The recent stories about Bush and Kerry falling off their bicycles were more revealing than they initially appeared to be. Jim Miller picked up on this point, noting that Bush was the better sport for not making fun of Kerry after the latter’s mishap a few weeks ago. The fact that Kerry didn’t return the favor when Bush took a spill more recently, shows at the least a lack of class on Kerry’s part. (Chicago mayor Richard Daley has BTDT and said what Bush was either too nice or too politically cautious to say.)
The stories were revealing in another way too, which Bill Hobbs caught. Kerry got into a car after he fell, Bush got back on the bike. You shouldn’t read too much into it, but public perceptions matter in politics, and Kerry, his fancy bike quickly abandoned, ended up looking like a phoney. He may have had good reason not to get back on the bike. However, his spokesmen were in a bind, because if they told the truth — i.e., Kerry was acting reasonably for a 60-year old guy, even a fit one, who had taken a spill — they might diminish the he-man image he works hard to maintain. So they brushed the incident off. It wasn’t Dukakis in the tank, but Kerry might have gotten more political mileage in this case by getting in some additional bike mileage.
Bush’s behavior here reinforces my impression, gained since Sept. 11, that he deals well with pressure and setbacks. Would Kerry do as well? I don’t know and I don’t want to have to find out.
UPDATE: Lex raises questions in the comments about Kerry’s supposed wussiness and about the cost of his bikes. I don’t know that Kerry is a wuss; he is reputed to be physically courageous. I suspect that he was on the bike in large part because he wanted to be seen being on a bike, to reinforce his green/macho/athletic image. When the going got tough he got in the car. Bush, by contrast, was riding on a trail, out of public view. He was 16 miles into a 17-mile ride (equivalent in exertion to a much longer ride on the road), and after he fell he got back on the bike and finished the ride. That’s the kind of behavior you would expect from a serious person who has limited time and a commitment to staying in shape. Maybe Kerry has done some long rides, but he comes across as a showboater by comparison.
As for the bikes, according to news articles Kerry has multiple bikes including one that cost $8 grand. There’s nothing suspect about having expensive bikes, especially if you’re tall like Kerry and can benefit from having them custom made, but $8k is pricey by any standard. I think it’s like the SUV thing: he comes across as either a poseur or someone who has grown accustomed to having other people pay for his stuff. Neither trait is desirable in a seeker of high public office.