Steve Jobs and Barack Obama: The Angry Years

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 25 2011 1:06 PM

Steve Jobs and Barack Obama: The Angry Years

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CORAL GABLES, FL - OCTOBER 24: A copy of the newly released biography of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is displayed at the Books & Books store on October 24, 2011 in Coral Gables, Florida. The book written by Walter Isaacson was slated to be released next year by publisher Simon & Schuster but was pushed up after Jobs died on October 5. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs had a few details leaked early, including the basics about a meeting in 2010 with President Obama. Everybody now knows the hook: Jobs told Obama he was "headed for a one-term presidency" unless he changed course.

I've finally got a copy of the book, and the Obama part -- colored by the fact that Jobs was ill, and not up for big travel and meetings -- really doesn't reflect well on the White House.

Jobs offered to put together a group of six or seven CEOs who could really explain the innovation challenges facing America, and the president accepted. So Jobs made a list of people for a Washington meeting to be held in December. Unfortunately, after Valerie Jarrett and other presidential aides had added names, the list had expanded to more than twenty, with GE's Jeffrey Immelt in the lead. Jobs sent Jarrett an email saying it was a bloated list and he had no intention of coming.
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In the meeting, everyone got annoyed with Cisco's John Chambers for doing, well, basically what Republicans want businesses to do, and saying what would be good for the bottom line. In his case, tax repatriation. "Why is he just talking about what's good for him?" grouses Mark Zuckerberg. Jobs tried to focus on a positive policy idea, and let "any foreign student who earned an engineering degree" stay in the USA on a visa. Obama pointed out that Republicans had blocked the DREAM Act. "The president is very smart," Jobs tells Isaacson, "but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done. It infuriates me."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.