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Friday, March 19, 2004

Sen. Kerry's faceplants on vacation

Whether it's clearing tough central Texas underbrush or snowboarding down Sun Valley's Bald Mountain, Americans like to see their Presidents and Presidential candidates engaging in vigorous exercise. I suppose it's a tribal thing — we like to know that "the chief" can throw a silver dollar across the Potomac or split rails or hunt bears. Seeing Nixon walk on the beach in black wingtips was disquieting.

So like the rest of the American public, I'm glad to read that Sen. Kerry is having a vigorous vacation. He deserves it — taking every position on every issue is doubtless stressful. But can someone tell me why this haughty, French-looking Senator can't even hit the slopes without raising new doubts about his personality and character?

Per the NYT:

On his first full day off, though, Mr. Kerry awoke determined to hit the slopes of Mount Baldy.

The image-conscious candidate and his aides prevailed upon reporters and photographers to let him have a first run down the mountain solo, except for two agents and Marvin Nicholson, his omnipresent right-hand man.

His next trip down, a reporter and a camera crew were allowed to follow along on skis — just in time to see Mr. Kerry taken out by one of the Secret Service men, who had inadvertently moved into his path, sending him into the snow.

When asked about the mishap a moment later, he said sharply, "I don't fall down," then used an expletive to describe the agent who "knocked me over."

I've never snowboarded, but I skied regularly for over twenty years — got pretty good at it, in fact, for a Texan. Anyone who's done the sport knows that especially on spring break week, Dude! you're likely to be knocked down by someone else and, even if you're very good and very careful, also likely to knock someone else down. Happens every day, every hour.

I've been called a few expletives on the slopes. And I've had occasion to call a few others by them. But even when I really needed a vacation very badly and hit the slopes pretty tightly wound, I tried to distinguish between, say, someone who knocked me over because he was hotdogging recklessly and someone who was a more innocent victim of fate and physics. I've never had someone following me around whose sworn duty is to jump in front of a bullet aimed for my heart; and I suppose even someone doing that duty could manage to be unpleasant and annoying, in addition to having a momentary lapse of perfect judgment about where to be placed or moving to avoid all collisions.

But still.

And remember that quote, "I don't fall down"? Per the SF Chron, presumably describing a different run on a more challenging slope:

Kerry, his snowboard strapped to his back, hiked past 9,000 feet on Durrance Peak, then snowboarded down the mountain, taking repeated tumbles. Reporters counted six falls, although Kerry was out of sight for part of the descent. To be fair, other skiers tumbled as well.

I guess he doesn't fall down in the same sense that he voted for the Iraq reconstruction appropriations.

Hey, there's no shame in falling — as with aircraft and landings, any fall you can ski away from is a good one. If the conditions are challenging or you're pressing the limits of your skill, you're gonna have some tumbles. And every skier knows about the snow gremlins who can grab one of your edges and cause a fall even when you're a good skier on an easy slope — or heck, standing in the lift lines (not that Kerry likely did much of that). I've got hours of videotape of myself and family and friends bidding for blooper-reel fame.

But why would you ever say "I don't fall"? To a newspaper reporter? Doncha know they're going to be waiting, watching, clicking, counting? Shades of Gary Hart!

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Update (Fri Mar 19 @ 8:45pm):   Drudge says that the expletive was "son of a bitch." Coulda been worse, I suppose. Kevin Whited at Reductio Ad Absurdum and Hindrocket at Power Line have posted reactions similar to mine over this story, and Hindrocket's post also has a great photo.

Update (Sat Mar 20 @ 4:25pm):   An ABC news reporter confirms the NYT story in their permalinkless The Note, including — sadly — the lack of humor in Sen. Kerry's reference to the Secret Service agent:

As Senator John Kerry carved his Burton snowboard down a green rated Upper College run, another skier interrupted his stride, colliding with the presumptive Democratic nominee at 9,010 feet.

