FLASHBACK: Washington Post Admired Obama’s ‘Chiseled Pecs’

December 28th, 2019 12:15 PM

Given the intense and sustained media attacks on Donald Trump, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much journalists loved Barack Obama. Instead of comparing the President to Hitler or Nazis, The Washington Post embarrassed itself by drooling over the Democrat’s “chiseled pecs.” 

Eleven years ago this week, on December 25, 2008, The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow gushed over Barack Obama as a “paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness.” The creepy Post headline enthused, “As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases.” 

Saslow’s prose oozed the worst kind of celeb-obsessed tabloid praise: 

Being elected president forces a man to take inventory of his life, so Barack Obama has trimmed his schedule to the bare essentials. He’s not in the White House yet, but gone are the hours he once spent reading novels, watching television, and obsessing over the daily transactions of Chicago’s sports teams. He eat out only once every few weeks. He visits friends rarely, if at all.

But one habit endures: Obama has gone to the gym for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row. He has always treated exercise less as recreation than requirement, but his devotion has intensified during the last few months. Between workout during his Hawaii vacation this week, he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off his chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.

The inside-the-paper headline hailed, “Gym Workouts Help Obama Carry the Weight of His Position." In case you missed the point, Obama is just so darn fit! 

Physical fitness yielded mental fitness, Obama decided, and the two concepts have been married in his mind ever since.

"It's always been a priority in his daily routine," said Christopher Lu, a marathon runner who worked as Obama's legislative director in the Senate and was named Cabinet secretary last week. "I think it's an example of how disciplined he is. It's one of the things that really keeps him balanced."

Remember, this is the paper that, as soon as Trump took office, adopted the slogan “Democracy dies in darkness.” During the Obama era, democracy must have taken a vacation — maybe with Obama and his “chiseled pecs.” (For more on this article, see the original 2008 post from NewsBusters Executive Editor Tim Graham. 

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.