MONEY credit cards

Obama’s Credit Card Was Declined—No, Really.

US President Barack Obama tells a story about his credit card was recently declined at a restaurant
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

The president shared a story about his own credit card troubles during an executive order signing at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

First, we heard that the former chair of the Federal Reserve couldn’t get a mortgage. Then we learned that one of the most powerful economic figures in the world makes less money than at least 113 of her underlings.

Now we find out that President of the United States had his credit card declined.

At an event at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today, President Obama said a New York restaurant rejected his card last month. But it wasn’t because he maxed out his credit (or so he says).

“I guess I don’t use it enough, so they thought there was some fraud going on,” Obama said. “I was trying to explain to the waitress, no, I really think that I’ve been paying my bills.”

The President made his remarks while signing an executive order to improve security features on government credit cards. “Even I’m affected by this,” Obama joked.

Luckily, Michelle picked up the tab.

Read on for more help with common credit woes:

Read next: Obama Signs Order to Secure Government Credit Cards From Data Breaches

TIME politics

Michelle Obama: ‘Turnip for What?’

Michelle Obama
First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by school children as they harvest peanuts in the annual fall harvest at the White House on Oct. 14, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

The First Lady films a hilarious vine about veggie consumption

First Lady Michelle Obama has brought her fresh-produce campaign to the most appropriately named venue yet: the six-second video app Vine.

The advocate of healthy eating — known for her White House garden — poses with a turnip in her brief video clip, before asking “Turnip for what?” It’s a fun play on DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s summer hit “Turn Down for What,” a song that’s had a longer-than-expected life as a voter-registration anthem. It was the perfect response to an Obama impersonator using Vine to ask the First Lady how many calories she burns when she “turns up.”

Perhaps this is the easiest and most cost-effective way to remind a generally disaffected young voter base of the appeals of the Obama presidency leading into the midterm elections. Or maybe the First Lady really just wanted to boogie with a root vegetable. Either way, this is perhaps the most unscripted Michelle Obama we’ve seen yet — willing to expend far more energy on TV appearances from The Biggest Loser to Parks and Recreation, none of which has caught the public’s imagination quite so vividly. We look forward to whatever may be her next veggie-themed song parody (good luck, as no veggie names spring to mind as rhymes for “All About That Bass” or “Shake It Off”) — or just the next time she has fun advocating roughage consumption.

Read next: Michelle Obama Thinks Pencils Are a Crummy Halloween Gift

TIME 2014 Election

Vulnerable Democrats Run Away From Obama

Democratic Challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes And Senate Minority Leader McConnell Locked In Tight Race
Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, and Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks at the Fancy Farm picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky. on Aug. 2, 2014. Win McNamee—Getty Images

There's a reason the President isn't often seen on the campaign trail

In Monday night’s one and only debate for the Kentucky Senate race, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic challenger refused to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“I have my disagreements with the President,” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said. “The President is not on the ballot this year.” She added that it was her “constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box” to decline to name for whom she’d voted.

Though she did so clumsily and has been widely criticized for it, Grimes isn’t the only Democrat seeking a Grand Canyon of distance from Obama this campaign cycle. The President’s approval rating is at 42.6% and his disapproval rating is 10-percentage points higher at 52.3%, according to an average of national polls by Real Clear Politics. And he’s even more unpopular in states where Democrats are locked in tight races for control of the Senate like Kentucky, which he lost in 2012 by 23 points; Alaska, where he lost by 14 points; and Arkansas, which he lost by 24 points.

Democrats are hoping this election won’t be a referendum on the president, as midterm elections so often are. With just days left in the campaign, each race has become a smaller-scale war of parochial issues—most of them on which candidates can easily distance themselves from Obama.

As early as a year ago, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, who is warding off a strong challenge in Arkansas, highlighted how he opposed the President’s gun control legislation in his first television ad of the cycle. “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” Pryor said in the ad. “I listen to Arkansas.”

On energy, Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska both ran ads distancing themselves from Obama’s positions. “[T]he Administration’s policies are simply wrong on oil and gas production in this nation,” Landrieu said in her spot. Begich bragged that he “took on Obama” to fight for oil drilling in the Arctic and voted against the president’s “trillion-dollar tax increase.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said in his first debate with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner that he is the “last person” the Obama Administration wants to see visiting the White House.

And while endangered Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan met Obama on the tarmac in North Carolina in August, going so far as kissing him on the cheek—footage that ended up in campaign commercials against her—she made clear ahead of his trip that she believes his Administration “has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans.” (Obama was there to deliver a speech on veterans issues.)

Even Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who isn’t up for reelection this cycle, has taken the President out to the woodshed in recent days for not doing enough to protect Americans in the wake of the financial crisis. “They protected Wall Street,” she told Salon in an interview. “Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over.”

