When John Kerry took a spill from his bike this past weekend, it triggered thoughts of Jimmy Carter's collapse in a road race, Gerald Ford's much-mocked stumbles, and of Kerry's own misadventures on the ski slopes earlier this year. But it wasn't until the pictures of Kerry on his bike appeared that the real damage was done. The electric-lemon Lycra look probably won't play well outside the metrosexual caucus, and it can't be particularly inspiring to the troops living in holes outside of Falluja. Presidents can golf, and they can run, but they can't get dandied up and dart around on bikes in tights and fluorescent helmets.
Kerry's obsessive, if ill-fated, displays of physical activity also raise issues other than decorum. I've seen this sort of behavior before in men of a certain age, usually from their early 50s to their early 60s. And then the thought stuck: Are John Kerry's presidential ambitions and the shape and images of his campaign more about a mid-life crisis writ very large than any underlying set of ideas?
First, note that there aren't a lot of ideas over at Kerry Central, other than the U.N. blathering which, in the aftermath of oil-for-food-for-cash-for-Kofi's-friends, doesn't even persuade United Nations employees anymore. And Kerry's paper-thin record of Senate accomplishments over two decades doesn't provide us with a reason for his running either.
So who's to say that it all isn't just an effort to head-off old age via the biggest sideshow of them all.
There are warning signs of mid-life crisis. At least a couple of these -- excessive time spent on personal appearance and the constant reminiscing about one's youth -- seem spot-on in the context of Kerry. And the big gun experts on male mid-life melt-down, such as Jim Conway, author of Men in Midlife Crisis, warn that some candidates for mid-life crisis "seem to have a lot of power, leadership, and ability, yet many of them express great insecurity, and feeling worthless." Kerry may be hiding a lot of angst behind his façade of lift tickets and SUVs and his Shrumian rhetoric.
Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Carter arrived in the White House before the age when the mid-life demons descend, and President Reagan and candidate Dole had passed the age of such smash-ups. But Kerry's definitely in the danger zone. Maybe those Lycra shorts are just a cry for help. Maybe he needs help. Maybe what the Kerry campaign really needs is a red Corvette.
Hugh Hewitt is the host of "The Hugh Hewitt Show," a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, "In, But Not Of," has just been published by Thomas Nelson.
By Hugh Hewitt