The Exercising Presidents

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics on

I don’t often agree with Michelle Malkin, but occasionally I do.  Today she has an article comparing the criticism from some on the left regarding President Bush’s lengthy workout regimen versus the praise for Barack Obama’s similarly time consuming routine.

While I agree with Michelle regarding the hypocrisy from the left, I think she’s cherry picking when it come to her criticism.

She writes about some of the criticism Bush got a few years ago:

Former Washington Post writer Jonathan Chait famously attacked Bush three years ago in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times headlined, “The (over)exercise of power.” Recounting how President Bush ran 3 1/2 miles a day and preached more cross-training to a federal judge, Chait fumed: “Am I the only person who finds this disturbing?…What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy.”

Chait argued that Bush’s passionate devotion to exercise was a dereliction of duty. “Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement?” he jeered. “It’s nice for Bush that he can take an hour or two out of every day to run, bike or pump iron. Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does.” […]

Fit Republican president = Selfish, indulgent, creepy fascist.

Fit Democratic president = Disciplined, health-conscious Adonis role model.

She’s right about this, of course.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to stay fit.  It’s not only a good thing in general, it’s probably even more necessary for a president.  Chait claims that the rest of us have more demanding jobs, but honestly, I can’t think of one more demanding or stressful than president, unless it’s a soldier, or a nuclear waste transporter, or something.  Presidents seem to age pretty significantly during their terms.  Just look at pictures of Bush from eight years ago compared to now, and you can actually see what the job does to a person.

So in that case, anything a president can do to help themselves deal with the strains of the job can only help.  Add on to that the fact that a president is a role model to many children, and being seen exercising sends a the message that exercising is a good thing to do.  So that is why Chait’s criticism is misplaced.  Exercising not only helps the person, but it can have positive secondary effects, too.

But Michelle’s own criticism is a little selective.  She correctly points out the hypocrisy coming from the left on this issue, but what about the right?  If you believe Michelle, they’ve been singing praises of Obama’s workout schedule, right?

Not always.  Take Obama’s trip to the Middle East/Europe in July.  John McCain criticized Obama for going to the gym after his plans to visit the troops were canceled (though he did play a game of basketball with some troops elsewhere during the trip).  And Bush has gotten his own praise for the commitment to his health, particularly in this Washington Post article from 2006.

Frankly, any criticism of exercising is ridiculous, no matter where it’s directed.  In an era when obesity is on the rise in children, having a role model for exercise is never a bad thing.  These two presidents are likely to be two of the healthiest in modern times.  After all, don’t forget that Bill Clinton was known for his eating habits and had to undergo bypass surgery four years ago as a result.  So, heavily exercising commanders-in-chief are of little concern to me.  There are other things to worry about than how long a day they pump iron or ride a bicycle.

Chait and any other people who spend time on this should find something else to do.

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