This photograph of Barack Obama leaving a gym makes me wonder what his fitness
routine will be like come January; indeed what he does now. I know he plays basketball, and no doubt he'll be able to organize that at the white house; though maybe he'll need to recruit secret service agents who happen to play. Does he use machines like the stairmaster or treadmill? Does he spin? He doesn't seem like an elliptical kind of guy--those things are too easy. Maybe he lifts weights. Does he sweat a lot or a little? Will the White House have a fitness room? Does it already? W. probably rides one of those windy stationary bikes.
When he's president, will he schedule a fitness session into every day?
These questions don't, at first glance, seem to bear on the important issues pressing on this nation, but they also kind of do. He seems like the kind of guy who needs to exercise for sanity and focus (something I can relate to). On the one hand, it would seem pretty difficult for the most powerful man in this country to find time to work out, but on the other hand, not at all. I know people have written about the obsession with presidential fitness, which in the popular imaginary usually slides into fitness to lead (think FDR and Houck and Kiewe's book). There's also the obsession in the popular press with such matters, but this is the first time I've actually started to pay attention. I'll probably try to track such matters here, so if anyone sees related articles, please send them along.
Like most of you, I couldn't be more ecstatic about last night's outcome. The swell of the crowds and tears last night at Grant Park, with Oprah packed right in there with the rest of them, crying on that white dude's blazer; the balloons and dancing outside the White House; the superbowl-style celebration in big cities--all these testify to the power of our soon-to-be president. Our country did some serious face-saving wheretheworldisconcerned; civic activity made an historic peak yesterday, and at long last, we will have an honest-to-goodness orator in the White House. All that pent up "unfeeling" as Lauren Berlant calls it, from 2000 and 2004, finally got replaced by, well, feeling.
But as with everything good, there is also a potentially troubling side to this occasion. This election shows that Americans are not an apathetic lot; that we can be convinced to try to make a difference, yes. But I think we ought to be very careful about hanging too much symbolic value on the election of the first black president, and what that means for equal opportunities for people of all races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds in this country. The disgust on some of the faces in the crowd at the McCain concession speech last night ought to serve as a chilling reminder that electing Obama does not automatically diminish the race-based hate that still endures in some areas, shoddily shrouded as it has been in discourses of fear and otherness.
What I mean to say is this: electing Barack Obama president is not tantamount to waving a magic wand over inner city schools and having shiny new computers and resources materialize. It does little to eradicate poverty that so closely tracks with racial inequality. Obama is no doubt committed to working for widespread equity, for righting the longstanding and shameful wrongs that persist along racial lines, or to use his language from the now-famous race speech, to eliminate bigoted policies, but as he said last night (referring to a lot of things, not just race relations), we have a long road ahead of us. We must not let his election lull us into a dimwitted complacency about race in this country. Electing Obama is a necessary first step, but it is by no means sufficient.
Waiting for Tuesday feels a little like waiting for a really important championship game, only the players will have gone home; many of the judges don't seem to have watched the same contest I did; and the scoring system may or may not work properly. In the meantime, though, lots and lots of things to keep me busy, in addition to shaking my head at the latest Palindrone: that the press's labeling her critiques of Obama as "attacks" threatens her freedom of speech. I mean, please. Pretty please?
Those scoreboards had better fucking work.
Anyway. My first full weekend at home since early September (and end of D.S.T no less) means catching up by tending to deadlines and promised reading and also some really, really good mountain biking. Nothing gives those endorphins a kick quite like riding at high speeds deep in the woods where the fall colors have turned the sun into a gigantic, super high wattage red/orange/yellow disco ball. I would have enjoyed it even more if not for our governor's plan to close down those trails, along with so many rape crisis centers, to balance his budget. Last week his approval rating was half--half!--that of W's.
Which brings me back around, worrying toward Tuesday. Get that vote on out, people.
I thought Obama did well last night in the forum that was supposed to favor McCain. McCain's jokes were oh, so flat--he hunches his shoulders and laughs at them before he even delivers them. And then they're not funny. Oh, and the moment he referred to Obama as "that one" was stellar. He might as well have said "You know who voted for it? That terrorist-loving negro!" Just forehead slapping. In contrast, Obama's comment about a wheel falling off the straight talk express was well delivered and quite funny. Maybe I'm just revealing my bias.
And speaking of which, for an audience supposedly full of undecideds, I thought it was quite obvious which candidate was favored by certain individuals in the audience. A couple of the bald white men trembled with pleasure, their glasses quaking just a little bit when McCain walked close to them (I would argue too close--he looked like he was going to climb into the petty officer's lap at one point, or at least give him the special hug he reserves only for W), and at the end these same fellows shook hands with Obama for the briefest possible second and never looked at him. And then--then, there was the woman in blue. There she is, right there, circled in the photo below, gazing adoringly at the Obamas, like a 1960s teenager just home from a Beatles concert.
