Joe Biden apparently likes to skinny-dip in his own pool, proving, once again, he's just a regular guy. (Insomuch as regular guys have their own pools.)
Author and former journalist Ronald Kessler has written a book, out Tuesday, called "The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents" (Crown Forum), and the detail that's gotten the most coverage is the one, of course, that involves nudity.
"Joe Biden's secret love: Skinny-dipping, Secret Service agents say," cries the Washington Times. "Biden exposed: Book claims veep enjoys swimming in the nude," announces the Fox News site. The New York Daily News crafted a photo illustration of the vice president floating naked on a raft, laptop placed just so. "It's the Joe Biden you didn't know — and might not want to see," reads the story's lead.
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Potomac River, Tall Timbers, MD 20690, USA
Never mind what you want, they're showing you anyway. Which is obnoxious, but noteworthy.
Obnoxious because it should be completely unremarkable that a grown man swims, on occasion, naked in his own pool. As Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf points out in a piece posted today:
"When President John Quincy Adams lived in the White House, between 1825 and 1829, the former diplomat and U.S. Senator frequently went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River, causing no fuss. President Teddy Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, swam naked in the Potomac. Billy Graham was one of many to go skinny-dipping with President Lyndon Johnson in the White House pool."
But noteworthy because when Hillary Clinton announces her inevitable candidacy for president, we'll be treated to daily doses of announcements and analysis about things that are deserving of neither. Her hair, her weight, her wardrobe, her grandmothering skills will all be food for frivolous thought.
For people who smell gender bias from a mile away — people like me — it's worth remembering that a person's sex — as in gender — isn't always behind the silliest, most condescending media treatment.
Sex—as in the act? That's a different story. Sex the act turns a lot of otherwise thoughtful, nuanced grown-ups into snickering 6th graders. "He gets naked! And then swims! Tee hee!"
We're primed, as a culture, to put women — their bodies, their words, their pictures — and sex in the same thought bubble. So I think it's an unfortunate reflex to pay an inordinate amount of public attention to a powerful woman's hair and weight and wardrobe — her sex appeal, essentially.
But we lose our sophomoric minds over male politicians, too, as the reaction to Vice President Biden's alleged swimming pool exploits proves.
For consumers who would prefer their leaders to be analyzed on humanitarian, environmental and economic terms, it's a little offensive.
But at least it's equal opportunity.