The iPod music player of President Bush features several songs by singers who are sharply critical of his policies, according to a recent report in the New York Times.
Bush received the trendy gadget from his twin daughters last July as a birthday present and listens to it during his frequent exercise regimens.
The Times story reported how Bush spent an hour and a half recently on an 18-mile mountain bike ride at his Texas ranch. "With him, as usual, was his indispensable new exercise toy: an iPod music player loaded with country and popular rock tunes aimed at getting the presidential heart rate up to a chest-pounding 170 beats per minute," wrote Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller.
"One thing that's interesting is that the president likes artists who don't like him," said Joe Levy, a deputy managing editor in charge of music coverage at Rolling Stone, who cited the appearance of classic rocker John Fogerty as an example.
Fogerty wrote "Fortunate Son," the angry anti-Vietnam war song about privileged draft dodgers, but former presidential aide Mark McKinnon, who downloaded the songs for Bush, said that the playlist had no political significance. McKinnon is a biking buddy of the president and his chief media strategist during the 2004 campaign.
Fogerty, who was part of the anti-Bush "Vote for Change" concert tour across the United States last fall. McKinnon, who once wrote songs for Kris Kristofferson's music publishing company, responded in an e-mail message that "if any president limited his music selection to pro-establishment musicians, it would be a pretty slim collection."
Nonetheless, McKinnon said that Bush had not gone so far as to include on his playlist "Fortunate Son," the anti-war song about who has to go to war that Fogerty sang when he was with Creedence Clearwater Revival. ("I ain't no senator's son . . . Some folks are born silver spoon in hand.")
As the son of a two-term congressman and a United States Senate candidate, the Times story noted, Bush won a coveted spot with the Texas Air National Guard to avoid combat in Vietnam.
The Times says Bush's iPod is heavy on traditional country singers like George Jones, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney.
He has selections by Van Morrison, whose "Brown Eyed Girl" is a Bush favorite, and the Fogerty tune "Centerfield," which was played at Texas Rangers games when Bush was an owner and is still played at ballparks all over America. ("Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today.")
According to the Times. the president also has an eclectic mix of songs downloaded into his iPod. Among them are "Circle Back" by John Hiatt, "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" by Joni Mitchell and "My Sharona," the 1979 song by the Knack that Levy cheerfully branded "suggestive if not outright filthy."
Bush has some 250 songs on his iPod, a paltry number compared to the 10,000 selections it can hold.
Bush, as leader of the free world, does not take the time to download the music himself; that task falls to his personal aide, Blake Gottesman, who buys individual songs and albums, including Jones' and Jackson's greatest hits, from the iTunes music store.
Levy sized up the rest of the playlist of the 58-year-old president. "What we're talking about is a lot of great artists from the 60's and 70's and more modern artists who sound like great artists from the 60's and 70's," he said.
"This is basically boomer rock 'n' roll and more recent music out of Nashville made for boomers. It's safe, it's reliable, it's loving. What I mean to say is, it's feel-good music. The Sex Pistols it's not."
Jones, Levy told the Times, was nonetheless an interesting choice. "George Jones is the greatest living singer in country music and a recovering alcoholic who often sings about heartbreak and drinking," he said.
"It tells you that the president knows a thing or two about country music and is serious about his love of country music."
The songs by Jackson indicate that the president "has a little bit of a taste for hard core and honky-tonk," Levy said, adding that both Jackson and Jones "are not about cute and pop, and they're not getting by on their looks."
And while Chesney "is about cute and pop and gets by on his looks," Levy said, "he's also all about serious country music."
McKinnon, who has downloaded "Castanets" by Alejandro Escovedo and "Alive 'N' Kickin' " by Kenny Loggins into Bush's iPod, said that sometimes a presidential playlist is just a playlist, nothing more.
Bush uses his iPod chiefly during bike workouts to help him pump up his heartbeat, which he monitors with a wrist strap. The strap also keeps track of calories expended for the intensely weight-focused president, who has recently lost eight pounds after eating a lot of doughnuts during the 2004 campaign.
Bush recently burned 1,300 calories on his bike ride, McKinnon reported.
"No one should psychoanalyze the song selection," McKinnon said. "It's music to get over the next hill."