The New York Times offers us Obama's picks for the NCAA basketball tournament. This is apparently the first time a President has graced us with his March Madness predictions.
As one emailer comments, Obama's guesses are straight out of Chicago Politics 101: Don't make no waves, don't back no losers. Obama's picks for the Final Four consist of three #1 seeds and one #2 seed. For the Final Eight, he has four #1 seeds, three #2 seeds, and one #3 seed. Not a lot of hope and change on display.
I think the evidence is mounting that sports offer fruitful perspectives for understanding Obama.
A number of readers objected to the elaborate sports metaphor I used in America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's "Story of Race and Inheritance." I analogized Obama's passionate feelings about the black and white races that suffuse Dreams from My Father to an old Boston Red Sox's fan's feelings about the New York Yankees. I suggested that if he had grown up in a city with major league sports teams, he might have channeled his ferocious competitiveness and need for victory into being a pro sports fan rather than into racial politics. His 2000 discovery that he'd never be black enough to black voters to beat more genuinely black politicians like Bobby Rush to run for mayor of Chicago (the most powerful position a black politician can attain qua being a black politician), caused him to rethink his political image the way a left-handed flyball pitcher might rethink his childhood allegiance to the Red Sox when he realizes that Yankee Stadium is better suited to him than Fenway Park.
Another question I haven't seen asked much is: How hard is Obama working? I have the vague impression that to keep his famous equanimity, he spends a lot of time on mental health breaks, such as making up his NCAA picks, rather than, say, staffing the Treasury Department.
Similarly, George W. Bush, for example, spent a huge amount of time exercising while in office, presumably as his way to stay off the bottle. Obama appears to be a fanatical exerciser, too, spending much of the interregnum at the gym rather than interviewing potential Treasury Department appointees.
Obama has a lot of alcoholics in his family tree. His father and his half-brother David both died while driving drunk. His half-brother Roy was a drunk until he became Abongo the fundamentalist Muslim. His grandfather Stan was a barfly. Also, Obama seems prone to depression (e.g., his New York years and following his loss to Bobby Rush in 2000, I would guess), and he seems to spend a lot of time on preventing recurrences.
For example, his Chicago circle of rich black friends put together a complicated schedule of flying to D.C. on weekends to give him somebody to hang out with. No doubt they just want to let people know that they hang out with the President, but they seemed to feel in what they said to reporters that it wasn't any secret that Obama needs an elaborate emotional support system. We really haven't had anybody in the White House in living memory who could be considered the sensitive artiste type, somebody so self-conscious and self-absorbed.
Also, because of the stigma against smoking, Obama seems to spend a lot of time each day ducking out for a smoke in private. At home in Chicago, during tense times such as the choice of a VP last summer, he'd drop in on his private bodyguard's apartment several times a day, presumably for a cigarette.
The good news is that Obama knows himself pretty well (he ought to: he's certainly spent plenty of time thinking about himself), so if he figures that the most number of hours he can work per week is X, well, then, he's probably right.