There's little argument that 2013 has been the most difficult year of President Obama's time in office. Between the revelation of the NSA's widespread surveillance, a 16-day government shutdown, problems with the launch of Healthcare.gov, and more, it's been a year of turmoil in The White House. David Remnick of The New Yorker spent time with the president as 2013 wrapped up and has just published an extensive behind-the-scenes look at President Obama as he tries to prepare for his presidency's final push.
While Obama mostly stays on-point throughout the piece, not letting his guard down enough to say anything truly out-of-character, there are still a number of worthwhile stories throughout. He called marijuana less dangerous than alcohol "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer" — but was more concerned with the disproportionate number of marijuana arrests that land minorities and the poor in jail and less interested in whether or not it should be made legal.
He also reiterated the same message he's been pushing around the NSA. He said that the media's coverage of Edward Snowden's leaks paints "a picture of a rogue agency out there running around and breaking a whole bunch of laws and engaging in a 'domestic spying program' that isn't accurate. But what that does is it synchs up with a public imagination that sees Big Brother looming everywhere." More concerning to Obama is how these leaks have damaged the country's relationship with foreign leaders, who now feel heightened suspicion towards the country.
As for possibly pardoning Snowden, Obama certainly wouldn't say for sure what he was thinking — but he didn't rule it out, either. "I do not have a yes / no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden," Obama said. He went on to note that it was an active, ongoing case with charges pending — so he probably isn't in the position yet to make such a judgement. As for Snowden's actions, Obama summed up his concerns as such: "Is the only way to [raise questions about the NSA's actions] by giving some twenty-nine-year-old free rein to basically dump a mountain of information, much of which is definitely legal, definitely necessary for national security, and should properly be classified?" These are just a few of many, many topics Remnick and the president touch on in the wide-ranging profile — head over to The New Yorker to catch the entire piece.