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The Tentacle


December 31, 2008

Obsession In Washington

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Obsession, the new fragrance from the elite media for 2009… As we await the dawn of a New Year, we look forward to many questions and challenges. However the subplot for 2009 has got to be how long the obsessive, passionate love affair between the press and President-elect Barack Obama will last.

 

In spite of the weighty matters of war and peace and the economy, the elite media breathlessly reports on the president-elect as if he were Brad Pitt. In contrast to the long list of pressing matters, President-elect Obama is considered adoringly by the media as the new American Adonis for his exercise regiment and attractive physique.

 

At a time when discussion, dialogue and critical analysis is so sorely needed, we were treated, for example, with a fawning, cutting-edge, front page “news story” on Christmas Day, no less, in The Washington Post by Eli Saslow, that in part read:

 

“Between workouts during his Hawaii vacation this week, he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.”

 

Look at it as a Christmas present of sorts from the media.

 

Michelle Malkin spoke for many when she wrote that the “1,233-word ode to O's physical fitness read more like a Harlequin romance novel than an A-1 news article.”

 

Even I was rummaging around the office for a cigarette after I read it.

 

I kept reading it with hot flashes while fanning myself with the comic section, in complete anticipation that Mr. Saslow was going to ask the president-elect to marry him by the end of the, ahem, “news article.”

 

Robert Stacy McCain wrote on The American Spectator web site on December 26: “Such ‘reporting’ ought to make Saslow a laughingstock among the hard-bitten cynics of the Washington press corps, because Obama's gym enthusiasm is not really ‘a new kind of presidential fitness.’ President Bush is ferociously fit, his mountain-bike sessions notoriously grueling. Bush doesn't make a habit of going around shirtless with the sun glinting off his pecs, but a couch potato, he ain't.”

 

Mr. McCain went on to observe that in “2008, Obama was featured on the cover of Time 14 times, and 11 times on the cover of Newsweek, and if the coverage wasn't always as schoolgirl-giddy as Saslow's, it was overwhelmingly positive.”

 

Perhaps Mr. Saslow was channeling Anaïs Nin, the Cuban-French author who was famous for her journals and erotic scribblings. Perhaps The Washington Post wanted to boost its bottom line by taking a walk with D. H. Lawrence.

 

One can only look forward to future adaptations of Mr. Lawrence’s “The Woman (president-elect) Who Rode Away (with the press) and Other Stories.” Or “Women (the press) in Love.” Culminating in a Pulitzer Prize winning, “Lady Chatterley’s (The media’s) Lover.”

 

I, for one, admire President-elect Obama for his workout ethic. Of course, I am also in shape – round. And as soon as I put down this double cheeseburger, coke and fries, I might run – over to the couch and take a nap.

 

Of course, the president-elect’s exercise routine is essentially the same rigorous exercise regiment practiced by President George W. Bush. Yeah, the same president who was excoriated by essentially the same elite media for his rigorous exercise routine.

 

For some compare and contrast, I was reminded by Ms. Malkin of Jonathan Chait’s “The (over)exercise of power,” from July 22, 2005 in the Los Angles Times.

 

Mr. Chait, who is also a senior editor with The New Republic opined: “There’s no denying that the results are impressive. Bush can bench press 185 pounds five times, and, before a recent knee injury, he ran three miles at a 6-minute, 45-second pace. That’s better than I could manage when I played two sports in high school. And I wasn’t holding the most powerful office on Earth. Which is sort of my point: Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement?”

 

Mr. Chait then fumed: “Am I the only person who finds this disturbing? … What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy.”

 

No, it’s not “creepy.” What creeps me out is that Mr. Chait thinks it’s creepy.

 

What’s the difference? Gee, let me think about this. Oh, I know, how could I be so silly? One is a liberal president and the other was a conservative president…

 

What is really creepy, as we begin 2009, is the media obsession with President-elect Obama. You wait, at a presidential news conference in the not-too-distant future, a member of the media will get up and pop the question: “Will you marry me.”

 

I can easily see that for a history, economics, and media columnist, 2009 is going to be a wonderful year and I am beside myself in anticipation.

 

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

 



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