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Weekly Wrap: MJ, Pudgy Top Doc Pick, Skip Gates and Coburn's Arma(pecca)dillos

Clockwise: Henry Louis Gates Jr., (Helayne Seidman/The Washington Post); Michael Jackson (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images); Tom Coburn (Lawrence Jackson/AP); Dr. Regina Benjamin (Tim Sloan- AFP/Getty Images)

Updated, 6:05 p.m., with White House clarification on the Prof. Gates incident...

Fattism Alert: A mini-media firestorm began bubbling this week over President Obama's plus-sized choice for surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin.

Even the former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, piled on, telling ABC News that Benjamin's chubbiness "tends to undermine her credibility.... I do think at a time when a lot of public health concern is about the national epidemic of obesity, having a surgeon general who is noticeably overweight raises questions in people's minds."

Conservatives are using Benjamin's size against her. Newt Gingrich's former spinmeister, Rich Galen, writes on his tending-toward-snarky blog, Mullings:

I am willing to accept the notion that the Surgeon General can be the poster-woman for a national effort to lose weight. That would be swell. But, if we accept that theory, then Obama should appoint:

- a junkie as Drug Czar,

- a person whose license has been suspended as Secretary of Transportation,

- a deserter as Secretary of Defense,

- a slum lord heading HUD and,

- Bernie Madoff as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I was going to add 'tax cheats in the U.S. Treasury' but Obama has already done that.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement this week defending Benjamin as a "highly qualified physician" and "role model for all of us."

Skip Gates Watch: Conservatives are beginning to come down hard on President Obama for his defense of Harvard Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., who was arrested in his own home in Cambridge, Mass., this week.

Apparent 2012 presidential hopeful Gingrich, appearing on C-SPAN this week, said Obama "should have said nothing" about the incident. "He admitted himself he didn't know the facts and then hey went on to give us a general comment."

In his loquacious, professorial way, Gingrich lectured the president for using poor judgment. He said Obama should "just relax" and be "humble enough and calm enough to admit this is just one he blew."

Update: President Obama expressed regret Friday for his choice of words in suggesting that police officers in Cambridge, Mass., had "acted stupidly" in arresting the black Harvard professor.

Making an impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room to quell criticism, Obama said he called Sgt. James Crowley, the white officer who arrested Gates, to express regret. "I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I wanted to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, I think, gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically," Obama told reporters. "I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to Sergeant Crowley."

Later Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether the president had actually apologized to Crowley. But he said Obama agreed to have a beer with him.

When pressed on whether Obama apologized, Gibbs said the president called Sgt. Crowley "to let him know that that word choice was not one that he thought was probably, in hindsight, the best choice."

Tom Coburn's Arma(pecca)dillos: Hard to know if there was double entendre in Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) bizarre riff on the Senate floor Thursday evening about an armadillo's lust of marshmallows:

"In Oklahoma, I trap armadillos.... All you've got to do is put a trap cage and you'll catch those suckers. That's what Washington is doing to America's liberty. We bite the first bite off the marshmallow. You say, 'That tastes good.'...

"And then we take another little bite of the marshmallow, or the next one.... Pretty soon, that armadillo fellow, he's in my cage. I got him.

"And the reason I got him is he kept thinking he could get something for nothing. He kept thinking 'man, that's a sweet marshmallow.'"

The fate of the marshallow-crazed armadillo? "One of two things," Coburn explained in the speech on the Senate floor. "I either put 'em in the back of my pickup and take 10 or 15 miles away from my property or I shoot 'em.''

Wonder what that imagery says about Coburn's love-addicted pals from the famous C Street house, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and South Carolina Gov. Mark "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford?

Michael Jackson Resolution Watch: Another week, no MJ resolution. The House considered resolutions honoring the late baseball announcer Harry Kalas, congratulating the Los Angeles Lakers, hailing the people of Lithuania, and touting Chicago as the next Olympic city while Jackson continued to get short shrift.

The resolution sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) memorializing MJ as an "American hero and musical legend" lay dormant, as it may well forever. It was in Jackson Lee's district in Houston this week where the offices of Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, were raided by DEA agents.

Oddly, Jackson Lee had a staff member on location at the medical clinic during the raid. According to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson Lee's office said the aide was there "as a concerned community representative."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 24, 2009; 1:13 PM ET
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Next: Specter, Teary-Eyed But Not Sad (Or Sick)


Slipknot-Have A Nice Weekend!!

Posted by: edtroyhampton | July 24, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I have to wonder if non-partisan (sarcasm dripping) Mary Ann, who is usually fast to jump on any anti-Palin story will be able to summon enough journalistic integrity to mention this:

"The independent investigator who has accused Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of violating state ethics laws is a major donor to the Democratic Party as well as a partner in a law firm that represented Barack Obama's presidential campaign."

I'm not holding my breath waiting for Mary Ann to publish the other side of this...or any...story. As usual, she won't let facts get in the way of a good Palin-bashing.

Posted by: dbw1 | July 24, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

coburn is one of the most bizarre public officials from a collection of freaks. recall his campaign charge of high school lesbos hanging out in the girls bathroom?

and, please, political press corps -- someone ask him to explain his claim to physician/patient confidentiality in the C St sexcapades -- esp when he's an ob/gyn doctor -- and the supposed patient a male u.s. senator.

Posted by: mycomment | July 25, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Rich Galen ought to note that for 8 years we had a deserter a Commander in Chief. I think we can deal with a Dr. who has weight issues as surgeon general. If she dealt with her weight properly it could be a teachable moment for the country.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | July 25, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

When the Republican blaberatti decide that the kind of name calling they are trotting out against Dr. Benjamin are their only ammunition, you know that the "Party of Ideas" is in advanced senile dementia.

The only question is, are there ANY Republican (Spokespersons) (Hey, I don't have to use that execritude, because I am talking about Republicans other than Sarah) Spokesmen who are objecting to the High School Cool Dudes Cliqueish behavior of those other spokesmen?

Posted by: ceflynline | July 26, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

We the people in order to form a more perfect union;

Posted by: edtroyhampton | July 27, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Obama was right in the first place. The cops handled the Gates incident stupidly. The man was in his own home, and THEY were the reason he was angry. There was no law being violated... they could have resolved the entire situation peacefully by simply LEAVING. Instead, the cop decided to show Gates "who's boss"... that the only reason for the threat, in Gates own home, to "calm down or I'm going to arrest you". If the cops left, it wouldn't matter whether Gates was calm or not. He WAS in his own home.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | July 27, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Another of Coburn's hypocrisies: he implored Sonia Sotomayor to understand the feeling westerners have for their guns and how different things are in the "heartland." (I have grown to despise the abuse of that descriptive.) Do you think for one minute he would consider how people in urban areas feel about guns? That's what is most galling about his ilk. Everything has to be their way or it's a tantrum about how unpatriotic those who disagree are.

Posted by: RYBice | July 27, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

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