Stop it, Obama, you're making me look bad! That's the "cute" theme of Jan Hoffman's Sunday Styles front-page story on the Obamas' recent foray into Manhattan, "If They Can Find Time for Date Night..." The text box read: "A presidential elbow to the ribs of husbands." A possiblealternate headline: "If You Had $50,000 and a Presidential Plane, You Could Do This Too."
Would an expensive Manhattan jaunt by George and Laura Bush during a recession have been given such gauzy treatment in the Times?
Theirs is a seasoned marriage, 16 years and counting. They are middle-aged. Life is that modern-crazy haze: two girls in the windstorm of year-end school activities, the puppy that must be walked twice daily, the live-in mother-in-law. They both work long hours. Standard recipe for a drive-by relationship.
At the gala celebrating the crowning achievement of his career, he showed her off to cheering throngs: "How good-looking is my wife?"
In his lock-step schedule, he sets aside daily "Michelle time."
And last weekend, he fulfilled a promise to her. They got all gussied up and flew to New York, took a limo to dinner and a Broadway show, then flew home. Date night, just the two of them. Michelle and Barack. And their security detail.
From longtime marrieds-with-kids, the sounds of romance envy: Groan. Growl. Whimper. Sigh.
Golly. Is this the New York Times or US Weekly?
Hoffman quoted (unlabeled) liberal "View" host Joy Behar to praise Obama, as well as a (labeled) conservative commentator who was self-deprecating in his "emphatic cluelessness." Both served to make Obama look like a wonderful husband.
Joy Behar, a host on "The View," whose marriage ended after 17 years, said nothing killed their sex drive like talking politics. So she said she understood the constraints on the first couple's chemistry.
"And with a mother-in-law in the house?" she said. "Now that's a real lust-corrector!" The president's schedule posed unique marital challenges, she noted. Every day Mr. Obama has to weigh competing demands, Ms. Behar said: "Musharraf or Michelle? That's a tougher thing for him than the average Joe. So it's really meaningful when you watch them together." She added, in a tone of wonderment, "He actually looks like he desires her."
Some husbands had their story and were sticking to it: emphatic cluelessness. Mark Hyman, a conservative television commentator, said his first reaction to the Obamas' date night wasn't envy, but bewilderment over how they managed to schedule one. He and his wife, he said, could scarcely keep up with coordinating weekend activities, scattered across Baltimore, of their three children, ages 7, 10 and 13.
"We've had family date nights," offered Mr. Hyman, doing the math to figure out he has been married 15 - no, 14 - years. "A Jonas Brothers concert?"
Husband. Wife. Together. Alone? "Sometimes we talk about going to a film together," he said, "but by the time we agree on one, it's out on DVD."
The Times' story inspired a popular Time.com item by reporter Sean Gregory that was only slightly less laudatory, Tim Graham at NewsBusters noticed.