Why did President Obama flub his 'Kiss Cam' moment?

President Obama failed to kiss his wife when a Kiss Cam focused on the First Couple Monday at a USA basketball exhibition in Washington.   When the Kiss Cam turned its gaze on the couple a second time, the President gave Michelle Obama a big kiss.

Alex Brandon/AP
President Barack Obama kisses the head of first lady Michelle Obama, left, after kissing her for 'Kiss Cam' in the second half while attending the Olympic men's exhibition basketball game between Team USA and Brazil, on July 16, in Washington. Team USA won 80-69.

President Obama flubbed a Kiss Cam moment yesterday, in case you haven’t heard.

He and First Lady Michelle Obama were attending a Team USA basketball exhibition game at the Verizon Center in Washington when the Kiss Cam turned its lens their way during a break in the action. The First Couple’s image appeared on the big arena screen, and the crowd began to cheer. That’s because when you show up on Kiss Cam, you’re supposed to plant a smooch on your partner.

But Obama clutched. He put his arm around Michelle, and smiled for the crowd, but that was it. Some in the crowd responded with boos.

Later in the game he got a second chance. That happens when you’re president. Imagine what went on behind the scenes – perhaps a livid David Axelrod screamed at a Verizon Center official to try POTUS again or they’d learn the true meaning of “outsourced job”.

Given a retry, Obama nailed his performance, giving Michelle a big spousal kiss on the lips, and one on her forehead for good measure. The crowd cheered. According to some accounts there were chants of “four more years”, though at that point in the game it’s possible some group was just ordering “four more beers”.

But here’s our question: why did he mess this up in the first place? We’ve got some theories:

IT WASN’T FOCUS-GROUPED. In a presidential campaign virtually every word a candidate says is scripted. All actions are pre-studied and analyzed for possible effect on swing voters in Ohio. Last week on his bus tour through swing states Obama entered a Pennsylvania bakery and ordered an apple pie, for instance. You think that was an accident? We would be unsurprised to learn that the campaign team had held a meeting beforehand to consider his pastry choices and rejected German chocolate cake as too European.

In that context, Obama just didn’t know what to do when the time came for spontaneous action. Had Axelrod run this by a focus group? Do voters want a little passion in their Kiss Cam couples, or restraint? Best not to move until the Gallup poll data comes in.

WHAT’S A “KISS CAM”? It’s also possible that Obama had no idea what was expected. We’re about the same era as POTUS, and we go out on the town about as much as he does, which is to say, seldom. We were at a sporting event over the weekend and were astonished by the range of between-action activities: Kiss Cams, Most Active Fan contests, mascot races and so forth. What happened to just watching the game? When did umpires get individualized walk-up music?

Presidents might be even more insulated in this regard than the rest of us. “Wow, Michelle, look at how bright that screen is – and now they’re showing us? Why are we appearing inside a heart-shaped graphic?”

HUSBAND = CLUELESS. A corollary of reason number two might be this: it’s possible that as a longtime married guy Barack Obama is not quick on the uptake when it comes to suggestions of spousal togetherness.

When you’ve been a husband as long as he has, candlelit dinners mean the power’s out. A weed whacker might seem a perfectly appropriate anniversary gift. You TiVo Stephen Colbert, because really, who can stay up that late?

So those are our ideas. We await the Kiss Cam special episode of “Situation Room” to find out the real story from Wolf Blitzer.

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