The slope-cade of two Ski Patrollers, several Secret Service agents, two journalists, one camera and one Kerry aide suddenly came to a halt. The Massachusetts Senator lay on the ground, removed his Smith sunglasses, and surveyed the damage.

Assured that the ABC News camera accompanying the entourage had not captured Kerry's fall, the Senator glared at your sloping Noter and assured, "I don't fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me."

The Noter doesn't identify the collision as being with a Secret Service agent, but the Boston Globe's article does. Seems the basic facts aren't in dispute.

Update (Sat Mar 20 @ 11:30pm):   Moxie's reaction is also similar to mine, and she includes a nice bit comparing Sen. Kerry's reaction to that of Dubya falling off the Segway scooter last year. Of Sen. Kerry, she asks, "Is this a man you would trust to watch your pets — let alone run our country?" Actually, I'd be afraid he'd try to teach my pets to speak French and Italian.

Roger L. Simon writes of this incident, "Maybe it's just me, but it bothers me more than his flip-flopping, which is SOP for many politicians." And one of Roger's commenters reminded me of this personal anecdote about Sen. Kerry from columnist Dave Barry:

In conclusion, I want to extend my sincere best wishes to all of my opponents, Republican and Democrat, and to state that, in the unlikely event I am not elected, I will support whoever is, even if it is Sen. John Kerry, who once came, with his entourage, into a ski-rental shop in Ketchum, Idaho, where I was waiting patiently with my family to rent snowboards, and Sen. Kerry used one of his lackeys to flagrantly barge in line ahead of us and everybody else, as if he had some urgent senatorial need for a snowboard, like there was about to be an emergency meeting, out on the slopes, of the Joint Halfpipe Committee.

Posted by Beldar at 07:02 PM in Current Affairs, Politics (2006 & earlier), Sports | Permalink

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Comments

(1) CZ made the following comment | Mar 20, 2004 12:28:23 AM | Permalink

To be fair, Halbfinger reviewed his notes and found that Kerry did not actually say "I don't fall down," but instead said "Why don't I fall down?"

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Mar 20, 2004 1:30:43 AM | Permalink

Fascinating. So the line should have read,

When asked about the mishap a moment later, he asked sharply, "Why don't I fall down?" then used an expletive to describe the agent who "knocked me over."

That would be marginally less unflattering, but it's sort of hard to follow. Maybe he actually said, "Why did I fall down?" — repeating or paraphrasing a question he'd just been asked? Or maybe he did use the present tense, as if he were self-mockingly re-enacting the event, as if he'd been thinking just before the moment of the fall: "Why don't I just fall down here and make myself look a bit silly for the reporters and photographers, after having asked for a warm-up run to knock the rust off without them?" Indeed, maybe he called the man guarding his life a "son of a bitch" in a jocular tone, rather than "sharply"? After all, Sen. Kerry's internationally known for his bubbly, irrepressible wit, irreverence, and — most of all — self-mockery.

Gosh, if that's true, this would be another prime example of the notorious conservative bias of the NYT in action! It's getting so a blogger can't know who to trust anymore!

Anyway ... I don't doubt you, CZ, and I don't doubt that even a reporter for the nation's newspaper of record might mangle a quote (although you'd think he'd double-check his notes before using an adverb like "sharply"). I've run "Halbfinger Kerry 'fall down'" through Google News and through the Times own search engine; checked the Times' online correction page; and glanced at your own site as well to see if I could get some more context, but so far have come up dry. Do you by chance have a link, or can you point us to where you heard about reporter Halbfinger's correction? In any event, much thanks for the tip.

(3) Zarate made the following comment | Mar 20, 2004 1:44:49 AM | Permalink

I almost added a disclaimer that I was joking. My bad, I should have.

I was playing on the recent controversy surrounding Kerry's comments about support from foreign leaders. The originating reporter, after a day or so, came out and stated that, after reviewing his notes, he believed that Kerry didn't actually say "foreign leaders" but rather "more leaders."

Bad joke, I know.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Mar 20, 2004 1:45:38 AM | Permalink

D'oh! Color me overly literal!

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