By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau
BRUSSELS — President Barack Obama is getting burned for feeling the burn.
The president woke up in Belgium Thursday to find images of his morning workout — puffy cheeks, squinty eyes and all — splashed across papers and websites on two continents. Someone, apparently a fellow exerciser, had captured the president’s routine on a smart phone and given the images to the Polish media.
The rare, candid video of a man who spends much of his life in meticulously staged settings was fast news. In Warsaw, where Obama delivered a major address on benefits of a free and open society on Wednesday, the major tabloid — Fakt — put the grainy images of Obama on the front page. The photo of the president, wearing a black track suit and doing a squatting butterfly chest exercise, was accompanied by a headline boasting that the Poles had cracked Obama’s security.
The Secret Service says there was no breach. Agents were present at the gym in the Marriott Warsaw where the president stayed Tuesday night. Guests in the hotel were screened before entering, the service said. The president was in a public space and at risk of winding up on someone’s smartphone — just as he is at a restaurant or on the rare unscheduled walk in Washington. In this case, agents apparently knew the president was being filmed.
“Hotel guests were not asked to leave the gym,” said Brian Leary, Secret Service spokesman. “Nor were they asked to refrain from taking pictures.”
The risk of being caught in an unflattering moment — or, in this case, yawning on the weight machine — is one Obama has been willing to take in order to get in a workout. The president is diligent about staying in shape, even when his days are packed with high-pressure meetings, speeches and late-night dinners with world leaders. Secret Service rarely blocks all access to the hotel gym during these sessions, mindful to limit the inconvenience for guests or White House staffers, who may also need a little stress relief.
The identity of the camera person in this case is not known, but the person may have made it a partial selfie. At one point, the president is seen on the elliptical machine behind a man whose ear and cheek are in the foreground, as though he was shooting the video while pretending to look at his phone.
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