From Newsweek’s Stumper blog, titled: “Convenient Metaphor of the Day: No Sweat,” we’re offered this image with these snippets (in chronological order):
1. Obama is a “workoutaholic.”
2. The candidate made a strong bid this week to become “Self-Flagellator-in-Chief” for what blogger Andrew Romero describes as working out too much.
3. Obama displays “a distinct lack of visible sweat.”
Showing Obama shooting alone (snapped by Romero himself the morning of the day Obama played bball twice at his friend’s place and also worked out at a downtown gym) paints a supposedly masochistic Obama as that much more obsessive. (Is it possible the shooting around at his friend’s is as much or more a social thing and a stress reliever, however, as opposed to a second “work out.”)
This sweating allegation is more poisonous, though. Through another reporter, Romero claims that Obama doesn’t seem to sweat during a campaign day. Romero further relates how campaign photographers supposedly told the same source Obama didn’t sweat either after shooting baskets with the University of North Carolina team earlier this year.
Another toxic element here is the language employed, specifically referring to Obama as “a gym rat.” I ended up at the Newsweek post via Drudge, by the way, who also linked to another article specifically referring to Obama as “a gym rat.” (Curiously, that term got attached to this same story here at TIME.) (Yes rats, but let’s not go here again.)
Look, what we’re dealing with is a coded form of racism. The reference to physical compulsivity, the supposed strange absence of perspiration and the rodent analogy all create a subtle intimation of the hoop-shooting Obama as not just your “all he can do is play bball” black jock, but a man who is somehow less human and more animal. (Looking up the term “animalism” at The Free Dictionary, you get the following definition: 1. Enjoyment of vigorous health and physical drives; 2. Indifference to all but the physical appetites; 3. The doctrine that humans are merely animals with no spiritual nature.)
What Romano offers us here is his own visual evidence of this thesis. It’s Obama as specimen, off the ground, clearly exerting effort, but shiny and supposedly perspiration free.
(slightly revised 9/1/08. snapshot: Andrew Romano, Newsweek)