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Sweet column: The barechested Obama. "Stop looking," he says.


Some pecs that Obama has. Now stop looking. That’s an order from himself.

Sen. Barack Obama is sensitive about getting kidded for his ears. Now, courtesy of paparazzi staking him out on his recent Hawaii vacation, some of the rest of him is available for public inspection.

The new issue of People — the one with Oprah on the cover — includes Obama in a spread of celebs in the surf.

A barechested Obama, poised to announce a 2008 presidential run, is wearing black board shorts and shares the “Beach Babes” pages with a bevy of beautiful people — Hugh Jackman, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Obama’s Monday included a Capitol press conference with 10 other senators to talk about their plans to toughen limp Senate ethics rules. Before the presser started, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank offered me one of the two copies of People he was toting, trying to bait me to ask Obama to react in front of everyone and provide grist for his column.

As if.

Obama’s physique is old news to Chicago Sun-Times readers. I’ve worked out several times next to Obama at the East Bank Club, but alas, could not follow him into the locker room. My colleague Neil Steinberg did and reported on Jan. 6, 2006, that the undressed Obama “doesn’t have enough fat on his body to make a butter pat.”

You be the judge in looking at the People photo whether anything has changed in a year. (My blog awaits your comments.)

Milbank seized the moment when a clutch of us reporters followed Obama out of the presser. “Senator,” Milbank deadpanned, “can I read this as a challenge to Chris Dodd? John McCain?” He was referring to the Democrat from Connecticut and Republican from Arizona, both potential presidential contenders who are, well, older than Obama.

“You know, I really appreciate you toting that around,” said Obama. “It’s embarrassing. “You know I had no idea what beach it was taken on,” Obama said to my question.

“It’s paparazzi. Stop looking at it.”

Later Monday, Obama added a telling extra event to his schedule. He flew to New York to appear at the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s annual Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project. Earlier, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the 2008 Democratic frontrunner and Obama’s chief White House rival, headlined a morning session for Jackson. See the serious story about the Senate ethics proposals on page 18. And then visit


Good grief. So what if he doesn't have a shirt on. He's in the water. There are more important issues in this world than taking pictures of a senator with his shirt off.

Great picture...but I prefer chest hair!


The fact that Sen. Obama is in that kind of shape and EVER wears a shirt is an indication of a refreshing degree of humility. If I looked like that, I'd flaunt it!

But alas, fitness may be one category where I'm closer to the Dennis Hastert end of the spectrum.

Always good to hear from you.

It is obvious that you are ga-ga over Obama...but this time you are simply pathetic.
You are acting like a teenage girl fawning over the "cute" boy in high school. Problem is, we are now all grown up and should be acting accordingly.
This glorification of Obama by libs like you has now crossed the line into ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!
You should be embarrassed!

"...but alas, could not follow him into the locker room." Reads more like a "Please hire me" scream to Wonkette, than an article by a respected political columnist.

Rey, I think someone's jealous. Let Lynn fawn.

Lynn drooling over Obama in swim trunks ? Lynn, hang it up; you're embarrassing yourself, if that's possible.

I think Obama looks good. I'm over ten years younger and I wish I was in that shape. Obviously the days of the Dennis Hastert dough-boy physic are over for pols. Of course I doubt Obama obsesses over his body like Bush does - W is strangely manic about his work out routines - then again he has a history of trading one addiction for another so...

What are you people talking about? He looks a little fat to me. But most americans are obese so by these standards, he's thin for an Amerikan.

You know, after reading some of these comments I have concluded that some people take life just a little too seriously.

Personally, I am enjoying the eye candy that is Senator Obama and I think he serves as a lovely example of what good diet and exercise can do for American waistlines! With that said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with admiring beauty when you see it.

What I meant to say is: I WANT HIM!

What on earth is wrong with you?!!

Yuck! Put a shirt on.

I voted for him, but I wouldn't do him.

Wow, this is pretty funny, especially the bit about wanting to follow him into the locker room. How steamy! On the other hand, I remember another Democratic Presidential candidate that drove the girls wild...

And the "he looks a little fat to me" post? Ed's the kind of person who probably says that about Keira Knightley.

Honestly, Lynn, I realize you're trying to be funny or clever or cute or adoring or, hell, even honest. Whatever. You come off, though, as even more People than People.

