Allegedly, some might think.

You know it’s August — when all the nation’s brains go on 50 percent power — when you open the No. 2 daily in the country and read this:

Too Fit to Be President?

Facing an Overweight Electorate,
Barack Obama Might Find
Low Body Fat a Drawback

Speaking to donors at a San Diego fund-raiser last month, Barack Obama reassured the crowd that he wouldn’t give in to Republican tactics to throw his candidacy off track.

“Listen, I’m skinny but I’m tough,” Sen. Obama said.

But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.

Two quotes follow:

“He’s too new … and he needs to put some meat on his bones,” says Diana Koenig, 42, a housewife in Corpus Christi, Texas, who says she voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

“I won’t vote for any beanpole guy,” another Clinton supporter wrote last week on a Yahoo politics message board.

The rest is filler about skinny presidents (Lincoln), chubby presidents (Clinton), famous food-on-the-campaign-trail moments (Gerry Ford bit into a tamale with the husk still on) and other tangential crap like this:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a self-described “recovering foodaholic” who shed 110 pounds from his 5-foot-11 frame in two years and made fitness and nutrition central to his White House run, says voters “probably want someone who takes care of his health … as an example of the kind of personal discipline necessary to do the job.”

So it goes, your basic notebook dump for, hello, 1,400 words. And there you have it: Trend Story in a Nutshell. Put a question mark in your headline, pad with vague phrasing (“just might have some Americans wondering…”) and if anyone calls you on any part of it, say, “Why are you so serious? It’s August! It’s just a fun story on the features front!”

Actually, when it comes to this sort of material, I’m growing fond of Gina Kolata’s Personal Best column in the NYT, which seems to be aimed at human robots. It debuted last year with this burning question: How long into pregnancy is it acceptable to run for exercise? And we’re not talking a jog around the block, but training for marathons, women who run seven-minute miles in their third trimester — you know, women just like you and me. Another piece examined whether serious exercisers should only see doctors who are serious exercisers themselves, the better to avoid downer advice like, “maybe your knee would feel better if you didn’t exercise so much.”

It’s like visiting another planet.

I get three newspapers delivered to my home. This is why.

And here’s another reason: The mystery of the anthrax letters looks to be an unsatisfying, but probably good-enough, wrap. Rereading the story took me back to that crazy time in the fall of 2001 when it seemed the world really was falling down around our ears. Alan had a job interview in Traverse City around that time, and at the time moving that far north — out of the prevailing winds of a nuclear attack on, say, Chicago — seemed like an excellent idea. I remember sitting at my desk in the newsroom, which was near the police radio, listening to the scanner traffic. This was the Friday after the attacks, and there was a call to investigate a mysterious swarthy-faced character roughly every 15 minutes. Many came from the neighborhood near the Indiana Tech campus, where swarthy was the rule for about every third student. Strange times.

My friend Dave, a sportswriter, says Osama bid Hidin’ missed a much better opportunity than the World Trade Center — attacks on four open-air football stadiums on September 9, basically “Black Sunday” times four. But Arabs have a thing for buildings, and so. He might have a point. When college football games were cancelled the Saturday after 9/11, all anyone could think about was another plane crash-landing in Michigan Stadium, or someplace similar. Then the anthrax attacks started, and we were reminded: Whatever we think of, it’ll probably be something else. That’s a useful lesson.

That’s also how we got seven years down the road, mired in Iraq, an American most likely to blame for the anthrax, and a certain tall Arab with chronic kidney problems still MIA.


“American Teen,” a film shot near Fort Wayne, gets generally good reviews.

And I’m off to enjoy the weekend. You do the same.

UPDATE: Wow. That WSJ story is even hinkier than at first blush.

Posted at 10:06 am in Current events, Popculch |

26 responses to “Allegedly, some might think.”

  1. alex said on August 1, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Some empty calories, that reading. If there’s one single voter in the world who votes for candidates based on their body mass index, I’ll eat my hat. Really, it would have been a better story if they’d zeroed in on dick size. Not whose is biggest but who’s the biggest.

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  2. Kirk said on August 1, 2008 at 10:39 am

    The major parties haven’t exactly been in a rush to nominate fat guys to mirror the electorate. Though Bill was on the pudgy side, there hasn’t been a real President Blimpo since William Howard Taft, for whom they had to remove dinky stadium seats and replace them with a couch when he showed up to throw out the first pitch in the ballpark in Washington.

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  3. nancy said on August 1, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Well, exactly.

    I like Alex’ idea. Roy, covering the right-wing snit over Obama’s three-pointer, says dick size is the next frontier.

