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.