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  • Bush and Kerry and Their Bikes

    Posted by James R. Rummel on June 1st, 2004 (All posts by )

    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.

     

    22 Responses to “Bush and Kerry and Their Bikes”

    1. Lex Says:

      There was a story today, somewhere, about what kinds of bikes the two men have. Bush’s bikes are a lot less fancy and expensive than Kerry’s. Those details may mean something to you as a “bike guy” which would merit updating this post.

      Also, Bush getting back on with chunks gouged out of his hand, chin and nose shows he’s not a wuss. Kerry getting in the car shows that Kerry is a wuss. (I removed a harsher, more accurate but more profane noun.) How’s that for a simple-minded analysis.

    2. NW Says:

      As Abigail Van Buren said, “the best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back”. By this measure, Kerry’s character is obvious.

    3. rdbrewer Says:

      I read in Time that last winter when Kerry was snowboarding and claimed “I don’t fall over,” after calling a Secret Service agent a “son of a bitch” for allegedly knocking him over, he fell down several more times.

      What an asshole.

      And his un-presidential reaction is kind of nutty too.

      He’s still a spoiled rich kid.

    4. Chris Says:

      I’ll agree that Kerry showed no class in his reaction to Bush’s spill, and I’m a Bush voter anyway, but I’ll go easy on Kerry about not continuing after crashing. For instance, the bike may have gotten dinged up badly or there was severe road rash. Doing an endo at 20 mph onto a road from a comparatively fragile bike is going to cause more damage to something than doing 12 mph onto dirt. GWB’s cuts and scrapes were pretty cool though.

      The last time I crashed in a race, I couldn’t get back in because my handlebars were at about a 45-degree angle to the front wheel. Better the handlebars than my collarbone.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Chris, I agree we shouldn’t be too hard on Kerry. But I also think it reflects well on Bush that he got back on the bike — he didn’t have to.

    6. In-Cog-Nito Says:

      Good analysis Jonathan. I completely missed the whole thing. I just saw Bush’s picture on Drudge, saw Kerry making fun of him, and chalked it up as no class. Didn’t know there was more to the story.

    7. social democrat Says:

      Kerry is reputed to be physically courageous? Check out the military records. numerous decorations from 2 voluntary combat tours vs. playing with an obsolete fighter jet like it was a Ferrari, at considerable govt. expense.

      As to “accustomed to having other people pay for his stuff,” tune in to a Texas Rangers home game some time. I’d love to see a U of C-style analysis justifying taxpayer-funded baseball stadiums.

    8. Jonathan Says:

      social democrat,

      I acknowledge Kerry’s physical courage. Unfortunately it is accompanied by negative traits such as his willingness to slander other veterans for political gain. Bush served, could easily have been killed (as some of his colleagues were) in his obsolete jet, could easily have been sent into combat on short notice. Your swipe at him is unjustified and a cheap shot.

      The point about Kerry is that he behaves like a spoiled rich kid. The bike incident is one of many that have given him a reputation as a lightweight and a jerk. Bush comes from at least as privileged a background as Kerry does but comes across as the more serious person. I think character is important in a president, and I think their respective biking mishaps reflect better on Bush’s character than they do on Kerry’s.

      BTW, it might surprise you and other Bush critics, but those of us who prefer Bush to Kerry do not necessarily support everything Bush does. I want Bush to be reelected because on the big issue of the day he has done pretty well — much better than Kerry would do, IMO — and that’s what matters most. I am not obligated to justify everything that Bush has done.

    9. social democrat Says:

      Jonathan–
      Interesting post. Only someone who supports the black & white world of GWB would think it necessary to assert that he doesn’t support everything Bush does. This whole bike incident comparison is silly, but using it to disparage the manhood of someone who exposed himself to live fire in battle to save a comrade is pathetic.

      For all the self-regarding talk of patriotism I hear from the right, there’s a strange contempt for military service and the willingness to give one’s life for one’s country. It doesn’t really factor into old Miltie’s self-interest equations, I guess.

      Sure, Bush could have been killed during a training run. He also could have been killed in a mountain climbing accident or while driving a Ferrari at speed on a deserted racetrack. Lots of men in their 20’s like to do dangerous things and a fighter jet is about the best toy there is, as long as no one is shooting at you.