“It’s paparazzi.”

It really is that simple.

So stop it.

It's not even that this photo necessarily hurts Obama. No doubt it could probably help. And, hey, I'm a fan, too.

And, sure, it's mostly harmless fun. But the more this is talked about, the more (in the self-referential world of our press corps) it turns into an easy story.

Already we find you writing about Dana Milbank asking Obama about a photo published in People. We're only a couple steps away from CBS 2 Senior Washington Correspondent Jay Levine intoning cleverly on the press corps' opinions on Obama's metrosexual appeal. Or Bob Sirot offering "one more thing..." on a letter writer's response to an NBC 5 piece on Lynn Sweet's column on Dana Milbank's question regarding the People photo. Or, maybe if the nationals take a shine to this oh-so-funny story too, we might even be treated to Chris Matthews asking Milbank himself his opinion of Americans' opinions on the Senator's pecs. You think he shaves, and what might that say about his foreign policy instincts?

(Oh, and what's with that funny name anyways? Barack Hussein Obama? That's gotta make you think, huh?)

This is the sort of thing that feeds so very easily into the execrable sort of personality journalism that always manages to take over campaign season, lazily framing races as referenda on sweaters, neckties and other dog whistles to the cult of "authenticity."

Maybe the ridiculous "authenticity" question cuts in Obama's favor. Maybe he's the anti-Kerry or the anti-Gore in this respect. Maybe not.

But, in any event: Enough.

One Maureen Dowd is plenty.

Stick to the substance, Lynn, we beg you.

Americans used to be known for their great physical condition. Corn-fed, wholesome farm-boys and the like, whilst now a thing of the past, were what gave us such a strong image. We were burly lumberjacks; we were muscular lifeguards; we were fortunate enough to have beef on a regular basis, allowing for such brawn. Unfortunately, few participate in such strenuous work nowadays.
Yes, it is silly that we fawn over a (for a change) fit politician, but is it any worse than all of the comments on Pelosi's shorter hair? Katie Couric's white blazer?
People care, and it is obvious that Senator Obama cares as well. Perhaps a nation of healthier individuals could turn trends around.
I applaud anyone who takes good care of their body.

There is nothing I like better that reading posts like the one from So-Called. It shows that neo-cons are absolutely terrified of Obama as a Presidential Candidate. They have no game plan to run against him, unless you count the usual “liberal: tag. Or trying to make an issue of his name. Other than that they got nothing. They’re beside themselves because they have to deep-six the Hillary playbook they have been painstakingly working on for the last 2 years, and face probably the most charismatic candidate since JFK. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

why is this news? this is ridiculous. especially since the man says he doesn't want the picture out there, to then go ahead and reprint it (along side his statement) is just tacky. give the poor man and his family some privacy.
i could care less what my senator or presidential candidate looks like in swim trunks....can he help us out of the messes we are in? THAT is news.

I agree with M Moneypenny. Everyone scolding Lynn needs to lighten up here and stop taking themselves so seriously. Your degree of disdain for this story is not directly proportional to your intellect or your degree of civility.

Besides... the human body is a work of art. And one should always appreciate the arts.

Good Lord, you guys are fiddling while Rome burns! Obama is a young man. OK, he looks rather pretty with his shirt off. So what? I'm more interested in the brain in his head than I am in his pecs, and we know he has a good brain in there...

OK, he's very pretty with his shirt off!

He scrumptious! I like hairy chests too, but I'd do him in a heartbeat. Fortunately he has a lovely, beautiful wife and they seem to be happy, so everyone just needs to admire his good looks from afar, and focus on, uh, focus on, ummm...oh yeah, his progressive ideas for the people of Illinois and the United States of America.

michelle is one lucky gal

Lynn, you liberals will do anything to force Obama down our throats. If a republican were accused of using any kind of sex appeal to promote his/her candidacy,they would be denounced as "crass and insensitive". The same media that decries this, and promotes the current political correctness, is now using these same methods to elect their favorite candidate in 2008. Any wonder why the distrust of the media is so prevalent in this country?

Smart, Handsome, and nice body. Thank God he's married. It builds character to be a triple threat and committed.

What's wrong with having a crush? Barack is *very* crush-worthy.

