By Katherine Skiba, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s former personal assistant has penned a memoir, sidestepping public policy for the most part but dishing on the president’s likes and dislikes.
Obama loathes fast food, fried foods and mayonnaise, writes Reggie Love, who was the president’s “body man,” with a spot just outside the Oval Office.
He portrays Obama as fastidious about exercise and diet, preferring grilled chicken or fish. When Love delivered fried walleye to him in Iowa, he never lived it down, Love writes. Every “dubious” meal he delivered after that was met with the same critique from Obama: “At least it’s not fried walleye.”
Such tidbits enliven “Power Forward: My Presidential Education, Power Forward: My Presidential Education which is not a tell-all given Love’s abiding affection for Obama, his partner in basketball, golf, cards and the campaign trail.
The book, being published Feb. 3 by Simon & Schuster, says that few saw the Barack Obama that Love did: an “attentive father, a devoted husband, a trash-talking basketball player, a feisty card shark, a loyal and thoughtful friend with a wicked sense of humor.”
Obama dubbed Love his “iReggie,” his “go-to source for all critical, nonpolitical information,” according to the book.
“I was his DJ, his Kindle, his travel agent,” Love writes, “his valet, his daughters’ basketball coach, his messenger, his punching bag, his alarm clock, his vending machine, his chief of stuff, his note passer, his spades partner, his party planner, his workout partner, his caterer, his small forward, his buffer, his gatekeeper, his surrogate son … his friend.”
The book is heavy on light observations but has Obama taking Love to task, especially after his aide complained about his visiting parents and their friends who came to town for the first inauguration.
“Reggie, you never know how long your parents are going to be around. … There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish my mother was still alive,” remarked Obama, who arranged for some face-time with Love’s parents in the Oval Office.
The president was 34 years old when his 52-year-old mother died of ovarian cancer. There’s some towel-slapping in the book, but mostly love. The author says Obama is “as competitive as any person I’ve met,” and he calls the president’s memory a “steel trap.”
Obama favored a breakfast of bacon, eggs and wheat toast, preferred green tea and used regular, 2-milligram Nicorette, Love writes.
He explains how he and the president came to coach then-9-year-old Sasha Obama’s fourth-grade basketball team. The president had been watching her games with the first lady while delivering a running commentary, saying the girls should be playing zone or running a certain play on offense.
After his grumbling, Michelle Obama said: “Why don’t you teach them how to play basketball?” They did — an experience Love likens to “herding giggling cats.”
“This is not a slumber party. You have to run hard, throw the ball hard, stand tall and be strong,” Love quotes the president telling the girls.
Love joined Barack Obama as a junior staffer in his Senate office in 2006. A Duke University graduate, he was on the 2001 NCAA national championship basketball team and later was team captain. The book has passages on Love’s upbringing, college years and short stints with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys before he was cut from the teams.
After leaving the White House in 2011, Love graduated from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and now is a partner and vice president of Transatlantic Holdings.
Love says former basketball star Charles Barkley once called an exhausted Sen. Obama during a presidential campaign stop in Las Vegas and suggested they “hang out.” That prompted Obama to joke with the people around him: “Let’s just take tomorrow off and go to the Cheetah Club.”
Love’s retort: He’d claim a rain check for “the minute you are the ex-President.”
Photo via Wikimedia Commons