The Presidents Pinsetter
It figures in the case studies of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who used baseball imagery and association with the game repeatedly.
As for Bush, this is no surprise, because his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, commonly referenced during his presidential campaigns his history as a baseball player at Yale. Dwight D.
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Eisenhower is a modern president often associated with sports. The former West Point football player often judged people in a positive manner if they played sports, football in particular Wukovits, The war hero turned president was such an avid golfer that famed golf club Augusta National named a tree in his honor. He often played Augusta National and many other courses during his presidency; it is estimated he played 5 to 8 times a month.
Eisenhower even had a pilot bomb a large field during World War II so he could practice bunker shots Silkunas, He was photographed so often playing golf that it led John Kennedy to question whether he and the republicans had gone soft. Kennedy hid his passion for golf from the public due to his previous condemnation of Eisenhower. He wanted to improve his game so much that in August 4, , the president enlisted White House chief photographer Cecil Stoughton to film him swinging the club while playing in Hyannisport, Massachusetts.
The film was to be reviewed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer in a future meeting with the president. However, that meeting never took place as Kennedy was assassinated a few months later Duca, Other golf-loving presidents included Gerald Ford, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Links Magazine named Ford, a former Michigan University football player, the second best presidential golfer behind only Kennedy.
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That is in contrast to the perception many people had of Ford, the golfer. The golf jokes made the public see him as a type of jester even though he was an accomplished athlete. To help bolster his image as a masculine sporting figure, Kennedy received a public relations boost in December 26, , when he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The cover photo of the president and his wife Jacqueline on a boat corresponded with an article about Americans becoming soft and in need of more physical education and activity Kennedy, This sports-themed article assisted the American public in viewing their president as a masculine athlete.
Bowling is another sport in which a number of presidents actively participated in while in the White House. Eisenhower during his tenure as president had a two-lane bowling alley installed at Camp David. Setting this trend for public interest in bowling was much like what Eisenhower also did for golf.
Nixon, who bowled to an average of , felt the game improved his coordination. He also saw bowling as a mean to improving his stiff, out-of-touch image. Nixon urged his press secretary, Ron Ziegler, to mention to the press that he bowled in an effort to have him appear more likable and less rigid Nelson, Although not always regarded as a sport, card playing, poker especially, is considered a masculine ritual Mamet, Nixon was known for his flair for poker and won a good deal of money from fellow soldiers during his time in the military Bochin, ; Mazon, Harry Truman was another president who excelled at poker Donovan, Truman used poker as a personal and political means of expression.
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Presidents have also gravitated toward other nontraditional sports that still showcase their masculinity. Reagan, much like Theodore Roosevelt, was known as an outdoorsman who was often photographed at his ranch in Santa Barbara wearing flannel shirts and jeans while riding horses, chopping wood, and clearing trails. Jimmy Carter joined the jogging craze of the s, as did Bill Clinton.
George W. Bush was a runner and bicyclist who made a number of public riding appearances with Lance Armstrong. George H.
Bush and Kennedy were proficient boaters. The two most recent presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have capitalized on their athleticism and the relationship to a masculine image. News coverage relating to their sporting activities was integral to their overall public relations campaigns. Obama and Bush serve as the case studies for this article as their use of sports and its effect on their masculine image is examined. Based on their interviews, public appearances, and campaign material, Bush and Obama often used their interest in sports as a means of promoting themselves.
Bush, the 43rd president, played baseball at Yale for a brief period when he was an undergraduate from to His father, President George H. Bush, was a much more accomplished baseball player at Yale during the early s. The younger Bush excelled at rugby while in college. Certainly, the violent sport of rugby corresponds to masculinity, and as a result, Bush made references to it on the campaign trail, and it helped show off his sports background. In the game action shot, Bush is shown landing a punch to the face of an opposing player.
The manner in which the picture became available to the press nearly four decades later is unclear; still it proved to be an effective public relations ploy timed correctly Sleeper, The mainstream media discussed the photo as well as bloggers on the left and the right. No matter whether the picture was praised by a Bush supporter or criticized by someone on the left, the picture was a public relations success, as it showed the president in a masculine setting.
