April 5, 2009
This past week, Reggie Love, President Obama's closest aide, was seen carrying the presidential basketball on his way into the American Embassy in London.
This is the man Obama refers to as "the kid brother I never had". He holds the President's BlackBerry, supplies the nicotine gum when he needs it and does all of the stuff the President doesn't have the time or patience for. Since his duties are more fraternal than political, he's recently come to be known as the First Buddy.
Some people might consider it to be the best job in the world. I'm not so sure.
Loads of things can go wrong. When you're First Buddy, it's not like you can say to the President, "We need a break". And what about your other friends? They're bound to feel left out. You're spending all your time at the White House shooting hoops with the President. There's just no way to downplay that is there?
Also, being moody is out of the question. If you're feeling tired and you don't feel like playing basketball you have to play anyway. You can't complain. Or ask, "Why do we always have what you want to do?"
It's important to have the right personality. Which got me thinking - if I were the first buddy it would be a disaster. To begin with, I can't work a BlackBerry and have a hard time keeping up with the e-mails I have in my own life. So within days the President would lose all his friends.
Not that I'd tell him. I can't imagine having to tell Obama I messed up and mistakenly hit 'reply all' to the top-secret e-mail he asked me to be careful with. The stress involved in being President would pale in comparison to the stress of being the presidential best friend. I'd always say exactly the wrong thing and get him into trouble. I'd forget there's no tone in e mail and make a bad joke. Or get him into fights with people because I read something wrong. There would be no room for clipped responses either. If you're the voice of the President you can't end e-mails with: "Whatever."
Another thing is I tend to put things off. The e-mails would pile up, the Twittering would be intermittent, it would all be too much and I'd end up having a meltdown. Then I 'd have to say to the President, "Can I talk to you for a second?" He'd respond that he was busy fixing the global economy and ask me if it could wait. I'd wonder if he was really fixing the economy or just saying that.
I'd want to discuss it and hash it out. I'd have questions. On one hand I'd worry I was getting on his nerves but on the other hand I'd know that if we didn't clear the air there would be tension.
"I just need to get this off my chest," I'd say. He'd tell me to be quick about it but then just as I began to get going he'd cut me off. Something else would need his attention and I'd feel there were unresolved emotional issues.
Then the President would ask for a piece of nicotine gum and I'd have to tell him I left it on Air Force One by accident.
If I was Obama's First Buddy I'd turn him into a chain-smoking, anxious mess within a week . But as soon as that happened, I'd be the perfect fit. Whenever he was nervous about a disease, I'd be there to reassure him 24/7. I'd go online and Google symptoms all night if I had to.
Think of all the germs he's exposed to. Someone sneezing on Air Force One is just as contagious as on any other aircraft. I'd have Vitamin C with Zinc - the kind which is mild on the stomach. If he worried after shaking someone's hand, I'd have the anti-bacterial wipes ready at a moments notice.
And who does the President have to whine to? He could obsess about things for hours on end and I would never tell him to 'get over it' or 'move on' - part of my first buddy duties would be to listen to him moan.
But even then, it could sour. Let's say he wanted to go out with his other friends without me. Would I have to arrange it? Why wasn't I invited? He would hide it so as not to hurt my feelings but eventually I'd find out when I was updating his Facebook page. I'd wrestle with: do I confront him or let it go?
I'd love to have one day as the Presidential first buddy just to be able to ask him "what are you thinking?" every hour like clockwork. It would be worth it if for no other reason than to remind him: you think it's tough being leader of the free world? It could be worse - you could be friends with me.