After Monday's riveting final debate, I watched as the candidates hugged their wives, countless Romneys flooded the stage, and a tiny Romney grandson rushed to shake President Obama's hand. The President got down on the floor to be at the little boy's level and spoke with him before the boy was scooped up by his family. After much milling around, family members dispersed and Romney followed Obama to the edge of the stage to shake audience hands. First, I was struck by Obama's athletic stance, bending gracefully from his core and leaning forward on one leg with the other extended back as counterweight; he eventually dropped to a full crouch to make eye contact with those congratulating him. The camera cut back and forth between him and Romney greeting the audience at the other end of the stage. Then I was struck by the contrast: Romney bending with both knees together, with back stiff and upright (a protective back posture I know all too well!), left hand braced against left knee as if to prevent collapse, wobbling alarmingly at times (to watch, select C-Span's Post Debate Program from the video menu at the right, about :35 seconds in). Ann started hovering with a hand on Mitt, and at about :45 sec. in, just grabbed him around the waist as if to save him from collapsing. In the photos it looks like an oddly informal, zany kind of hug (one that the Daily Mail labeled "hilarious"), but in the video it looks more like a desperate rescue mission. With lots of manic grinning. Despite that camouflage, it struck me that Mitt is not only tired; he's frail...
It takes an enormous amount of physical stamina to be President. You're always on-stage. Whenever you leave the White House (and often when you're "at home" inside), someone's watching you (and probably recording everything you do). You're always on. Reporters are shouting questions at you. National and international crises strike at any moment. You need to have judgement, sharp verbal skills, quick thinking, dogged preparation, sharp memory, and physical strength (or alternatively, a public persona that America just wants to have a beer with, a Cheney to pull the strings, and lots of vacation time back at the ranch to "clear brush"). It occurred to me as I watched the first debate that we seldom--never?-- hear any excuses when Barack Obama has a bad day - which he clearly was having during the 1st debate. Altitude sickness? Exhaustion from handling the crises in Libya and Syria? Family problems? (As a one-teenager household, we seem to have at least one academic or hormonal-meltdown or social crisis a week--I can't imagine that the Obamas could be any different). Happily, Barack Obama rebounded mightily from the first debate.
Mitt Romney clearly has good and bad days; in fact he's terrible at hiding his anger and disappointment, so it's easy to count the bad ones. He's showing the strain of campaigning; he seems tired. He can certainly afford plenty of support and staff to ease life's stressors; his sense of entitlement is legendary. But resilience is something that money doesn't buy. So is physical stamina. As a (heaven forbid!) President, Romney would have to show up. He'd have to be on call 24/7. He'd have to adapt, to roll with it, to take the perspectives of others, to grow a thick skin, to think on his feet. Strangely, as a candidate, he hasn't done much campaigning. No rallies at all between the last 2 debates - just fundraising among his own kind. Monday, he certainly seemed vulnerable. I wonder whether he could muster the stamina to be President. Let's make sure he doesn't have to.
In more senses than one, Mitt Romney has no core.