(CBS) President Bush passed his recent physical with flying colors — and I mean "flying." He's 59 years old, but does not need cholesterol-lowering or blood pressure drugs. He eats healthy foods, and has lost 8 pounds since December. And the most amazing revelation is that his resting pulse is 47 beats per minute. That's not the kind of pulse rate usually associated with people in high-stress jobs. It's the kind of pulse that well-trained athletes have or people on some mellowing medication.
To put it in perspective, the average pulse rate for a healthy male is about 72 beats per minute. (Unofficially, the average pulse rate for a writer on a deadline is 162. Obviously, I'm happy that he's in such good health. But I have to admit that part of me would feel more comfortable if his pulse were just a little bit higher.
I wouldn't want a President whose heart rate went off the charts every time there was a crisis in the world. But it would be nice if there were some indication that President Bush, like the rest of us, had some physical reactions to world events. History is filled with world leaders who grew old before their time, especially when their countries waged war. We can read about leaders who were unable to sleep, incapable of eating properly, and could never take their minds off the killing that was going on. I don't wish that on President Bush, but he seems to be on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum.
People have continued to die every day in Iraq, and his pulse hasn't gone up a beat. In fact, it's dropped five points since December.
Terrorists strike London, but his pulse is still a 47.
Opposition to the war, even from members of his own party, is at an all-time high this summer. He's still at 47.
Gas prices soar, and his pulse is still a 47.
The grieving mother of a young man killed in battle, Cindy Sheehan, wants to meet with the President again. He's still at 47.
She camps out near his ranch. 47.
So the question is whether being in such good shape and having a low pulse is an advantage for a world leader. In ancient times, when the heads of countries would actually fight each other, being in great physical shape was an obvious advantage. Today, we could still probably shout to various foreigners, "My leader can beat up your leader," but it wouldn't mean very much. These days, world leaders don't put on armor and fight. They send others to do the fighting. So while they're home and others are fighting, how important is it for them to ride mountain bikes and remain so calm?
Let me just reiterate that I'm happy that President Bush is in such great health. At the same time, I'm worried about the situation. So ironically, ever since I've learned that his pulse has gone down over the past few months, mine's gone up.
Note from Lloyd: I don't know why, but Rush Limbaugh read this column on the air. He said that he wasn't sure what to make of it, not sure if I was serious or not. That's an amazing coincidence since I'm not sure what to make of him, not sure if he's serious or not.