      I guess you didn’t get the memo from HQ. One of the reasons the WH cites for Bush staying stateside when his flight training was completed was that he would have had to go through a very long retraining process, almost from the beginning, before he could qualify in a current, combat-ready fighter. That’s when he began disappearing, and nobody really cared, because despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in his training, he was worthless as a combat pilot. I’ll agree it is a shot at Bush, but it certainly wasn’t cheap.

      As far as Kerry’s alleged slander of veterans for political gain, it may be news to you, but there were numerous instances of war-crimes scaled massacres in Vietnam. Sy Hersh had already written about My Lai. And just this year, the investigative Pulitzer was given to the Toledo Blade for a series of articles documenting another slaughter in Vietnam. That war was wrong for a lot of reasons, and one of them was how it was fought–free fire zones and liquidating villages that might have been harboring highly mobile Viet Cong guerillas. Kerry was only one of many who returned from the war convinced it was a mistake.

      Do you really believe his opposition to the Vietnam war was motivated solely by political calculation? Care to reargue the merits of that war? If you’re a fan of empirical social science, consider this: tens of thousands of American lives were lost and billions spent in defense of vital American interests in Vietnam, yet since unification there has not been a single incident where the Vietnamese have acted contrary to American interests. Early in the GWB administration an American warship paid a peaceful call on a Vietnamese port.

      The lesson seemed to escape Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al., but the odds are long against success for an occupying army against indigenous guerilla insurgents in a country so foreign to the occupiers that they cannot read the street signs. (ring a bell?)

      It’s pointless to deny that two men who went to Andover, St. Paul’s and Yale have led privileged lives, although Kerry had very limited means by those standards. But let’s be clear: GWB couldn’t even get into prep school except as a legacy. His grades at Yale (WASP affirmative action again) were a solid C+, while Kerry gave the class speech. Kerry fought a war, Bush played at war. Kerry worked his way up the political ladder, while Bush fumbled at business (in Bush’s case, privilege meant escaping an insider trading charge) until he learned to become a crony capitalist. (Anytime you can send me a citation from a conservative economist justifying tax-financed baseball stadiums, fine by me.)

      I don’t know what the “big issue” is. Is it the mess in Iraq? After more than 50 years of contingency planning, the best military minds in the country have concluded that occupying a conquered country requires a force to population ratio of 1:4. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz thought they could get by with 1:16. There weren’t even enough troops to guard captured munitions until the Halliburton demolition teams could arrive, which might explain why there are so many mortar shells and RPGs flying around.

      Bush is many things, a useful moron to the extraction and pharmaceutical industries for instance, but serious is about the last thing he is. This is a Harvard b-school graduate nobody would ever hire to run a division operating in a competitive market and possibly the least curious man to ever occupy the WH, although Reagan is close. During the years he was positioning this country to invade Iraq, it never occurred to him (or Rice) that it might be useful to arrange a weekly hour-long presentation by a scholar in Iraqi history and culture, such as the U.of C.’s able (and conservative) Prof. Mearsheimer.

      If modern conservatism is intellectually solid, why does the party keep offering shallow con men like Reagan and GWB? Whatever happened to sober, truly careful and conservative Republicans? Dana Carvey used to mock GHWB for his favorite word: prudent. It was prudence that stopped American troops from crossing the Kuwait border into Iraq without support from the other Arab nations in the alliance.

      This is only a stepping stone to the job Bush really wants: commissioner of baseball. Selig has already lowered the standards to within Bush’s reach. I’ll give him this much: even he isn’t dumb enough to call off an all-star game as a draw one year, then invest it with more importance than it deserves by awarding home field advantage to the winning league.

    10. Jonathan Says:

      You accuse others of bad intentions but force readers of your comments to wade through a self-indulgent morass of insults, ad hominem attacks and speculative digressions in order to figure out what you are trying to say. Thanks for the consideration. Your main points seem to be that 1) Bush is an idiot, 2) conservatives are incompetent scoundrels and 3) Kerry is a decent fellow. I’m sure that you can find plenty of people who agree with you, and the tone of your remarks suggests that you are unaccustomed to interacting with anyone else.

      I think I can make my points a bit more clearly. I think the way in which a man responds to minor adversity can reveal a lot about his character. Bush and Kerry’s respective responses to falling off their bikes make Bush appear mature and Kerry immature. IMO this inference is consistent with their behavior in other areas.

