Fit to Lead

The Bush-Kerry contest is a sporting one.

Voters have had plenty of opportunities to gather information and pass judgment on President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry. Most, however, are unsatisfying -- staged debates, advertising swill, convention hoo-ha, editorial folderol. It makes you wonder: Is there really a way to measure the cut of a man's character when it comes time to cast a ballot?

You bet. The answer, of course, is sports. So ditch that crinkled copy of endorsements from the News or the Post. All you need on November 2 is this handy clip-'n'-save sports voter's guide.


Facts: President Bush, a trained F-102 fighter pilot from his lost days in the Texas National Guard, famously helped land a Navy S-3B Viking on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. His declaration that the war in Iraq was a "mission accomplished" turned out to be slightly premature, yet it was still an impressive feat of airmanship; even top guns get knots in their stomachs landing on a short tarmac bobbing in the ocean.

Unknown to many, however, Senator Kerry also holds a pilot's license, which he obtained in 1966. He became a stunt flier while at Yale, and he is commercially licensed and can pilot seaplanes and gliders.

Analysis: Bush prefers force and firepower to finesse, Kerry the opposite. Flying military jets gets the job done; loop-de-loops in a prop plane suggest a preference for maneuvering.


Facts: This is not where the president is most comfortable. Kerry, who is hanging his bid for the Oval Office on his captaining of a small boat four decades ago, is a fanatical windsurfer. More recently the senator took up kite-boarding. He has also proven himself adept on frozen water, earning a reputation as a fearless checker when playing hockey in prep school and college.

There is no evidence that George Bush likes playing in the water.

Analysis: Kerry is a constant seeker -- in this case, for kicks, wherever they might be. He is careful, however, to distinguish between adrenaline highs and danger. "I think the things I do are things where if you're thoughtful and disciplined, I'm in control," he told the Boston Globe in 2003. The senator's wide range of interest shows versatility. Bush, by comparison, prefers to stick with what he knows: terra firma. His comfort zone is narrower.


Facts: Kerry played lacrosse, soccer and hockey at Yale; he lists his greatest athletic achievement as scoring a hat trick in his senior-year game against Harvard. Bush was the self-proclaimed "high commissioner of stickball" at his prep school, Andover. He played a bit of baseball, rugby and touch football, too.

Today both candidates ride bicycles, although Bush is more interested in mountain biking (on a $3,000 carbon-fiber Trek) and Kerry prefers long road rides; he's ridden several centuries on his $8,000 Serotta. Bush is the more serious runner, having started jogging in 1972. His best marathon time, 3:44:52, is impressive, and his best 10K time averaged seven-minute miles. Kerry claims to have run the Boston Marathon, but there is no official record of it. He likes an impromptu football toss, skiing and snowboarding.

Analysis: Bush is a linear sports man: When he starts an activity, it is with the goal of single-mindedly grinding from Point A to Point B; you finish what you start. Kerry is more interested in games and activities that feature changing situations, forcing him to adapt to the shifting terrain.


Facts: Both men characterize themselves as serious hunters and fishermen. Kerry was photographed last year in Iowa bagging two pheasants with two shots. Thirty-five years ago, the senator killed the enemy as a soldier in Vietnam; he reportedly keeps a Chinese assault rifle in his office as a reminder of his war days. Kerry's biography also claims that he ran with the bulls in Pamplona.

Bush has personally toppled two despotic regimes. The president hunts quail -- although, as he told Field & Stream, "I'm not a very good shot. I'd be the first to admit it."

Analysis: Bush seems more comfortable with guns than his opponent does, although Kerry is more likely to hit what he's aiming at. Kerry prefers salt-water angling in his beloved ocean; Bush is happier angling for bass in fresh water. This indicates that the senator is more an internationalist. The president, by comparison, sees no reason to stray outside the country's boundaries; all the good things in life are right here.


Facts: The most recent Runner's World magazine calculates that Bush, at 6', 190 pounds, has a body-mass index of 25.8. He supposedly can bench-press over 200 pounds, and his workouts are an important and regular part of his life; he even installed a treadmill on Air Force One. When asked by Runner's World a couple of years back (he made the cover) what he would say to people who claim they haven't sufficient time to exercise, Bush answered, "I say they don't have their priorities straight." The president's resting heart rate is said to hover around 45.

At 6'4", 180 pounds, Kerry has a BMI of 21.9. The senator's medical records don't identify his heart rate. A physically restless person, he doesn't "work out" so much as constantly pursue physical entertainment and energy release.

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