The Washington Post

The Obama lift, and lifts in history

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The 6-foot-3-inch man enveloped the president in a bear hug and lifted him almost a foot, according to Politico. There’s even video.

CNBC’s Jane Wells called this “one of those rare, unscripted, Clint Eastwood-style off-the-cuff moments which we could use more of in this election.”

Rare these days, maybe. But there’s surely precedent for campaign-trail embraces. Consider these hugs in history, which I assume must have occurred at some point:

●Election of 1800, when a Yeoman Farmer was so excited to see Thomas Jefferson that he clasped his hand warmly in a manner considered forward for the time.

●Election of 1828, when, for the first time, a presidential candidate (Andrew Jackson, in this case) sought out the hugs from the populace as opposed to bowing pointedly at them.

●Election of 1844, when James K. Polk hugged Henry Clay, thinking Clay was going to let go first, and so they just stood there for a while until it became obvious that some sort of misunderstanding had taken place.

●1852, when Franklin Pierce was enthusiastically embraced by Nathaniel Hawthorne, his only real supporter.

●Election of 1904, when Teddy Roosevelt was enveloped in bear hug by an actual bear.

●Election of 1908, when someone tried to hug William Howard Taft but was stymied by his circumference and settled for a firm handshake. Later attempts to lift Taft also failed, even when 11 men were enlisted in the effort.

●Election of 1860, when Stephen A. Douglas tried and failed repeatedly to lift Abraham Lincoln off the ground in a series of multi-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style hugs.

●Election of 1856, when no one tried to hug James Buchanan, but he jumped up in the air a couple of times when startled by noises.

●1968, when Richard Nixon accidentally hugged J. Edgar Hoover, a suspicious and brief hug that resembled two porcupines deciding not to mate.

●1980, when Jimmy Carter hugged himself silently for a long time, murmuring soothing nothings.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".
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