Meanwhile, Warren, like former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is proving to be a powerful and popular surrogate these midterms, welcome in places like Kentucky and West Virginia where Obama dare not set foot.

All of which is why Obama’s spending his weekends during the final sprint to the election day golfing, rather than on the campaign trail. He’s done a huge amount of fundraising, but so far only two campaign events for incumbent governors in Illinois and Connecticut. There are a handful of other solid blue states where Obama can help—in his native Hawaii, for example—but First Lady Michelle Obama is much more in demand than he is. Michelle—who has an approval rating of 69%, higher than both Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton at the same point in their husband’s presidencies—has campaigned for Senate hopefuls in Michigan and Iowa and a gubernatorial candidate in Maine, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And she’s scheduled to stump for gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist in Florida on Friday, not to mention a bevy of voter registration events in other states.

Running away from an unpopular second-term President is practically becoming a tradition in American politics. Before the 1998 midterm elections, Bill Clinton was plagued by the Monica Lewinsky scandal—though Republican overreach helped his party actually gain seats. And thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush wasn’t very popular with his party in 2006, even before the financial crisis. Republicans lost both chambers of Congress that year.

“It’s a common phenomenon, running against a lame duck president,” says Prof. James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “In the last two years of his Administration, Presidents have tended to be very unpopular, having used up their political capital.”

Still, Obama bears the distinction of being so polarizing that running against him has proven successful for Democrats almost from the moment he was elected. In 2010, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin ran an ad that showed him shooting climate change legislation endorsed by Obama with a gun. That same year Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly ran ads distancing himself from the President. Both men bucked an anti-Democratic wave to get elected to the Senate.

Democrats this year are hoping to repeat their strategy. Grimes ran an ad in September that showed her shooting skeet while declaring: “I’m not Barack Obama.”

Read next: Hey, Mitt Romney Cracked a Good Joke

TIME society

Even Michelle Obama Was Awkward and Self-Conscious in Middle School

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts Fashion Education Workshop At The White House
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks during a session of a Fashion Education Workshop in the East Room of the White House Alex Wong—Getty Images

Obama admits to, "angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom."

No one is immune to the awkward discomfort that is middle school. And that includes First Lady Michelle Obama, also known as the Beyoncé BFF who probably should have won “Best Arms of the Class of 1981″ in high school.

FLOTUS wrote an essay to her younger self in this week’s People that discusses her angst-ridden younger years:

If I could give my younger self just one piece of advice, it would be this: Stop being so afraid! That’s really what strikes me when I look back – the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation. I was afraid of not knowing the answer in class and looking stupid, or worried about what some boy thought of me, or wondering whether the other girls liked my clothes or my hair, or angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom.

I would love to go back in time and tell my younger self, “Michelle, these middle and high school years are just a tiny blip in your life, and all the slights and embarrassments and heartaches, all those times you got that one question wrong on that test – none of that is important in the scheme of things.”

Even though Obama still faces high school-esque antics — including news commentators discussing her weight — she has certainly risen above the lunchroom chatter.

TIME fashion

Spanx Get a Shout Out From the First Lady

Michelle Obama praised the popular undergarment at a fashion education event at the White House on Wednesday

The First Lady gave a major nod to the company that’s become a staple in women’s wardrobes: Spanx, the makers of stretchy undergarments that have been making women look smoother and slimmer for a decade now.

Lucky Magazine Editor-in-Chief Eva Chen was among many fashion-forward guests at the White House on Wednesday for a Fashion Education Workshop to connect students with professionals in the field. Vogue magazine Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, J. Crew Creative Director Jenna Lyons, and fashion designer Zac Posen were also among the afternoon’s guests. During a speech in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, the First Lady—whose fashionable flair has hardly gone unnoticed since she moved into 1600 Pennsylvania—spoke on the importance of hard work when striving to make it in any field, particularly fashion.

TIME White House

Meet the New Boss of the President’s Protectors

From routine business on Capitol Hill to planning President Barack Obama's surprise trip to Baghdad, go behind the scenes with Joe Clancy, the new interim director of the Secret Service

Joe Clancy, the newly appointed interim director of the U.S. Secret Service, has protected three Presidents in his career, but now faces his toughest challenge yet: restoring the public’s—and the commander in chief’s—trust in the agency responsible with his life.

Even before Secret Service Director Julia Pierson submitted her resignation Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had reached out to Clancy, 58, most recently the director of corporate security at telecom-giant Comcast, about taking the job. He retired from the Secret Service in 2011 as head of the Presidential Protective Division (PDD), the corps of presidential bodyguards responsible for the president’s security around the clock.

