Saturday, November 08, 2008

Lesson 9: Don't let 'em see you sweat

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One of the sillier controversies in the campaign broke in the middle of a heat wave last summer: Did Barack Obama sweat? Ever?

An AP Wire story went out, accompanied by head scratching from members of the press, about people being unable to recall a single instance of campaign-trail perspiration. One day, his dry demeanor was even cited as evidence that he was using the cover of a workout to interview veep candidates in a Chicago gym. Nobody seemed to consider that he sweats less because he's in such good shape. It's obvious he's an athlete from his physical grace alone.

The way a guy carries himself can tell you a lot about him. For instance, Ronald Reagan brought about morning in America by having a demeanor sunny enough to dispel the early 80s gloom all by himself. As for Obama, he does move like a silky small forward, which is part of his appeal. I witnessed a showcase of his physical skills upon our arrival in Lansing, as he executed the perfect plane dismount while waving at the Secret Service guys.

Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone in which he built a case that Americans have become isolated and American society fractured. For me, the book title conjures an image of the weird, haunted, solitary Richard Nixon repairing to the White House bowling alley at midnight to chase his demons and roll a few lonely frames. But bowling, alone or otherwise, isn't Obama's game.

When I first met the candidate, I observed to him that the White House grounds are equipped for basketball, but it's only a half-court setup, too cramped for the full-court game he possesses, and in any case, unavailable in rough weather.