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  4. brian stouder said on August 1, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Gimme the thin guy….and I’m not ashamed to say – giving a good speech IS a key part of the job, especially in trying times. (and btw, Sean Hannity and other Latter Day Saints in the Church of Ronald Reagan never voice any reservation at all about how marvelous a communicator the Great Communicator was)

    The people who drive me CRAZY (and Pammy would hasten to say “That’d be a SHORT trip”) are the Democrats who moan and complain about how awful Republicans are (and W in particular) – but who turn right around and attack Obama with even MORE zeal!! (see the lunatics at Corrente, which FWOb linked to when they attacked Susan Bayh)

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  5. coozledad said on August 1, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Well just let me weigh in on dick size for the liberal team. Jet pilots are selected for two things. Short stature and short…a tendency to overcompensate.
    McCain’s an Irish name, if I’m not mistaken. Like mine. I know there are exceptions to the Irish curse, some spectacular, I’ll bet. But I’ll also bet McCain wants to get all up in God’s face the same way I do some days, and ask Why?! Godammit. Why?!
    And neither me nor McCain should ever darken the door of the White house except to ask to use the pissoir.

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  6. Gasman said on August 1, 2008 at 11:27 am

    The Amy Chozick piece was an embarrassing bit of fluff, totally devoid of any content. What’s next? Is America ready for Obama’s hair? Would Obama’s be the biggest Presidential Schlong? Since Cheney and Bush have spent 7.5 years waving their respective phallic cudgels around to impress and terrify the world, it would make a certain amount of sense to have a president whose meat would make the world sit up and take notice. “You want a piece of the U.S.A.!? ‘Scuse me while I whip this out!”

    It amazes me what passes for journalism these days. The right wing hacks that have been 100% wrong about nearly every subject, especially Iraq, seem to the only talking heads that TV will put on air. I am constantly amazed that the likes of Charles Krauthammer, et al, are still commanding much column space in papers across the country. If I had a record of being as consistently wrong as Krauthammer – in any other professional sphere – I would be unemployed. That self inflating arrogant windbag is fawned over for being chronically inept. And the media wonders why the American public’s faith in them ranks journalists about on par with Congress. It might have something to do with hard hitting investigative journalism like Amy Chozick’s.

    Our local daily, the Santa Fe New Mexican just announced a bunch of cuts, all in the news room. We lost several features and several reporters were given pink slips. By all means, keep everyone in advertising, let’s get rid of the folks actually providing content.

    At what point did the press collectively abdicate its role as skeptics? They – again, collectively – appear content to either merely pass on press releases crafted by partisan weasels or give us the meaningless pablum of hacks like Chozick.

    This country has never existed without a healthy and skeptical press, and I’m not sure that we can. We are going to hell.

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  7. Danny said on August 1, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Coozle, at least one is less likely to get poison ivy on a not-so-extreme extremity. As least that’s what I’ve heard!

    And hey, I meant to mention that a few Cranberries fans have also recommended The Sundays.

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  8. coozledad said on August 1, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Danny: You might like this band, too. Only one album and then disappeared into the ether.

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  9. alex said on August 1, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    cooze and Gas, between the two of you that’s the best belly laugh I’ve had all week. After reading the link to Roy.

    The proceedings in the Starr chamber during the Clinton years set a new high water mark for what’s not off limits. I have a feeling this election cycle may get a whole lot uglier—and possibly for the better. For once the moral outrage will rightly belong to people other than the moralists.

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  10. Lex said on August 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    The piece was not only stupid, it was contextually flawed to the point where a retraction is in order, Digby points out.

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  11. Jolene said on August 1, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    At this very moment, people on MSNBC are talking about the WSJ article. Fortunately, they are laughing.

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  12. brian stouder said on August 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    by the way, that story about the government researcher who committed suicide as he came under increasing suspicion left me a little uneasy. The G-men have already paid out millions (millions?!!) to another researcher, who they named a “person of interest”, apparently incorrectly.

    The most compelling thing they tell us about the dead guy is that he decontaminated a colleague’s work area without clearance to do so, and without reporting it. That is very interesting, and one would like to know more. Absent more information, though, it is unconvincing. The guy was in sight of retirement, and was about to lose his reputation – if not his liberty, and we’ve already seen that the investigators blew the first time around (when the trail was presumeably ‘hot’)

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  13. Danny said on August 1, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Brian, I am with you in the uneasy-feeling department. For many reasons. Not the least of which is the “suicide” itself.

    I remember thinking the same thing when I heard Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the “DC Madame,” had supposedly committed suicide.

    I am not a conspiracy theory guy, but some things make you wonder.

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  14. moe99 said on August 1, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Here’s a wonderful Rachel Maddow smackdown of Pat Buchanan moment:

    obviously she’s not being deferential enough to her elders. NOT.

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  15. Dexter said on August 1, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    While waiting for a blood pressure check today, I noticed an extremely wide seat in the waiting room, amidst the normal chairs. I sat in it. I fit into that seat better than the regular ones.
    This is all the more reason for continued vigilance with the diet. How depressing it is to weigh in , a week of being good just concluded, with only one lapse, a piece of strawberry shortcake, and to see I gained three pounds. Now I realize I have to cut back even more. This sucks.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    My daughter’s SO, the aviation captain, is in Wichita training on the Hawker aircraft for NetJets. Yesterday one crashed south of Minneapolis and killed all eight aboard.