    11. social democrat Says:

      Sorry the reply was so long, but I wanted to be clear and concrete in my replies to your attacks on Kerry, especially when you don’t have the facts straight.

      Correctly understanding 2 of 3 of my main points is something, I guess. All conservatives are not incompetent scoundrels, just an awful lot of those serving in this administration. Here’s a short list off the top of my head of competent and honorable conservatives: John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, John Warner, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell. I’ve grown increasingly nostalgic for the Eisenhower administration, and it’s a pity that Reagan’s death has upstaged a weekend that would have revitalized Ike’s memory.

      Don’t take my word for it about the incompetence. Here’s a link to an MSNBC interview with Gen. Zinni and Tom Clancy: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5137382. As to scoundrels, there are now two distinct FBI counter-intel investigations of the most senior levels in the executive branch because some of the nation’s most sensitive and closely held secrets were compromised. Bush consulted a criminal lawyer this week, but not a single official under investigation has been cut out of the intelligence flow, much less fired. And let’s not forget the loathsome Elliott Abrams, a convicted perjurer who holds down the Middle East desk at the NSC.

      Certainly the way in which a man responds to minor adversity can reveal a lot about his character. This is the stock-in-trade of all narrative artists, but it’s a highly speculative technique requiring great care, unless you’re just looking for some mud to throw. An alternate interpretation: Kerry thought that some vigorous but noncompetitive exercise had been spoiled and it just wasn’t worth risking the shoulder that was surgically repaired only a few months ago. Bush, however, sees every endeavor as a challenge to his manhood. There’s pretty broad consensus among historians and psychologists that this a bad trait in a president.

    12. rdbrewer Says:

      An alternate interpretation: Kerry thought that some vigorous but noncompetitive exercise had been spoiled and it just wasn’t worth risking the shoulder that was surgically repaired only a few months ago.

      What was he thinking when he was snowboarding, falling down repeatedly, claiming he doesn’t fall down, and calling a bodyguard a “son of a bitch”?

    13. social democrat Says:

      [abusive comment deleted]

    14. Jonathan Says:

      Only grim right-wingers searching for some way to mount attacks in support of the stupendously stupid Shrub would take Kerry’s line seriously.

      Do you actually talk like this to people, face to face? You’re using a dynamic IP so I can’t ban you, but starting now I am deleting comments that contain this kind of abusive language. You are welcome to participate here if you are civil but not if you use insults and ad hominem arguments.

    15. rdbrewer Says:

      He’s pretty well hoisted on his own petard with the hate-speech. Can you email me the abusive comment or, at least, tell me the gist of it?

    16. Jonathan Says:

      I’d rather not provide a workaround for behavior that I want to discourage. Our friend is welcome to post again if he can do so civilly.

    17. social democrat Says:

      Very clever editing, Jonathan. In case you didn’t mean to delete the alternate narrative of Kerry’s snowboarding/bodyguard, it went something like this: Kerry called the secret service a son of a bitch and claimed to never fall with a SMILE on his face. This is called irony, a close relative to humor and accounting for the contrasting reference to grim.

      I can understand cutting the last two sentences, although there was nothing more than a vulgar reference to the general tone of discussion here. (Now that’s real irony.) But also mysteriously cut was a reference to extending the combat tour extensions and GWB’s inability to admit mistakes. Certainly no hate-speech. But while I’m on that subject, I’ll note that this weekend the Texas Republican party passed a platform with a plank declaring the U.S. to be a Christian nation. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

      I initially logged on to this web site hoping to read some first-rate conservative commentary from outside the beltway, maybe find some links to thoughtful articles on subjects like Iraqi history and the Patriot Act. And perhaps engage in some spirited debate. I have enormous respect for the U of C; the portraits on your home page represent some of the best minds in American history. I’ll nominate two more: philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade and novelist Saul Bellow, who once said of the Committee on Social Thought, “This is where people know what they’re talking about.”

      What I found instead was sniping about Kerry on a personal level only slightly more elevated than the average Ann Coulter exhale.

      We’re not speaking face-to-face, but since you’re wondering, I count among my friends top executives at Fortune 500 companies.

      I tend to adopt the style and tone of the publication.

      For example: Here’s Lex: “Kerry is a wuss.”