After several high-profile security incidents, Clancy will be under intense pressure to keep the agency out of the news, as multiple congressional and Department of Homeland Security probes examine where the agency went wrong and where it must go from here. Obama is not expected to select a permanent replacement for Pierson until those reviews are completed later this year.

Clancy will be a familiar face to President Barack Obama and his family, having led the presidential detail during his first years in office.

TIME Food & Drink

Michelle Obama Thinks Pencils Are a Crummy Halloween Gift

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts Poetry Reading In White House Blue Room
First lady Michelle Obama speaks during the Presidents Committee on the Arts and the Humanities poetry reading in the Blue Room at the White House, September 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

“Are they sharpened so that they can stab you with them?” the First Lady asked the ABC host who says she hands them out to kids

The First Lady visited The Chew talk show on ABC on Friday to talk about school lunch, healthy snacking, and of course, Halloween treats. ’Tis the season, after all. But given her zeal for nutrition, we might have guessed that the First Lady would pass out apples on October 31. Not so: she says they give out White House cookies instead.

When co-host Carla Hall said she gives kids pencils in lieu of a treat, Mrs. Obama reacted with shock and disgust. “Really Carla?” she asked. “Are they sharpened so that they can stab you with them?”

Three school cafeteria directors presented their best lunches, judged by the hosts of the show. The winner was a spaghetti with meat sauce, with vegetables like squash and carrots “hidden” in a puree. A video spot also featured a farm, Amber Waves in Amagansett, NY, that grows many of the ingredients for pizza. Kids can visit, pick their own peppers and tomatoes, and bake themselves an individual whole-wheat pie. These kinds of projects, said Mrs. Obama and the hosts of The Chew, are the kind of thing that get kids involved in a conversation about food and health, rather than making them think of nutrition as a chore.

FLOTUS said that her own passion for nutrition came after realizing the “mistakes [she] made as a working mom,” being busy and ordering out too much. The family’s motto is now “finish your vegetables,” and she noted that she has trained Sasha and Malia to only indulge in desserts on the weekend.

“The president isn’t a big sweets eater,” she said. “I love it, but I’m always watching my weight, so that’s the first thing I pass on.” Hopefully all this conscientious eating won’t put the White House pastry chef out of business anytime soon.

TIME fashion

From Eleanor to Michelle: The Inside Scoop on First Lady Fashion

Tim Gunn and other fashion experts weigh in on First Ladies from Dolley Madison to Michelle Obama

It’s hard to imagine a job in which the clothes you wear to work are more closely scrutinized than that of the First Lady of the United States. Not even the President is so meticulously judged. And in any event, choosing between a dark suit or a tan suit (gasp!) doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for error.

The First Lady’s fashion choices are — and always have been — imbued with political power and laden with controversy, as I learned the National Archives’ event “Style and Influence: First Ladies’ Fashions,” a raucous panel discussion—not an oxymoron, turns out—moderated by Project Runway’s Tim Gunn. Fashionistas present included Valerie Steele, museum curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Lisa Kathleen Graddy, curator at the Smithsonian’s First Ladies Collection and designer Tracy Reese.

Admirers have praised Michelle Obama’s elegance — Gunn called her “divine” — while her critics have lambasted her informality (remember Shortsgate?). But striking the delicate balance between the need of the First Lady to meet high fashion standards while appealing to America’s populist inclinations has always preoccupied the women who’ve held the office.

Dolley Madison (in the White House 1809 to 1817) was derided for being too flashy for American tastes, even though her most well-known dress, a red, high-waisted, no-corset, “empire style” gown, evokes the republican values of ancient Rome. Dolley’s famous red dress is rumored to have been made out of White House curtains she rescued from British arsonists during the War of 1812 — a legend that is, tragically, almost certainly just that.

By the latter half of the century, Dolley’s sleek gowns were old news and American men were all about that bass, no treble. That fuller look was reflected in the wardrobe of the Harriet Lane, the niece of lifelong bachelor President James Buchanan and the first person to be called “First Lady” by the press (they simply didn’t know what else to call her).

According to one writer in the 1880s, “No man would stay long with a woman whose skinny buttocks he could hold in the palm of one hand,” said FIT’s Valerie Steele. And as Tracy Reese noted, we may have come full circle on the big-bottomed style of the era. “Sounds like Nicki Minaj,” she said.

Through the end of the turn of the century, the Roaring Twenties and into the Depression, some First Ladies wore the fashions of their era better than others. Edith Wilson, wife to President Woodrow Wilson, liked to do her own alterations to her clothes with mixed success—Gunn guessed she’d be the first jettisoned from Project Runway. And the image of Eleanor Roosevelt as intrepid if somewhat unfashionable is not altogether true. The Smithsonian’s Lisa Graddy told of a dress that looks conservative on a mannequin but that Mrs. Roosevelt wore with the sleeves removed and unclasped, giving the gown a “nice, draped, low back.”

