaluation of the dollar that has brought this change about.

    We're like Homer Simpson in hell getting stuffed with all the donuts he can eat.

  • ||

    Yeah except they ran out of doughnuts in that scenario, and he still wanted more.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Mmmmm - tasty, delicious donuts.

    /Alex Zanardi

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Short term yes. But long term this will only help us as we'll have to actually make things and services and invest in capital creation rather than just create then move electrons around.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You're rather optimistic.

    But long term this will only help us as we'll have to actually make things and services and invest in capital creation rather than just create then move electrons around.

    That would require our government to, you know, actually encourage entrepreneurialism.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    It explains why someone like Eliot Spitzer, whom we write about in the book, someone that disciplined, that ambitious, [who] knew the laws [and] knew the risk…how does he get to be governor and then finally blow it? And there are probably lots of reasons in his psyche why he did that, but it’s just the fact he’s sitting there as governor making decisions all day long and then at night: “Sure, why not call the call girl? Why not transfer from my own bank account so it’s traceable?”

    .

    It was not decision fatigue that made Eliot Spitzer do these things. It was the fact that he felt he could. It is normally called arrogance.

  • Skip||

    At least Spitzer had a Democrat leaning media who he thought would cover up for him. A better question is why Mark Sanford cheated on his wife so blatantly.

  • ||

    The harebrained Dementor-in-Chief spewing some more inane crap? What a shocker.

    I wonder when he's going to offer a neurological explanation for being a petty tyrant.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,”

    Well, the only acceptable colors for business suits are gray, navy blue, and charcoal. So, I agree with him there. Unfortunately, whoever tailors Obama's suits is horrible at his or her job. His jacket sleeves are always way too long and his shoulders look funny.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    his shoulders look funny.

    Your shoulders would look like that, too, if you had the weight of the world Michelle sitting on them.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Your shoulders would look like that, too, if you had the weight of the world Michelle sitting on them.

    I don't think Obama goes downtown.

    Jus' sayin'

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Brothers don't play that way.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Would you?

    **shudders**

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Dude's gotta get his "Wookie Wings" somehow.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I'd be intrigued to see the details of the research Tierney is talking about. His explanation of "decision fatigue" uses a lot of very unmeasurable concepts, so I'm skeptical of how his hypotheses could really be tested scientifically.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    After a while, when you’ve depleted this resource, it’s a state called ego depletion. You’ve got less self-control, you’re more prone to give in to temptation, it’s harder for you to work, and you tend to make worse decisions.

    Just eat a Snickers, dude.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Wow - earth shattering news. This is why I always liked the work locations where we had unifoms. I wore the same thing 5 days a week - one less thing I didn't have to think about (and that I didn't care about anyway).

    Same reason I arrange all my shit for the morning the night before when I got to bed - then I don't have to think about it. Keys, sunglasses, ID badge, briefcase w/computer inside - check. Reh to GO.

    Leaves more time to decide how to feed the Kochtopus each day.

    So I'm down with the grey and blue suits idea. Now, about the mom jeans....

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    If you've never worked somewhere where you could wear a seersucker suit in the summer, you've never lived.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I have always wanted a seersucker suit, and try them on every year. My wife says I look good in them, but when I look in the mirror, I think I look like a tool. Some day...

  • $park¥||

    Are you sure it's the suit?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    You hurt my feelings! I'm going to jihad your ass! Sparky = Dead Ambassador!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You can't do the seersucker unless you go the whole nine yards, madras plaid sport shirt, bow tie, straw hat, white nubuck shoes with red soles.

  • R C Dean||

    When I worked in Richmond, I rocked a seersucker in the summer.

    Damn comfortable in hot sticky climes. I didn't quite go the bow tie route, although I really should have.

  • $park¥||

    If decision fatigue is really a thing, then it seems to me that right before you go to bed would be the worst time to pick our your clothes for the next day.

  • Spartacus||

    Obama, shorter version: "After a long day of telling everyone else how to live, I'm too tired to do it for myself."

  • John Thacker||

    I also like the way that the url was shortened for this article:

    "obama-wears-boring-suits-so-he-wont-twee"

    Yeah, if he didn't restrain himself, he'd dress twee as all hell.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    So we went from wanting a president able to make the hard decisions, to one who actively avoids making the pointless ones?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement