T Nation

Bush Sounds Like a T-Man


The (over)exercise of power.

Jonathan Chait

July 22, 2005

A week ago, when President Bush met with Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III to interview him for a potential Supreme Court nomination, the conversation turned to exercise. When asked by the president of the United States how often he exercised, Wilkinson impressively responded that he runs 3 1/2 miles a day. Bush urged him to adopt more cross-training. "He warned me of impending doom," Wilkinson told the New York Times.

Am I the only person who finds this disturbing? I don't mean the fact that Bush would vet his selection for the highest court in the land in part on something utterly trivial. That's expected. What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy.

Given the importance of his job, it is astonishing how much time Bush has to exercise. His full schedule is not publicly available. The few peeks we get at Bush's daily routine usually come when some sort of disaster prods the White House Press Office to reveal what the president was doing "at the time." Earlier this year, an airplane wandered into restricted Washington air space. Bush, we learned, was bicycling in Maryland. In 2001, a gunman fired shots at the White House. Bush was inside exercising. When planes struck the World Trade Center in 2001, Bush was reading to schoolchildren, but that morning he had gone for a long run with a reporter. Either this is a series of coincidences or Bush spends an enormous amount of time working out.

There's no denying that the results are impressive. Bush can bench press 185 pounds five times, and, before a recent knee injury, he ran three miles at a 6-minute, 45-second pace. That's better than I could manage when I played two sports in high school. And I wasn't holding the most powerful office on Earth. Which is sort of my point: Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement?

Bush not only thinks so, he thinks it goes for the rest of us as well. In 2002, he initiated a national fitness campaign. The four-day kickoff festivities included the president leading 400 White House staffers on a three-mile run. As then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: "When it comes to exercise, there are many people who just need that extra little nudge to go out there and do a little bit more exercise."

Sometimes it takes more than a nudge. In 2002, Bush fired Lawrence Lindsey, his overweight economic advisor. Lindsey's main crime was admitting to Congress that the Iraq war might cost $200 billion, at a time when the administration was trying to cut taxes and was insisting that the war would cost nothing. But compounding things was the fact that, as the Washington Post reported, Bush "complained privately about [Lindsey's] failure to exercise."

My guess is that Bush associates exercise with discipline, and associates a lack of discipline with his younger, boozehound days. "The president," said Fleischer, "finds [exercise] very healthy in terms of ? keeping in shape. But it's also good for the mind." The notion of a connection between physical and mental potency is, of course, silly. (Consider all the perfectly toned airheads in Hollywood ? or, perhaps, the president himself.) But Bush's apparent belief in it explains why he would demand well-conditioned economic advisors and Supreme Court justices.

Bush's insistence that the entire populace follow his example, and that his staff join him on a Long March ? er, Long Run ? carries about it the faint whiff of a cult of personality. It also shows how out of touch he is. 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.



LOL! I don't see this going anywhere good...




LOL I agree. Personally, I think it sets a good example for the country that no matter how huge your job or the responsibility, you CAN make time to exercise. Seriously, if the "leader of the free world" can find time, what the hell is your excuse? And I have a sneaking suspicion that he can be gotten a hold of relatively quickly during a workout if need be. Just a hunch.


So you would rather have a lard ass weak body in the White House? His ability to make time in his schedule to work out indicates discipline. Normal people would not be able to sleep at night if they knew what he knows. You have to blow off steam some how, he happens to do it with exercise. I am not endorsing his policies or commenting on his competence.

Take a hard look at the average joe walking around at the mall and tell me that most americans don't need to make time for an hour of PT every day. If more government leaders would take his stance, maybe our country wouldn't be so distgustingly out of shape.


Aren't there studies that show regular exercise can slow down the aging process of the CNS? I'd like to see how sharp this writer's mind when he's GW's age the way he lives his life...


Unless, of course, you've read any of the studies that show that physical activity leads to better oxygenation of the brain and enhances mental function. Stupid reporters.


There are some things I like about Bush. There are a lot of things I don't. His dedication to physcial fitness is one of his qualities that I admire. And I agree that he can be reached damm quickly during a workout. The Secret Service is right there next to him.


From the article:

"Bush can bench press 185 pounds five times"

I think it is impressive that he can do that. Would he not be the first US President with a bench like this?


I think he unsuccessfully tried to convey that a smart person is a smart person regardless of an exercise. In other words, I can exercise all I want, but I'm not going to be Michio Kaku anytime soon.


As you can see by my user name that i am a "W" guy. I know this will piss a lot of you off, but there isnt a better leader for America, during this time, than "W". I find it interesting that the president can find time to workout every day. One might ask, how would the busiest man in this world find the time, well, maybe it is because he wakes up at 4:00am to do it.

I dont know about you, but i find that type of discipline pretty darn good. I would much rather have a leader of our country be focusing on his personal health than to be trying to find his next intern for his own sexual gain.

I love the media. They try to find fault in everything that this man does. But isnt it presidential like to sometimes be seen running? Just a thought, becuase like the past 5 presidents were seen some time throughout their presidency to be photographed running. Anways, i think it is awesome that this man has so much discipline in his personal life.


Some of the Secret Service guys have gotten pissed because W. challenges them to keep up with him.

He'll challenge these guys to the point where they have special instructions to "let him win." Apparently, he'll run himself into the ground to win.

That's beautiful.

Beats the hell out of flab-fest Clinton "jogging," waving at the cameras and running to McDonalds for a Big Mac or five.



You're right nephorm. In fact there have been "fit brain" studies done at the University of Maryland and many other places. The field is sometimes called psychophysiology.


Bush's dedication to fitness is an admirable quality. And even as president, the time it takes to get a workout in will not preclude the ability to do your job. But his exercise regimen says nothing, either way, about his ability as a leader.


Zeb, oh, Zeb, can you throw your pulpit robes on real quick? Jerffy just lowered the level of the thread, well gee, the forum for that matter, with a non needed hostile ugly remark.

Zeb, c'mon, where are you? We're in this together... Vroom's next on the clean up list! Vroom we're coming for you...


I think the most physically active president would be good old Teddy Roosevelt. Now that man is the definition of a T-man.


I like how he keeps up with his exercises but as the guy said above me that doesn't reflect in anyway how he preforms as the President. If that was the case I would feel a lot safer than I do now with where my country is heading.


So why does Karl Rove look like a tub of goo?


Didn't this president enlarge the war on terrorism by piggie backing Iraq with it? Dragging our troops / name / and resources to the ground?

The war in Iraq has cost so far over $300 billion dollars, far more to me than what Iraq / middle east as a whole is worth. Hell for $300+ billion dollars we could have bought the whole country of Iraq with out firing a bullet. (If my numbers are correct that comes to around 10k for every man woman and child in Iraq).

If anything, I think this president has made things worse than they possible could be and has delayed any real effective "win" over terrorism. Lets not even get into the issue of stem cell research and his reluctance to move forward with it (which is costing us our lead in the world for research in this field).

Now this president is better than Kerry but I would have be happier with another choice then either of these two.


Agree on that one. To use a cliche, that election was like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.