“She was a bit of a minx,” added Gunn.

The First Lady’s fashion decisions have always had political impact but never more so than in the era of mass visual media, beginning roughly with Jackie Kennedy’s gilded tenure. Jackie’s famously expensive, quasi-aristocratic taste in clothes was such that GOP politicos deliberately tailored the styles of the next Republican woman to inhabit the White House, Pat Nixon, to strike an everywoman note meant to appeal to the supposedly average Americans in President Nixon’s “silent majority.”

Then in the 1980’s, Valerie Steele from FIT notes that Nancy Reagan “almost single handedly, transformed red from the color of Communist revolution to the color of Republicans.” Not a bad scalp for the better half of Mr. “tear down that wall.”

Not all First Ladies are particularly interested in fashion. Hillary Clinton was surprised by the amount of attention her clothes attracted, Steele said. And Laura Bush was largely uninterested in the kind of high-concept fashion thinking that preoccupied someone like Nancy Reagan, who, we’re told, meticulously labeled every dress with the last occasion on which it was worn.

The fashion pendulum has swung back again with Michelle Obama, who, notwithstanding her taste for affordable middle-brow threads (she’s a J. Crew fan), seems to have a personal stake in the statements she makes with her formal wear. Tracy Reese designed the dress Obama wore to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, a dress that was delivered with sleeves attached, Reese said. Obama, who has a well-known fondness for going sleeveless, personally had the sleeves removed.

TIME Opinion

Fox News Contributor Can’t Stop Telling Michelle Obama to Lose Weight

Oh, and he's a psychiatrist

Regular Fox News contributor, Dr. Keith Ablow, a board-certified psychiatrist, took the metaphorical cake Tuesday when he assured the hosts of Outnumbered they need not heed Michelle Obama’s suggestions to pack kale and blueberries in their kids’ lunch boxes. No, not because ketchup is produce. Because of the even more ludicrous argument that FLOTUS is out of shape.

“How well could she be eating? She needs to drop a few,” said Ablow, literally provoking an “OOOOOO” response from shocked FOX hosts.

Try as the women of FOX might to extricate themselves (“I am at a loss for words,” “Oh you did not just say that”), Ablow preserved: “Let’s be honest, there’s no french fries ever, that’s all kale and carrots? I don’t buy it…She’s up at night in the White House kitchen.”

And he’s still fighting the good fight, defending his initial claims to Politico on Wednesday, “It happens to be the case that the First Lady during her tenure has not been consistently a picture of fitness. That’s all, it is just a fact.”

It’s unclear as to whether Ablow spoke to Obama’s doctors about things like her resting heart rate, her blood pressure and cholesterol level, or if he was just doing an evaluation of her fitness and late-night eating habits from afar based how he thought her clothes fit. (The fit is impeccable, I might add).

But should he want to share any more “facts” about Mrs. Obama, here are some things he might want to consider beforehand:

-You can be skinny and unhealthy

-The occasional french fry does not negate a generally healthy diet

-Even if we lived in a hypothetical world in which Michelle Obama didn’t look like she could bench press Ablow, her body should have absolutely no bearing on her platform against childhood obesity. And it’s worrisome that a medical professional sees no problem making judgments about this, or any woman’s body in service of a political argument.

-Also, Michelle Obama is a fitness goddess. People even do specialized workouts specifically to emulate her body.

President Obama Makes Statement To The Press On Iraq
First lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama wave Win McNamee—Getty Images

Maybe Albus should stick with his side job of writing crime thrillers. One of which so happens to be titled Projection.

TIME politics

Michelle Obama Jokes That ‘Women Are Smarter Than Men,’ Men Don’t Get It

You can tell she's joking because she rolls her eyes and laughs

Michelle Obama jokingly said Wednesday that “women are smarter than men” during a conversation about girls’ education with former First Lady Laura Bush and journalist Cokie Roberts at the U.S-Africa’s Leader’s Summit Wednesday.

The comment comes around the 2:00 mark, when she and Bush are discussing how countries that oppress women are often countries that are struggling economically. “We can’t waste this spotlight,” Obama said, on the experience of being First Lady. “It is temporary, and life is short, and change is needed, and women are smarter than men.” You can tell she’s joking because of the eye roll, the eyebrow raise, and the fact that the audience laughed after she said it. “And the men can’t complain because you’re outnumbered today,” she continued.

There’s a moment after she says it where she’s probably thinking “oh crap, I’m going to hear about this later.”

And hear about it she did. Men of the internet did not seem to get that Obama was joking:

https://twitter.com/InGodIDoTrust/status/497051386572713984

Which might have just proved her point.

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