Barack Obama: The First Nerd President? Let’s find out…
When British newspaper The Daily Telegraph posted an article revealing 50 little known facts about then President-elect Barack Obama, the world learned a few fun facts about the new leader of the free world. He can speak Spanish, he once had a pet ape and he’s a fan of both Bob Dylan and The Fugees. But, what stuck out most was the first entry: President Barack Obama collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comic books. This revelation coincides with a number of facts about the President that have slipped into the media which raises a worrisome question: Is Barack Obama a nerd? Spider-Man and Conan comics aren’t the only things that should have clued us in, as the first Gen-X president has several bespectacled skeletons hanging in his closet.
Not much is known about Obama’s comic book collecting beyond his two favorite titles. It’s no surprise that the president would be a Spider-Man fan, what with its musings on balancing power with responsibility and the importance of personal accountability. On top of that, a lot of people like Spider-Man-enough to make the movie series about two and a half billion dollars, at least. No, no it’s the Conan that should worry you. Most people know Conan character from the series of movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the universe goes much deeper that. Conan the Barbarian, Cimmerian King of Aquilona, appears in the Marvel comics title “Savage Sword of Conan,” among several others. A brutish, powerful man who rose to prominence through might and wit in the Hyborian Age; he’s an amoral giant who slays beasts and men alike in titles like “Shadows in Zamboula,” “Jewels of Gwahlur,” and “The Pool of the Black One.” When he was elected, Obama, a comic book fan since childhood, became the first Presidential fan of sword and sorcery-perhaps the nerdiest fantasy sub-genre.
Reading “Savage Sword of Conan” may be high school chess club nerdy, but it’s better than the president being a former Dungeons and Dragons addict, or worse yet, Warhammer 40,000. At least being a Conan fan doesn’t encourage fans to live action role play-videos of that would have crashed his campaign instantly.
Peace-mongers may take concern in the President’s favorite childhood hero, especially considering Conan’s infamous mantra of: “… crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women.” Let’s just hope the Spider-Man balanced that out a bit.
Comic book collecting isn’t the only hobby that pre-occupied our skinny, over-educated president. After the election, Newsweek published an in depth accounts of both the McCain and Obama campaigns. Aside from revealing the precise, machine-like nature of the Obama campaign, the series also presented the nominee as being a bit of a “Star Trek” geek.
Obama scattered bread crumbs throughout his campaign hinting at his hidden Trekkie nature. In one campaign stop the President-to-be declared “I grew up on “Star Trek,” I believe in the Final Frontier.” Leonard Nimoy also reported about his meeting with a certain presidential candidate who greeted the actor with a traditional Vulcan salute.
Obama isn’t the first president to show an interest in the “Star Trek” universe. President Ford named the first NASA space shuttle the USS Enterprise, and President Reagan wrote about watching Star Trek III in the White House in his diary. “After dinner we ran Star Trek III. It wasn’t too good.” Who can blame the guy? “Search for Spock,” is not a very good movie.
Obama’s attitude towards “Star Trek” feels different-he gives the aura of a fan. According to the Newsweek article, Obama once poked fun at his wife Michelle’s belt, playfully using it as if it were a tricorder and giggling “The lithium crystals! Beam me up, Scotty!” Lithium Crystals, an energy source for starships, only appear in a handful of early original “Star Trek” episodes. After realizing that actual lithium can’t really launch a ship across the galaxy, “Star Trek” writers replaced the element with dilithium, a version of lithium discovered by the writers when they made it up. Hopefully, President Obama doesn’t know this and his joke was just a slip of his nerdy, bookish tongue.
President Obama’s affinity for sci-fi seeps into his policy as well. The president pledged to create a cabinet-level position to monitor the nation’s growing technological concerns like broadband availability, net neutrality and digitizing medical records. He’s also become what many call “the first e-mailing president.” He’s the first president to own a Blackberry, despite protests from his security staff. Like a true geek, however, President Obama insisted that secret service would have to “pry it out of [his] hands,” and forced White House Security to develop new measures to accommodate his favorite gadget.