Following the September 11 attacks, Bush capitalized on the need for a strong leader to help the country through a violent time. The Bush campaign portrayed the erudite Kerry as weak and ineffectual. The rugby picture helped reinforce the idea that Bush was tough and masculine figure. Around the same time this picture became available, a photo of John Kerry windsurfing in Nantucket was also distributed by the mainstream media. Although requiring intense athletic skills, windsurfing is not recognized by the masses but is a sport associated with the elite.
The rugby picture presented a strong juxtaposition of masculinity in favor of Bush. Sleeper wrote,. The power of a less than masculine image had the same negative effect on Kerry as it did two decades earlier for Michael Dukakis who was photographed sitting awkwardly in a tank. Dukakis lost the election to the elder Bush in some part due to the negative publicity surrounding the picture of him in a masculine setting looking unnatural with an odd-fitting helmet Barbatsis, His sporting activities—running, biking, golf, and baseball—worked in concert with a theme that has become very important in presidential elections.
Tom Grieve, who was the Texas Rangers general manager while Bush was the team owner, reinforced this image with an interview with Public Broadcasting System leading up to the election. Frontline, Although the aforementioned literature demonstrates a long lineage of sports-minded presidents, Bush appears to be the most devoted one in terms of being an athlete and fan.
His ownership of a major professional team, a job no other president had before taking office, gave him valuable sports media coverage. The apathy many voters, particularly younger ones, have for the political process turns them away from the news media that cover such events. Bush, the sporting figure, was able to gain entry into their media usage in a subtle way, the essence of successful public relations.
During his 8 years in office, the readers of Sports Illustrated and the viewers of ESPN were exposed to a number of stories about Bush in a sports setting. The president not only gained exposure but also was associated with a masculine story line.
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Prior to the election, Sports Illustrated did a question and answer session with Bush. The feature also had a picture of a smiling Bush about to throw the first pitch of a professional baseball game. Not only does the article identify Bush as a sports fan but the picture is also reinforcement that he is athletic and comfortable in a masculine environment. In the election, ESPN. During the World Series in New York following the September 11 attacks, Bush threw out the first pitch in front of a thunderous audience.
The successful pitch he threw reinforced his athletic acumen and leadership.
The biking and running Bush did as well gained media coverage and reinforced his masculine image. As a successful runner, Bush looked at ease while running. His actions looked authentic and natural, not an attempt at a publicity stunt.
In , Runners World Magazine featured Bush and his running accomplishments. Once again this sports-based article highlighted a picture of a sweating Bush wearing an athletic shirt and shorts. Bush also received positive national media attention in when he ran around the White House grounds with a wounded veteran who lost his leg in Iraq. This photo opportunity led to pictures of a trim Bush, smiling while running around with the vet who used an artificial leg. The president emphasized his athleticism with the run and an outfit of shorts and an under armor running shirt Associated Press, ; Travers, An athletic activity with a war veteran carried strong masculine imagery.
In conventional methods of public relations, this run with a soldier provided Bush with the ability to appear compassionate and dictate the conversation of the media and public. Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not going well for the United States, this story provided Bush with some positive images and news. His being an accomplished runner strengthened the plot line. Like running, Bush excelled as a golfer. In a favorable CNN. Bush extending the image of the presidential golfer. Bush and his father, President Bush, play what they call polo golf, cart golf, electric golf there are lots of different names for it, but basically its blindingly fast play, Hurt said.
Golfers will know what I mean when I say that. While this article would only appear to help Bush prior to his defeat of Al Gore in , his golf game later created negative publicity.
His combative relationship with the press coupled with two different war fronts heightened the antagonism between the president and press during his second term. The mainstream media criticized Bush for being too lax and preoccupied with vacations and golf. This video then became more fodder for Bush critics who felt he was lacking interest in the war and more focused on his golf.