“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”
— Mark Twain
If the press loves you, you can do no wrong. If they hate you, you can do no right. In either case, what they are presenting is distorted and therefore unfair to their subjects or their readers.
Ah, the perks of media affection. On Christmas Day, the Washington Post delivered a front-page paean to Barack Obama’s workout habits. The 1,233-word ode to O’s physical fitness read more like a Harlequin romance novel than an A-1 news article.
Sighed smitten reporter Eli Zaslow,
“The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.”
For adoring journalists, you see, Obama’s workout fanaticism demonstrates the discipline and balance in his life. Apparently, what’s good for Obama’s glistening pecs is good for the country…
Too bad the doughy, McDonald’s-chomping, coffee-guzzling members of the White House press corps couldn’t see the merits of White House exercise over the past eight years. After giggling about his out-of-shape colleagues in the media, Zaslow mentioned in passing that President George W. Bush shares Obama’s commitment to health. What he failed to acknowledge is that the same reporters who so greatly admire Obama’s lithe figure derided Bush for his training schedule.
Former Washington Post writer Jonathan Chait famously attacked Bush three years ago in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times headlined “The (over)exercise of power.” Recounting how President Bush ran 3.5 miles a day and preached more cross-training to a federal judge, Chait 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.” (emphasis mine -admin)
The press corp mostly sneered at Bush’s commitment to exercise. They sneered at Condi Rice’s exercise regimen, as well; she was the over-achiever subsuming her emotions to the treadmill, or whatever. But Sen. Obama? They’re turning him into “Chesty McCheesecake*”, (and he seems a willing exhibitionist) probably because they haven’t got a clue who he really is or what he’s really about. And perhaps Obama likes it that way; he seems to be smart enough to know that if he gives them his chest, he needn’t bother giving them his thoughts.
All the press can do is hope and prey.
President Bush, who famously never enters the Oval Office in anything but a suit-and-tie, likely had too much respect for the Office of the Presidency to make a point of walking around shirtless. But had he done so – had he moseyed out of a workout with shirt in hand and pecs glistening, can’t you just imagine how the press would have howled about it, decrying his “vanity” in displaying the effects of his workouts? Of course they would have.
American “reporters” have become the political equivalent of teen magazine editors; this person is so hunky and in, this other person is so dweeby and out! Our cover boy loves argula and hates rainy days. He loves to work out and hates to see sad puppies! Send us your secret Barack fantasy! Special edition Barack Poster: Photoshop yourself in his arms!
They’re even giving us the beefcake photos of the slender, chest-waxed non-threatening male (ala Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy) who is about to be sworn in as president. How dreamy! Win a dream date with The Prez! We don’t actually know him or have a clue how he’ll lead, so let’s all just look at his pecs!
Does all of this portend a presidency of style over substance? I doubt it; Obama will not get the same “vacation from history” that Bill Clinton enjoyed. In serious times such as these, I suspect a salivating press does not do an American President any favors when it turns him into a beefcake pin-up.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that the president-elect and the future first-lady work out; we Americans can use the encouragement and example. It’s just too bad that for the last eight years the press did not see it “equally as fit” to praise a presidential work-out regime as an admirable, and not suspect, thing. And all because the guy had an R after his name, instead of a D.
Whether sighing over a godling president or treating another to 8 years of schoolyard name-calling, or bolstering an inarticulate and unaccomplished “princess” after destroying a “much too common” Governor who could run rings around her, American Journalism is largely in the hands of a bunch of 14 year olds.
*For the record, although people are picking up on the “Chesty McCheesecake” thing, I’m not actually calling President-elect Obama that; I am simply pointing out a vibe the press is creating and rather thoughtlessly encouraging.
Also, Kate wonders, how will Obama stand the stress of Dubya’s job if he can’t handle the stress of a much lesser job.