A “body man” is an assistant or valet who follows a political figure around the clock, providing logistical assistance for daily tasks ranging from paperwork to meals.
This is different than the advance man who typically prepares for campaign events.
The term typically refers to the closest personal aide to a president or presidential candidate. This assistant stays with the official at all times save for sensitive meetings and personal moments.
Body men work with political advisors, administrative staff, and family members to manage the president’s time.
Origin of “Body Man”
Political observers have only used this term in public recently with the earliest published reference dating back to 1988.
The informal job title is not be confused with the man with the briefcase, the ever-present carrier of the codes needed by the president to respond to a hostile missile launch.
It is more specific and intimate than gofer, a term applied to any aide ready to “go fer” coffee or do other menial tasks.
In The Boston Globe, Susan Trausch described the body man as someone who “makes sure the candidate’s tie is straight for the TV debate, keeps his mood up and makes sure he gets his favorite cereal for breakfast.”
The president typically selects a body man from their campaign or previous office to ensure confidentiality.
Duties for the president’s body man have evolved over time.
- Reggie Love, a body man for President Barack Obama, said that he was hired without a job description. Love played basketball with Obama in addition to handling gifts, documents, and scheduling.
- Blake Gottesman helped President George W. Bush handle his dog, pay for meals during campaign stops, and manage autographs on rope lines.
The post-presidential careers of past body men show why the position is so valuable to young politicos.
- Stephen Bull went from a role as President Richard Nixon’s body man to roles with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Salvation Army.
- Tim McBride served as a body man for President George H.W. Bush before moving up the corporate ladder to a vice presidency with United Technologies Corp.
- Kris Engskov went from President Bill Clinton’s body man to a vice president of operations for Starbucks within a decade of service.
Public familiarity with the body man has been solidified by portrayals in popular TV shows.
Characters like Gary Walsh in the HBO political comedy Veep and Charlie Young in the NBC drama The West Wing added dimensions to real-life descriptions of the role.
Use of “Body Man” in a sentence
- “Band had begun his career as Bill Clinton’s ‘body man’ – the young staffer who carried bags, took notes and navigated Clinton through the day.” — CNBC (October 27, 2016).
- “Love was that oddity in politics: the ‘body man’ – part valet, part buddy, part whatever.” — Politico (February 9, 2015).
- “Mr. Engskov says the body man’s job was a study in diplomacy, politics and world affairs rolled into one: ‘It allowed you to see everything the president sees, without the responsibility.’” — The New York Times (July 19, 2008).