Does anyone else remember her?
We know from the introductory remarks that the town hall audience was
asked to behave with restraint--no applause, no calling out. And yet what that meant was that the Obama fan in blue was about to lose a wheel herself from all the restraint. She was quite often in the shot when Obama was answering questions, and she looked like she was on the brink of standing up and shouting "I am sorry Mr. Brokaw, but OMYGOD OBAMA is our MAN, and he's STANDING RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ME!" When Obama got off a good zinger at McCain or delivered a particularly impressive answer, her eyes widened, her mouth spread gleefully, and her head pulled back. She would have looked around at her fellow townspeople to see if they got that, but her eyes were stuck on Obama. When McCain was talking, she looked around, bored, probably wondering what those lights on the floor were for. And then, post debate, when Obama came close to her section, she pulled out her standard-issue disposable camera, snapped one shot, and then slid it away, always keeping that free eye on the man she hopes with all her heart will be our next president.
Undecided, my ass. Indeed, I would offer that the photo above reveals nearly everyone's
preference. The guy in the tie beside the obama fan is looking fondly
at McCain. The woman to her left is craning her neck just a little for a better view of Obamas.
The woman in front of the obama fan with the black blazer and cool glasses is
following Obama with her eyes, while the woman in front of her (same
back blazer) has just snapped a picture of the McCains. It's less clear
who the guy in the upper left corner is shooting with his disposable
camera--maybe he likes Tom Brokaw.
That's the sound of the semester flying by. I know this because it seems like only a few days ago that I was mowing my lawn and obsessing over McCain's recent announcement about his VP pick. My (distraught) obsession was heightened by the rest of the country's seeming obsession with Palin herself and the giant boost McCain experienced in the polls. "Cuckoo!" I said. "A brilliant stroke!" friends (also democrats) said. And on, and on.
When I read today that it has been five weeks since McCain picked Palin, I couldn't believe that much time has passed since I was pushing my reel mower in a bizarre oval pattern while shouting into the telephone about the pick to anyone who would listen, and saying I couldn't wait until the VP debate on October 2.
Today is October 2, and I feel much calmer. Now that the less-than-relevant teen pregnancy issue has died down, the story about
her extramarital affair has never picked up, the protracted and
peripatetic interviews have been aired, dissected, and parodied, large
swathes of the population seem to be recognizing that this pick may
well have been disastrous. The facebook group I started has slid down in the list of FB links I click on daily. I still stand by my claim that McCain never planned to consult Palin about anything, a suggestion that can be rather chilling in terms of how gender is functioning here. Obama's poll numbers are picking up in keystates, and we're coming up on a month before the election. I feel slightly more at ease (but only slightly) and am hoping to catch most of tonight's debate.
For all the scrutiny Michelle Obama has gotten, Cindy McCain has gotten very little. Last night I stayed up past my bedtime reading last week's New Yorker article by Adrian Levy about Cindy McCain's role in the campaign, and the article shows remarkable coherence with the McCain campaign's month of lies. Even Fox News and Karl Rove agree that the distortions are spinning out of control.
By the lights of the campaign's outrageous accounts of Obama policies, Cindy McCain's lies seem harmless, ranging from her well-known but little-discussed addiction to prescription drugs in the early nineties, to her "not telling" John McCain about the Bangladeshi baby she brought back from an orphanage, to her similarly not telling John McCain about her taking flight lessons and buying an airplane (an airplane, people). To be sure, these can be passed off as subversive, housewife-style deception. Such deception nevertheless speaks volumes, in my view, of the husband who needs to be deceived because he is inflexible, and the whole picture is a bit unsettling.
Perhaps the most telling of lies is the double-lie that took place when the two met. According to Levy,
she was twenty-four when she met John McCain at the cocktail party in Honolulu, but she told him that she was twenty-seven. McCain claimed to be thirty-seven; he was in fact forty-two. Cindy McCain giggled as she explained that they did not fess up until their marriage announcement was published in the local newspaper. 'We started our marriage on a tissue of lies,' she said with a smile . . .
So what we have here is the case of cumulative lying. Instead of being ten years apart, which their little fibs suggest, they are in fact eighteen years apart. The article also goes into the other lie that launched their relationship, McCain's lie about his marital status.
See now me? I don't give a shit about people's age differences, and people in bad relationships also sometimes meet other people at awkward times, so I say whatever.* There are more dire reasons to fear McCain's ascension, like, for example, what he and Palin are planning to do to health insurance. What I can't understand is the willingness on the part of conservatives to ignore these family-based lies, to let them be stamped out by the powerful narrative of McCain's P.O.W. years.
Sigh. All these lies. They kind of take me back:
*of course a rant ought to be inserted here about the condition of McCain's first wife when he left her. I mean, compassion this man does not appear to have.