WASHINGTON — The other day, as President Obama and aides were working to make the 58-minute-44-second State of the Union address sing, they huddled around a coffee table in the Oval Office with a bowl of apples on it.
Beautiful apples. Polished, red and yellow orbs glowing with healthful goodness.
I wondered how that works. Does speechwriter Cody Keenan just casually reach over, even as he is putting the fine touches on a soaring piece of rhetoric, and start chomping on a juicy, noisy apple? Does he slip one in his pocket for later? Does Obama say, “OK, guys, we deserve an apple break. Dive in”?
I doubt it. I bet the staff envies the days of prior presidents when Waterford crystal bowls with jelly beans graced tabletops and aides could surreptitiously take a handful or two. I am sure they yearn for gold-wrapped Werther’s Originals, the tantalizing butter-and-cream caramels beloved by dentists everywhere.
As we ponder Obama’s legacy, we also reflect on what his wife, Michelle, leaves us. All first ladies leave an imprint, some more than others.
In this case: vegetables and exercise.
We’re already seeing banks of photos portraying the president’s increasing shades of gray. (Note: All presidents turn gray. It’s what they do. Also, middle age is when your hair turns on you. But if we get a woman president, we will not see gray hair. Not a strand.)
But has the president gained a single pound? No. His wife would not permit it. I would be surprised if the president even knows where the family’s kitchenette is, although he did proudly show a TV crew around the cavernous White House chief’s kitchens. Men that thin and wiry just do not think about food as much as the rest of us.
First and foremost, Michelle Obama gave us bare upper arms on middle-aged women. There isn’t a female TV anchor who is not worried about toning her upper arms. Even when the temperature is 3 degrees, TV news women go sleeveless.
If you haven’t turned your patch of yard into a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables, it’s not the first lady’s fault. She showed you a perfect vegetable garden at the White House. If your children are not eating broccoli spears and hummus for snacks, shame on you. Michelle tried. She has campaigned for Let’s Move! to get kids physically active, #GimmeFive to get us all physically active and healthful school lunches kids won’t pitch. (The jury’s out.)
Her latest craze is SoulCyling. You’re in a dark room with candles, climb on a stationary bicycle and pedal your heart out to the pulsating beat of Kanye West or Ludacris. You pay 67 cents a minute. The next day your legs are so sore you can’t get out of bed, unless you are Michelle and can’t wait to do it again.
If Michelle Obama has any bad habits, other than making a whole lot of us feel guilty about how unabstemiously we live, we don’t know about them.
Voting is sort of like getting married. You don’t just marry a person; you get the entire family.
So as we consider who is going to live in our White House, let’s consider who else moves in.
Donald Trump, 69, would bring Melania, 45, his third wife, a former model famous for being beautiful, her clothes and being an immigrant from Slovenia.
Ted Cruz, 45, married Heidi, 43, in 2001. She is described by family and friends as “driven.” Cruz said he took her phone away while she was in labor with her first child because “she had more important things to do.”
Hillary Clinton, 68, would bring Bill, 69.
Marco Rubio, 44, is married to Jeannette, 42. They met in high school. They have four school-age children. He likes to teach his two sons to play tackle football. She works for a wealthy donor to her husband’s campaign and is said to personify self-discipline. She was a Miami Dolphins’ cheerleader for a year but is said not to be the “cheerleader type.”
Bernie Sanders, 74, is married to Jane, 65, a former president of Burlington College who reared four children.
You see? We know nothing. We won’t until we get hitched. Eat an apple.
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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]