Obama after leaving office: No shaving, no ties

US President Barack Obama laughing at a question with moderator Tech Sergeant Nathan Parry (right) during a meeting with the US military at Fort Meade on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
US President Barack Obama laughing at a question with moderator Tech Sergeant Nathan Parry (right) during a meeting with the US military at Fort Meade on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FORT MEADE (Maryland) • US President Barack Obama is looking forward to not shaving and not wearing a tie when he leaves office next year. He disclosed this on Friday during a town hall-style meeting at the military base here, a centre for military intelligence and cyber warfare, just outside Washington.

Mr Obama held the meeting on the 14th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, and spoke about Russian moves in Syria, cyber threats from China and efforts to deal with the flood of migrants in Europe.

On a more personal note, a service member asked how the president handled all the people "talking smack about you and what you do".

"You know, the truth is that not everyone is talking smack about me. But there is a sizeable percentage in Congress that talks smack about me, no doubt about it," the New York Times said he replied to laughter.

The president also professed to tuning out second-guessing his decisions, according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper said he credited that mindset to giving him the confidence to authorise a covert operation in 2011 to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept 11 attacks.

"It was probably a 50-50 proposition that was, in fact, him hiding in Pakistan, Mr Obama said.

"If I make that decision wanting to avoid risk and avoid someone talking smack about me, it might not have been a decision I was prepared to make."

He also said he had not entered public service simply to be popular, and he pointed to his decision to bail out the auto industry during the economic crisis as an example of a policy that he would never have followed if he had just followed the polls. The auto industry is now thriving and has become the core of a rebound in American manufacturing, he said.

He said he was looking forward to doing many things after leaving the White House, such as getting out of the security bubble and not shaving on weekends.

"And I can't just on a Saturday morning go down to Starbucks or something, not shave," he said.

And when he leaves, "I probably won't wear a tie for at least a month."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2015, with the headline 'Obama after leaving office: No shaving, no ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe