The Fist Couple: Giving a Big Bump to Authenticity

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, June 5, 2008

It was the fist bump heard 'round the world.

As Barack Obama walked onstage in St. Paul, Minn., to claim the Democratic nomination Tuesday night, he and wife Michelle hugged and then, gazing into each other's eyes with knowing smiles, gently knocked knuckles.

He also gave her a playful little pat on the butt, but it was the bump that got everyone talking. "That is the picture!" exulted one poster on the Jack and Jill Politics blog (which offers "a Black bourgeois perspective"). "When I saw them give each other dap, I was like 'Hell yeah!' "

Dap, fist pound, whatever you want to call it-- it's definitely something we're not used to seeing on the national political stage.

"It thrilled a lot of black folks," said author and commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates, who blogs at ta-nehisi.com. Why? Because it's the kind of gesture that, while commonplace in the African American community, was generally stifled by earlier generations of blacks working their way up into the corporate or political worlds for fears "about looking too black," he said. But Obama "is past that. . . . He wears his cultural blackness all over the place." (Remember his aping of Jay- Z's "dirt off your shoulder" move in a recent speech?) "It's liberating to be able to run for president as a black man. . . . Barack is like Black Folks 2.0."

Meanwhile, Karen Bradley, a visiting professor of dance at the University of Maryland, was struck by the "intimacy" of the moment. Bradley, who studies the body language of politicians, said the fist bump seemed more spontaneous and authentic than the hug, which "looked like they talked about it first." While Obama generally has contained gestures and his wife has broad ones, this was a moment "where they both shifted" and mirrored each other, fists close to their bodies. "He's looking right at her, she's looking right at him -- it's a partnership, it's 'We did it.' " (More so than the infamous Al- Tipper smooch at the 2000 Democratic convention: "She seemed more invested in it than he did.")

Maybe there's just something in the air: Last week, President Bush shared an exuberant chest bump with a graduating Air Force Academy cadet. POTUS 2.0!

Marching for the Children

You never truly know what's real with any Hollywood couple, but when Jim Carrey travels cross-country to support Jenny McCarthy-- well, the relationship looks like a keeper. They've been together for two years, so there might be one of those ugly breakups around the corner -- but right now they seem so happy that it's hard to be snarky.

The two came to Washington yesterday asking for changes in vaccines that some have linked to autism. McCarthy has been an activist since her 6-year-old son, Evan, was diagnosed, and the stars led a march and rally for 8,000 parents at the Capitol wearing "Green Our Vaccines" T-shirts (she paired hers with black jeans and black Converse sneakers, he wore khakis), reports our colleague Marissa Newhall.

"Today I am not the celebrity," McCarthy told the crowd. "Today I am a mom of a child who had autism, who has a voice that is willing to shake the ground of those responsible until all of our children are safe."

Organizers want to reduce what they say are harmful toxins in children's vaccines. Autism has increased dramatically along with the number of mandatory vaccines over the past 25 years; activists want the feds to study both vaccine requirements and ingredients.

Carrey skipped the jokes and went straight to the heartstrings. "My daughter Jane, Jenny and Evan are the greatest things that ever happened to me, and learning how to love them has made me a man. So dads, hang in there. You need these kids as much as these kids need you."

Just Worn Around the House . . .

Some lucky woman is going to her next job interview looking very sharp. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was one of several congressional donors yesterday who raided their closets for the Capitol PurSuit clothing drive, which provides business clothing for men and women reentering the workforce. Pelosi dropped off a hot-pink dress with matching jacket, a light pink jacket and skirt, and a black and white houndstooth jacket with pants at the Rayburn Building. Her office was mum on the label; we're guessing Armani, one of her favorite designers.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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