Bicycles, Blogs, and Mr. Burns

Is it just us, or have the candidates taken an unusual number of spills while exercising so far this campaign season? First Kerry bit the dust while skiing in March, then he fell while riding his bike earlier this month. Now the president has followed suit, with a nasty spill during a bike ride at his Crawford ranch Saturday (the president suffered minor injuries). And that’s not counting his pretzel-related incident from 2002.

What’s interesting is that each episode has been cited — often by commentators in the blogosphere — as evidence that confirms something negative about the candidate in question. Just as some saw arrogance in Kerry’s attempt to blame his skiing accident on the secret service agent with whom he collided (“I don’t fall down,” he said at the time), Kos sees a willingness to shift the blame in the White House’s response to the president’s recent slip: “It’s been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose,” a White House spokesman told reporters. Kos has found recent precipitation figures for Crawford, which show the area’s been dry as a bone since May 14. (The moral here, according to Kos: “As everything else, it wasn’t Bush’s fault. Nothing is Bush’s fault.”) As for Kerry’s own biking mishap, the photos of the senator in his cycling gear said more than words ever could.

Josh Marshall perceives a deeper meaning in the president’s tumble. Marshall may be guilty of wishful thinking when he wonders whether the episode “won’t become iconic in the same way that the state dinner the first President Bush attended in Tokyo … in which he collapsed into the arms of, and then vomited on, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa became a symbol of his then-faltering presidency.” And Marshall enjoyed John Kerry’s response to the news: “Did the training wheels fall off?”

Meanwhile, there’s been a nasty and wide-ranging blog-spat lately between Andrew Sullivan and Middle East expert Juan Cole. At this point it’s hard to convey the full range of topics on which the two have been jawing — Howell Raines, “media bias,” Paul Wolfowitz, the war’s effect on the economy, Brent Snowcroft, and Saddam have all been invoked. But it seems to have started over Cole’s comment, in an email (scroll down) to Mickey Kaus, that, “Wolfowitz is having the Marsh Arabs killed just as Saddam did.” That’s the sort of dangerous-sounding moral relativism that’s guaranteed to get Sullivan’s goat. Cole’s “biases are so acute I don’t trust him an inch,” wrote Andrew, giving Cole one of his patented “Sontag Awards.” And they were off.

And finally, Steven Jens sees “a celebration of the blogosphere” in last night’s season finale of “The Simpsons” (spoiler alert). As Jens explains, Mr. Burns decides to buy all of Springfield’s media outlets, to better control his image. But Lisa keeps publishing an independent paper, and though she ultimately gives up, the other townspeople soon all start their own publications, dooming Burns’s Murdochian ambitions. Here’s Jens’ interpretation: “The mainstream media aren’t all run by the same person, but until a few years ago, they were all run by the same New York City/Washington DC mindset … but more conservative alternatives have grown around them — most notably Fox News but also a multitude of independent bloggers.” Memo to Wonkette!: Perhaps you have more in common with Lisa Simpson than we do, after all.

Zachary Roth

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.