I think he looks very good! He's a very beautiful man. His coy embarrassment adds to his attractiveness.

Has a "journalist" ever been this biased before as Sweet is now?

Is there any standards at all left at The SunTimes?

You liberals seem to get dumber everyday. I saw the picture of Hussein Obama and you people call that a nice body? He has kind of a flabby mid section with a small chest. If he works out and looks like that he needs to turn it up a notch. And I'm not even going to mention his Dr. Spock like ears and his very odd looking face. But then again it's not his fault because most mixed people look like some lab experiment gone awry.

Can we allow the man to take a vacation...for goodness sake. He deserve a bit of privacy.

Jesus people - lighten up! So the guy looks good. What, is it some sign of weakness to point that out. Grow up people.

"you liberals will do anything to force Obama down our throats. If a republican were accused of using any kind of sex appeal to promote his/her candidacy,they would be denounced as "crass and insensitive". "

I don't believe Obama put this pic out, it was paparazi.... So how can you say HE is using his sex appeal to promote himself? He's not even hot in this pic! He has flab and linguine arms. BTW remember that Mitt "flip flop" Romney actually put out a TV ad with himself shirtless and wet...Now that is crass! An unwanted candid shot of Obama on vacation in Hawaii with his family is just soooooo provacative and designed to make all those white housewives moisten their panties just as they are contemplating their votes? Is that what this is? It's very complex and uber-lib, and diabolical, and maybe even a sin in the eyes of our lord and saviour, George "failure" Bush... I mean Jesus Christ.

Apart from what I wrote above, Lynn's piece is far from the worst in the genre. Milbank's article on the photo, for one, is far worse:

Then there's the junior senator from Illinois. Rounding out the Beach Babes spread is a New Year's Day photo of Barack Obama in the Hawaiian surf. We see his well-defined pecs, his perfectly hairless torso, just a bit of padding around the abs and a drawstring dangling from his form-fitting surfer trunks. The aspiring presidential candidate splashes through the water and squints into the distance; he is transformed into Burt Lancaster in "From Here to Eternity."

Later he notes:

Such candid photos -- the People shot of Obama was, as the senator suspected, done by a paparazzi agency that People identified as Fame Pictures -- can be damaging to a politician.

Yet he doesn't seem to acknowledge his own complicity in such ridiculousness. He, after all, is the one flogging this photo around Washington.

But, no... he's resigned himself to the inanity that our political discourse has become and jumps in full-bore.

So then we're resigned to a press corps that acts like a pack of unruly children...

Obama = Hasselhoff + Ahmadinejad!!!

I find these comments generally irrelevant to the issue of Obama's Presidential aspirations.I cannot comment further because the picture thing falls within issues that my culture does not condone to be raised in public.
Dr Oruoch

Some much for serious journalism, heh Ms Sweet?

This reminds me of irrational women fawning over Bill Clinton.

i don't know if it was a good idea for him to go out without a shirt. if he had a 6 pack it would be a different story. i think it's a wash

First off, if any of you believe that Obama went to the beach and thought his picture wouldn't be taken, you're a sucker of monumental proportions. His people wanted this picture out there and discussed in this very manner. It's just great, free PR.

Second, this article is a perfect example of how liberals cover liberals. They could care less about this guys lack of substance because they think he's hot. This is the type of hard hitting "journalism" we can expect to see on Obama for some time to come. The mainstream media in this country has become an absolute joke and they should be ashamed.

... if only we were as excited about issues and solutions! Barak will have a hard enough time being taken seriously without the media trivializing his every move. Remember the impact this type of garbage had on John Kerry? As an independent, I plead with the press to give policy over personality... I vote for a statesman, not rock star, and this type of "fawning" goes down as a negative for both press and candidate.

... if only we were as excited about issues and solutions! Barak will have a hard enough time being taken seriously without the media trivializing his every move. Remember the impact this type of garbage had on John Kerry? As an independent, I plead with the press to give policy over personality... I vote for a statesman, not rock star, and this type of "fawning" goes down as a negative for both press and candidate.

Lynn, by talking about this trivial matter, you have wasted the opportunity to create a public record of his views on health care, taxes, Israel, trade, the nuclear proliferation treaty, corporate regulation . . .