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  16. Dexter said on August 1, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    “Take a Greyhound Bus
    And leave the driving to us!”

    ( just wear a Kevlar vest, and bring a police revolver and a Bowie knife and DO NOT SLEEP!)

    HERE’S the latest

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  17. Catherine said on August 1, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Well, as Alex said, noone who’s paying any attention would vote for candidates based on their body mass index. The food/beverage choices can be interesting, though. Remember when Bruce Babbitt admitted that his favorite drink was Tecate (the other candidates said “milk!” and “orange juice!”)? And I loves me that Honest Tea — Community Green is my fave — could this be the start of my thaw towards Barack?

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  18. alex said on August 1, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I really am earnest about making dick size an issue in this race. America needs to understand that it has a clear choice between a leader who’s as cool as a cucumber versus one who’s as hot as a habanero.

    Which one would you put in your oval orifice?

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  19. nancy said on August 1, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    That Alex. Showing his advertising chops once again.

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  20. moe99 said on August 3, 2008 at 12:19 am

    The latest shitackular mcCain ad

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  21. Dexter said on August 3, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Craig Crawford discusses this WSJ topic with Keith Olbermann:

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  22. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 3, 2008 at 8:57 pm


    C’mon, now that’s funny. Obama’s crew had better start showing some humor, or they’re gonna go up the same river delta Kerry’s crew traveled.

    The Obama campaign humorlessness is their weak spot, and McCain’s gang is swarming on that gap to great effect — the liberal wing of the Democratic party has a severe tendency to hyper-seriousness, which goes down like cod liver oil for the electorate. GOP smarm has just enough self-aware irony to be tolerable to voters (re: “It’s Morning in America” which everyone knew was cheesy, but still . . .), while the Donkey Brigade actually thinks people get excited about “we are the change we’ve been waiting for.”

    Most of us are still waiting for the punch line on that joke. If the D’s made mockery of McCain, sure, there’d be some grim schoolmarms in suits opining how “awful it is that they would mock a real American hero,” but most McCain supporters would say, “Fair enough, let’s see what John says in riposte.” Just because the People’s Party is fearful of stepping askew about a bemedalled patriot doesn’t mean it isn’t fair for said retired Naval aviator ‘n ossifer to crack wise about Mr. Community Organizer. That’s what they sound like right now, though — hey, we can’t make fun of your guy (really?), so you shouldn’t get to make fun of ours.

    McCain’s team is inviting Obama’s team to take their best shot, and i just wonder if they’re more worried about counterpunching than landing their own swing.

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  23. beb said on August 3, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Apparently claiming that OBama was “presumpious” didn’t get the traction the R’s were hoping for so on they’re going after his skinniness.

    The idea that the mystery of the Anthrax attacks have been solved by the suicide of an unstable man that no one had previously suspected strikes me as more wishing thinking than anything sound.

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  24. coozledad said on August 3, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Seems to me all the McCain Campaign and its pocket media have done is to delineate what we can’t discuss about old shitbritches. Not the fact he roasted a few jets because he’s essentially oscillating around the same skill level as coca-boy, nor the fact he’s referred to his money saddle as a cunt, or can’t keep it straight that he voted against the MLK holiday, or was neck deep in Charles Keating’s theft from the beautiful savings and loan industry, has career officers essentially referring to him as a shithead, and as of today, we can’t discuss the fact he’s too fucking old to even field a fucking question.
    He’s old. Old . Old. And when he was young his skull was filled with shit. The kind of shit that makes you leave your old trophy babe for a new trophy babe. Because the old one can’t do the rope tricks anymore.
    Are you seriously suggesting this man didn’t sell his countrymen out?

    Then you need to develop a sense of humor.

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  25. Gasman said on August 4, 2008 at 1:15 am

    I guess I am a bit uneasy about the FBI declaring that everything is wrapped up regarding the anthrax attacks. When I moved to New Mexico, the FBI was hounding Wen Ho Lee trying to get him to confess to crimes he did not commit. They were so focused on him that they refused to consider that they might not be investigating the right person or the right crime. He went fly fishing on a local river and a big black SUV with 6 G-men shadows him until the local TV crew trained their cameras on them. They fled like Keystone cops.

    Remember Richard Jewel and how the FBI tried desperately to pin the Atlanta Olympic bombings on him? They just about ruined his life and they were wrong. They also were trying to do the same thing to another scientist in the anthrax investigation. Their punitive bungling cost them about $6 million in damages paid to the wronged scientist.

    The feds have a very poor track record of trying and convicting suspects without the bother of courts, lawyers, and juries with disastrous and tragic results. They need to prove their case even though their main suspect du jour is dead.

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