Is your president this cool?

By Alex Beam
Globe Staff / November 14, 2008
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For the first time in eight years, we have a president who is cool. It starts with the Ray-Bans. Ray-Bans are the ultimate cool sunglass brand, evoking memories of the John F. Kennedy presidency, of sunny cruises off Cape Cod on his sloop Victura, with the tame photographers from Life magazine in tow.

Obama wears cool suits, too: plain blue, wool, two-button affairs from Hartmarx. Even the $1,500 price point is cool. It doesn't say, "I'm in the pocket of insurance pirates AIG" - those are $5,000 suits. But it doesn't say "Men's Wearhouse" either. Why pretend? Who wants a Ford Focus president? Make mine a Lincoln.

Like a lot of American politicians, Obama has plenty of dough. But unlike Legacy Boy Bush, Obama earned his stash. He's made $5 million in book royalties, plus or minus. A friend points out that Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to have a prose style, and the first president since Ulysses S. Grant to have a good prose style. Pretty cool.

The list goes on. Unlike Bush, who labors on the exercise machines for a desultory hour each day, Obama plays basketball. His brother-in-law coached basketball at modish Brown University. Too cool! Obama dines at cool restaurants with names like Spiaggia and Topolobampo, and during a particularly boring moment in the campaign he sampled a rap song, Jay-Z's foul-mouthed "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." Writing in the New Republic, novelist Paul Beatty opined that "I bet dude knows how many chambers there are in the Wu-Tang."

Of course you picked up the reference to the Wu-Tang Clan album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)."

But is Obama the coolest head of state in the world? For instance, is he as cool as. . .

. . . Vladimir Putin?

Putin used to work for the KGB, which was a veritable ice pack full of chilling customers back in the day. He and Obama and France's Nicolas Sarkozy have one thing in common: They are the only world leaders willing to be photographed with their shirts off. Putin is one buff fella; a few keystrokes on YouTube will take you to his recently released martial arts video, "Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin." Obama may be draining the treys, but Putin is president of his local dojo. Cool that.

Did I mention that he's married to a flight attendant? And that he supposedly subdued a rare Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun? Alas, the incident was not captured on film.

In the voice-over to his video, Putin calls judo "a lesson in collaboration and cooperation." He is all about collaboration. The day after Obama's win, the Russian czar let slip that he was thinking of stationing short-range missiles about four seconds away from Obama's new allies in Poland. That's sort of a cool - nay, Cold War - way of saying: Welcome to the neighborhood, Barack.

. . . Nicolas Sarkozy?

Sarkozy first achieved prominence in 1993, when, as mayor of the posh Paris suburb of Neuilly, he entered a nursery school alone to negotiate with a hostage-taking lunatic who called himself the Human Bomb. The Bomb had strapped explosives to his torso. Sarkozy emerged from the school surrounded by kids and the French police subsequently defused M. Bomb, by killing him.

Even Putin isn't that cool.

The rest is history. Sarko edged out the World's Most Beautiful Socialist, Segolene Royal, to win the French presidency last year, then promptly dispatched his gorgeous ("darkly beautiful" - The New Yorker) and accomplished wife Cecilia to Libya, to handle a delicate negotiation with the mercurial Muammar Qaddafi. The negotiation succeeded, but the marriage failed.

Sarko quickly drafted a gorgeous and accomplished replacement, the Italian-born siren-singer-songwriter Carla Bruni. Ms. Bruni needs no introduction here. Michelle Obama is cool, but Bruni, who has dated reprobates Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, takes the thermometer down several more degrees. And Bruni digs fellow cool cat Obama. This week she trashed Italian prime minister/vulgarian-at-large Silvio Berlusconi for "joking" about Obama's "suntan."

. . . Daniel Craig?

Not a head of state, you say? Perhaps not, but Bond boy Craig is permanent ambassador to the sovereign republic of Chillaxin' (capital = Ice Station Zebra). Nobody is as cool as Craig. But Obama comes darned close.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is

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