Please click up a few posts to see an entry about Obama's record compared to Edwards and Clinton.

Why not talk about how Mr. Obama remains so thin? How come the press is covering for him?
He maintains his sleek physique by smoking.
Yes, tobacco cigarettes. Funny how Obama's little habit is so well known by the press, but never mentioned in any of their insipid stories about him. Curious.

Barack "Hussein" Obama looks flabby to me. He needs to puff on his cigs a bit harder. Nice ears Bwahhahaaaaaa

Okay, where is the photo of Nancy Pelosi in a thong bikini?

Okay, Sen. Obama seems to be in commendable shape. And good for him. I wish I could say the same of myself. But there's one thing that bugs me here: Obama is treated as a heart-throb for his bare-chested "candid" photo, and yet much of the DC Establishment press treated President Bush and Secretary Rice as somehow, well, off for their "obsessive" interest in physical fitness--witness stories about POTUS quizzing judicial nominees about their workout routines and mockery of Condi's appearances on a local DC station that chronicled her early-a.m. workouts at Foggy Bottom. It just seems like there is a bit of a double standard here.

Why the heck do you care? How is his physique news? How about the man's politics, his views on Iraq, his stance on taxes? The obsession the media is having with the fact that Obama went to the beach is a sad indictment of the media. Mr. Murrow is rolling in his grave and weeping for how supposed journalists have degraded to nothing more than housewives gossiping across the back fence.

My previous comments were to prove a point: If a younger "Hillary Clintonish" female presidential candidate were to emerge from the surf of a hawaiian beach in a skimpy bikini, and a conservative male columnist were to drool over her physical attributes and also lament the fact he couldn't follow her into the locker room for a better view, but knew a fellow female columnist who did and verified the physical assets of the candidate, he would be villified by the media of still not "getting it", (i.e. brains vs. beauty). Yet the media allows a picture of Obama to grace the cover of a popular magazine with cute little words as "eye candy" to justify their promoting Obamas candidacy. I'm amazed at the number of female readers who enjoy this, but would cry sexism if the roles were reversed

Note to Maleka: please advise, which repubs have sex appeal? I can't think of any.

Can the USA survive Bush for 2 more years? He's leaving a huge mess for someone to figure out.

Only goes to show what a vacuous, useless piece of shite you are, Lynn. All of the important things there are to talk about, and you devote your column space to this. Go flip burgers, you hack.

Why won't you post my comment? Thanks.

I think he looks fat too. Definitely doesn't do any strength training. You people have low standards!

I know it's been said before, but: Why is this relevant? Who cares?

Case in point...

An Australian paper picks up a story on the hot issue of the day from The London Times:

Obama shows thin skin

A PHOTO of Barack Obama emerging from the Hawaiian surf in his boardshorts has provoked a prickly response from the young US Democrat senator and raised new questions about whether he is ready for the cutthroat arena of presidential politics.


So, what's the dynamic here?

1) The press runs with a lazy, irrelevant non-story about a shirtless photo of Obama. Answer the question, Senator!

2) He reacts with a decent sense of humor, but also a bit of understandable impatience at the utter triviality of it all.

3) Reporters wonder if this "prickly response" might be revealing of some terrible character flaw. What thin skin he has!

4) Self-impressed press corps reports that "some wonder" or that "questions have been raise" as to whether Obama "has what it takes." Hey... Bush at least comes up with neat nicknames for us.

How patently ridiculous is this? I mean, really?

It's like poking the guy with a stick and then punching him in the arm for flinching.

I'll say it once again: our press corps is no better than a room full of unruly children.

The picture is as fake as his political views and rhetoric.

His abs are Missing In Action...he definitely needs to do more stomach crunches,,,

This was well planned out and it is obviously from the old JFK and RFK playbook. It is to get the woman voters to go "ga ga".

with people out of work come on get real if he can get this country back on track who cares if he wears a shirt or not im sorry hes not royalty he works for us the american people now lets see if he can do the job he was hired to do and yes i voted for him only because he promised change time will tell i don't think he has the experience yet but maybe in four years he will get something done

LOL...good looking, nice smile, pretty lips, a lil thick around the midsection, but it looks solid, so that works for me and obviously for Michelle too! You go girl! Loving Obama!!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 9, 2007 12:04 AM.

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