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Obama pitches it straight

Unlike other presidents, he's willing to wear his allegiance for all to see -- at least in sports.

July 16, 2009

A few decades ago, when Earl Warren was chief justice of the United States and Richard Nixon was vice president, those two California politicians and implacable rivals ran into one another at the Rose Bowl. Nixon was switching sides at halftime to demonstrate his neutrality, and Warren quickly added that to his storehouse of irritations with his old nemesis. How, Warren muttered to others in his box, could anyone trust a man who couldn't even choose sides in a football game?

That sliver of American history came to mind Tuesday night as President Obama strode to the mound at the All-Star game. He stopped to shake the hand of Stan Musial, and then the lanky southpaw lobbed the first pitch -- in his White Sox jacket. With that, Obama ditched the faux neutrality that Nixon and too many other politicians adopt toward sports. (Those Rose Garden receptions and calls to the locker room are for winners, not favorites.) This president is different, in terms of both his loyalties and his willingness to announce them. He made his Final Four picks public, and he is, after all, a black man from Chicago. That often adds up to White Sox fan, and Obama's not embarrassed to wear his allegiance on his chest.

The pitch itself had the speed of a Bill Clinton fastball, and only a generous reach by Albert Pujols saved the president from bouncing it in front of the plate. But say what you will about Obama -- about his handling of healthcare or the Honduran coup, about the drawdown in Iraq or the buildup in Afghanistan -- it's reassuring to be led by a politician willing to declare his loyalties.

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