As we’ve noted before, column writing is a brutal occupation. A practitioneer of the art has to be like James Bond, capable of pulling one amazing stunt — or in this case, column — out of his or her sleeve just as deadline strikes, and do it on a regular basis.

Obviously, The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller reached up her sleeve for her column today. Unfortunately, all she found there was her arm. Hence, her treatise on the bicycling habits of George W. Bush and John Kerry — and, she hints, the philosophical and psychological nuances of their choice of vehicles as well as politics.

Okay, it is a holiday; Americans need to be encouraged to get out and exercise, and Bumiller probably wanted to beat the rush out of D.C. on Friday, but we’re left wondering … why exactly has Bumiller called us all together? She’s got the who-why-where-and-when right, but she forgot the “so what.”

After describing the biking habits of Kerry and Bush, Bumiller sets us up for her thesis: “At first glance, this is nothing more than the story of two middle-aged jocks cycling themselves away from the advances of time. At second glance, this is an election year, and the situation is more complex.”

Next we get a comparison of the candidates’ choices of bikes (both American-made, by the way). As for those complexities Bumiller promises to deliver — there are none.

Maybe we ought to start reading Bicycling and Mountain Bike magazines to see how they’re covering the election.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.