When he’s mad, President Barack Obama gets eerily quiet.
A 21-year-old former Duke University football and basketball star improbably became then-Senator Obama’s right-hand man during his first presidential campaign.
Reggie Love went on to work as Obama’s personal aide for five years, crisscrossing the nation with America’s future president, serving him meals, carrying around his luggage, buying him clothes, challenging him on the basketball court, and babysitting for his children.
In a new memoir, “Power Forward: My Presidential Education,” Love discusses being by Obama’s side “on the campaign trail when no one believed in him” to the “seconds before stepping onstage to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.”
Love also shared stories of what it’s like to upset the president.
Here are some of the times Love saw Obama’s angry side.
Losing Obama’s wallet and briefcase
In 2007 after a fundraiser in Florida, Love accidentally misplaced then-Senator Obama’s Tumi briefcase containing his keys, wallet, credit cards, and notes he needed for his upcoming debate in South Carolina.
“The plane was airborne, the bag was missing, and I proceeded to have a full-blown panic attack. Sweat began to bleed through my clothes. My heart raced like a cornered rabbit. In my head I prayed he wouldn’t notice, that I’d have time to find the bag and by some miracle get it back to him before he realised it had vanished,” Love writes.
Love was able to contact a campaign finance assistant who then notified a Secret Service agent about the missing bag.
The team was able to recover the Tumi briefcase and send it with a campaign member who was also en route to watch the debate in Columbia.
“When we landed in Columbia, I was feeling a modicum of relief, believing maybe disaster had been averted, maybe this would all resolve without any drama, and it was precisely at that moment that the candidate turned to me and said, ‘Hey Reg, where’s my bag?‘ I went with, ‘It’s on its way.’ ‘What do you mean ‘on the way?‘ he asked. ‘It’s coming from Florida,’ I said. ‘You left my briefcase in Florida,’ he stated, incredulous.”
Love describes the worst part about upsetting Obama, the silence.
“The silence, felt worse than being reprimanded. As we rode to the Columbia campaign headquarters without another word passing between us I thought, That’s it, I’m fired. I kept hoping he would break the tension and yell at me,” Love writes.
Once they arrived at the campaign office, Obama asked for a private room so that he could have a meeting with Love.
With a clam and ‘even and firm’ voice Obama began, “Listen, Reggie, I think you’re a great guy. But, (Obama paused and leaned forward) if you’re not up to doing this job, I can get someone else to do it. You have one job and if I have to worry about all this stuff, then you’re not making it easy for me to do my job.”
“Get your act together, Reggie. Help me do my job,” he said as he rose from the table and walked out of the room.
Overbooking Obama’s schedule
In December of 2007, Obama’s schedule was filled with back-to-back campaign events that ran over the allotted time limit. Love was responsible for informing various organisations that the candidate would be tardy, but was unable to do so.
“Obama turned to me and said through tight teeth, ‘Reggie, this is messed up.’ And I, cracking from the day and the stress and the hours still left to go, stupidly replied ‘Well, if you didn’t stay so long at the luncheon, we wouldn’t have this problem.’ The air went still. It was like that eerie calm before a tornado swoops in and levels your entire house. Nobody said anything.”
According to Love, Obama then turned to aide Marvin Nicholson and said “Marvin, talk to Reggie because I am not having this conversation with him.”
After Love was “schooled” by Nicholson, he accidentally made another error, he got Obama’s lunch order wrong.
Messing up Obama’s lunch
After the same luncheon that caused Obama’s schedule to go array, Love forgot to save the candidate a meal while Obama was “working the room, giving a talk, and fielding questions.”
“You got my taquitos, Reggie? he inquired wearily. ‘I left the taquitos at the venue, sir, I assumed you wouldn’t want them; they were three hours old,’ I confessed. Obama looked at me with blank disbelief. I might as well have left his bag in the car again,” Love writes.
Love was responsible for most of Obama’s meals while on the campaign trail and quickly learned that the senator wanted his food “as healthy as he could get on the road.” According to Love, Obama preferred grilled fish or chicken, sandwiches, salads with either ranch or vinaigrette dressing, and lots of Gala apples.
“There were days when he specifically wanted X. And Lord help me if he’d made his mind up about what he wanted and I delivered the wrong thing. Or if it came with mayo. Or was undercooked. Or soggy. If there was one thing you didn’t want to watch, it was the time-pressed candidate scraping a gooey, loathed condiment off the only food he was going to eat for the next seven hours,” Love writes.
“Sometimes he’d mutter, ‘This was the thirty minutes I had to myself, and now I can’t even enjoy my meal.”
Messing up Obama’s snacks
The night before Love’s first official trip as Obama’s “chief of stuff” he made a trip to a local supermarket to buy black and silver Sharpie’s, black pilot G2 Gel Roller pens, Trident chewing gum, and trail mix.
Mulling over the plethora of trail mix options Love recalls, “Salted or dry roasted? Sweet or spicy? With or without dried fruit or candy? I realised I hadn’t a clue what the man (Senator Obama) would like. I also had an accompanying thought: how much could it possibly matter? He’d be grateful regardless, right?”
Turns out, the trail mix selection did matter to Obama.
Hours later Love flew with the senator on a commercial flight from D.C. to LaGuardia. While on the flight Love offered Obama the bag of trail mix.
“The senator opened the bag of trail mix I’d bought and proceeded to pick out every M&M, holding them all in his palm like pieces of candy-coated toxic waste. ‘I’m not going to eat these,’ he said while pushing his hand in my general direction. ‘Do you want them?’ he asked, wrinkling his nose. ‘No thank you, sir,’ I answered, then made the first of what would be thousands of notes to self: No candy with the trail mix.”
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