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Meet the First Buddy

By ANDRE BAGOO Tuesday, April 7 2009

click on pic to zoom in

BARACK OBAMA is expected to land here in Air Force One on April 17, not only with his First Lady Michelle, but also his “First Buddy” Reggie Love, a personal aide who goes everywhere with him.

Love is to bring a good supply of the US President’s favourite drink — an organic brew called Black Forest Berry Honest Tea which Obama drinks by the bottle — as well as copious supplies of Dentyne and Nicorette chewing gum which he supplies Obama to help him curb his old smoking habit.

Although Love has been constantly at Obama’s side since before the former Illinois senator was elected to the Oval office, few know of the key role the former college basketball player has in Obama’s daily life.

Love, 26, is Obama’s “body man” and is often referred to in the American press as the ‘First Buddy’. He is the personal aide who shadows Obama, anticipating everything he needs. He is not a bodyguard (Obama is guarded by the Secret Service) but rather, according to a profile in the New York Times, “the ultimate assistant”.

Love, who played both football and basketball at Duke University, North Carolina, usually starts the day with Obama with a dawn workout. This practice began during the campaign trail in 2008 when the two would play basketball together everyday for luck. In the evenings, the two would unwind before bed by watching ESPN, the American sports cable channel, together.

Back on the campaign trail, Love was also responsible for holding Obama’s pens, his jacket and even introduced Obama to the music of Jay-Z, loading the New York rapper’s music on to an iPod which he bought as a birthday present for his boss. It was Love who introduced Obama and his wife Michelle to their signature fist-bump.

Obama once said he regarded, “my guy, Reggie,” as the kid brother he never had and praised Love on the campaign trail, calling him, “young and good looking”.

“There is no doubt that Reggie is cooler than I am,” he said of his 6-foot-5 inches tall aide who is three inches taller than he is. “I am living vicariously through Reggie.”

And cool Love is. He has a tattoo on his inner arm that says: “My Word, My Bond, My Boyz, My Blood.”

After graduating in political science and public policy from Duke, Love tried out with several NFL teams before applying for an internship in Congress in 2006. He landed an interview in Obama’s senate office, rising to the position of deputy political director. He is now the President’s closest aide with what he describes as “no job description whatsoever.”

“It was just like, ‘you just go out there and take care of stuff’,” he said of his job in an interview with the NY Times.

In addition to tea and gum, Love often supplies the most powerful man in the world with food and snacks. He has said Obama, “eats pretty much anything, from chicken wings and barbecue and ribs to grilled fish and steamed broccoli.” He has noted that the President has a weakness for cheeseburgers. “Cheddar is the cheese of choice,” he said. Love also supplies Obama, whom he refers to as “the boss”, with MET-Rx chocolate roasted peanut protein bars.

Once, when Obama dropped food on his tie while eating in a car between stops on the campaign trail, Love provided Obama with a Tide pen to remove the stain. Other items Love carried on the campaign trail included: throat lozenges, Advil and Tylenol. On another occasion in Indiana, Love helped out when Obama did not want a second Budweiser beer, taking it off Obama’s hands.

Obama will land in Trinidad on the afternoon of April 17 aboard Air Force One which has a gym, electronic defence units and shielding to protect it from nuclear blasts. In addition to Love, he will come with his own supply of group AB blood, his armoured ‘Beast’ and his own team of nurses and surgeons.

Love accompanied Obama to the recently concluded G-20 summit in London. He is not the first presidential body man. Bill Clinton had one in the form of George Stephanopoulos. Other top politicians like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton also have such aides.

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