      And here’s rdbrewer: “Kerry was snowboarding and claimed “I don’t fall over,” after calling a Secret Service agent a “son of a bitch” for allegedly knocking him over, he fell down several more times.
      “What an ASSHOLE. [emphasis added; my edited lines referred to a different body part.]
      “And his un-presidential reaction is kind of nutty too.
      He’s still a spoiled rich kid.”

      And here’s Gewirth: “[Kerry’s] willingness to slander other veterans for political gain.”

      Ordinarily I would have simply logged off the site and continued the search for first-rate conservative thought, but I was moved to post because disparaging the manhood of a decorated combat veteran to make some obscure political point–especially with problematic methodology–is deeply offensive. And opposition to the Vietnam war took many forms, but it was never politically expedient, especially not by joining VVAW. This is a slur on his loyalty, the old stab-in-the-back syndrome.

      Rereading the dialog between Jonathan and myself, I’m hard-pressed to find a single sentence of mine that isn’t acceptable on the op-ed pages of any family newspaper, much less a political web site such as NRO. My points are supported by easily verifiable facts and those points were usually rebuttals to something Jonathan wrote. He, however, accuses me of an unspecified “self-indulgent morass of insults, ad hominem attacks and speculative digressions.” Thats a mouthful considering this all began with speculation on the deep character flaws revealed by the decision of a man pushing 60 to quit a bike ride after a fall.

      There really isnt much of a difference in tone between spoiled rich kid and stupendously stupid, though one is a clich and the other is fresh alliteration. Its the antecedents that bother you. The right still cant counter-punch.

      I didn’t keep a copy of the previous post, but I have a copy of this one. If anyone wants to discuss ideas or suggest some serious articles. I’ll monitor the site for the next few days, but otherwise, the search for intelligent life among conservatives will continue elsewhere. Surely George Will isnt the only one who hasnt lost his mind.

    18. Jonathan Says:

      social democrat, you protest too much. You say we disappoint you yet you keep coming back. You ignore my requests to argue civilly, then try to manipulate me into accepting your standards of argument. I am unwilling to engage with you on these terms. Please take your arguments elsewhere.

    19. rdbrewer Says:

      Kerry didn’t smile when he said, “Son of a bitch knocked me over.” He scowled. And how can you say something like that with irony and humor? It was a simple excited utterance, a revealing declaration of his emotional state at a stressful point in time. And this fits with Jonathan’s point that you can draw conclusions about the character of the respective candidates by looking at how they operate under stress.

      I initially logged on to this web site hoping to read some first-rate conservative commentary from outside the beltway . . . .

      What I found instead was sniping about Kerry on a personal level only slightly more elevated than the average Ann Coulter exhale.

      Socialist Democrat has discovered some informal discourse at ChicagoBoyz and appears to look down upon it as if the writers have no other gear from which to choose. It’s beneath him. Apparently, for SD, only formal discourse indicates intelligence. That explains why he is sifting through the blogworld.

      And when Saul Bellow was punching critics in the nose, he was exhibiting the very highest degree of intelligence.

      Smart people don’t have an informal side.

      Jonathan’s piece was less about personal sniping–something that SD both embraces and disclaims depending upon utility in the moment–than it was an interesting observation about how the men handle acute stress.

      He, however, accuses me of an unspecified “self-indulgent morass of insults, ad hominem attacks and speculative digressions.” Thats a mouthful considering this all began with speculation on the deep character flaws revealed by the decision of a man pushing 60 to quit a bike ride after a fall.

      The former has nothing to do with the latter.

      There really isnt much of a difference in tone between spoiled rich kid and stupendously stupid, though one is a clich and the other is fresh alliteration. Its the antecedents that bother you. The right still cant counter-punch.

      “Stupendously stupid” is older than the hills, SD, but, granted, it is of the same tone. Was the anticedent Bush, all Republicans, or people who thought Kerry was angry enough to swear at a bodyguard sworn to take a bullet for him?

    20. Jonathan Says:

      rd, your logic is good, but I don’t think logic is going to get you far with our friend. I’ve given up. Anyone who is still interested in this thread can read it and make up his own mind as to who makes more sense.

    21. social democrat Says:

      [deleted]

    22. Jonathan Says:

      When someone asks you to leave his home or blog because you were rude to him and his other guests, it is bad manners to keep coming back if you are not invited. This is especially true if you come back and dare your host to kick you out again.