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News :: Politics
Debate Number Three: There It Was Again (Maybe Kerry Should Buy One)
15 Oct 2004
The question of whether Bush was wired at the debates is important both because it raises questions about his honesty, and because it exposes the timidity of the media—especially the television news—which has the answer in its archives. Meanwhile, Kerry should find out where the White House buys these gizmos.
While everyone's wondering about that bulge under George Bush's ill-tailored suits during the three recent debates, and about whether he was channeling answers from Karl Rove or one of his assistants, it's worth nothing that his opponent, John Kerry, could have used some help from the ether himself.

Time and again, Kerry muffed opportunities to slam his verbally and factually challenged opponent, and instead stuck to a bunch of lame, carefully scripted responses to questions. When Bush, for example, spoke glowingly of Iyad Allawi, the puppet leader of Iraq's puppet government, instead of letting it pass, Kerry could have pointed out that Allawi’s speech to Congress was in fact penned by the White House for him. (Maybe that was the point to ask Bush if Allawi was wearing an earpiece when he delivered it, which would have brought down the house.)

When Bush condemned Kerry for dissing the so-called "coalition of the willing," Kerry should have pointed out that one member, Costa Rica, was an unwilling member that had to threaten to sue to have its name taken off the list.

Not once, when Bush attacked Kerry for allegedly not supporting the troops, did Kerry mention how the president has hidden the returning bodies, or how he has avoided visits to the thousands of returned wounded like the plague.

Clearly Kerry could have used a bug in his ear like the one Bush seems to have been using.

As for the president, the best evidence that George Bush was wired for help during the three presidential debates is the White House's response to the charge.

The first response, of course, was no response at all. As the first reporter to query the White House about the clearly evident bulge on his back during the first debate in Miami, I was simply ignored. Repeated calls from me--in my Salon-correspondent role--to both the White House press office and to the Bush campaign PR office went unreturned.

Actually, what would happen is I would call the PR office, say I was from Salon, and be told with whom I needed to speak. Then, when asked what I was calling about, I would be told, following a short delay, that the press officer in question at each place was "out on an errand." These errands in some cases lasted half a day. At the end of those interminable errands, no one ever called me back.

The N.Y. Times, when it followed up Salon's first story with its own call to the Bush campaign, was initially told that the photo circulating widely on the Web was "doctored."

Only later, when it was pointed out that the bulge was visible on the original video feeds, did the Bush campaign fall back on a second explanation: the bulge was a wrinkle, or actually a "pucker."

That this excuse is clearly ludicrous, Salon made clear in its second article, which showed an unmistakable bulge in the same area of the president's jacket during the second debate in St. Louis, and in a photo of Bush on his ranch, in which he had a bulge under his T-shirt that was remarkably like the one under his jacket during the first--and third--debates.

When the Bush campaign finally did respond, in the person of Reed Dickens, it was to flatly deny that Bush was wearing anything, including a wire--again a patently absurd and untrue claim that only begs the question: why can't the president admit that there is something on his back?

It will probably not be known for certain what the bulge was until months (maybe years) after the debates are history, when somebody as always happens spills the beans in a memoire or a leak, but the important thing is not so much what it was as what the Bush campaign's response was, and what the mainstream media’s response has thus far been.

Clearly if the president was getting secret help with his answers during the debates--whether with facts, wording, or simply with cues to help him select from a list of pre-memorized answers to questions that were being asked of him (which I suspect is the most likely scenario, given the set-piece nature of many of his repetitive answers)--it was a form of cheating. In this case, it would be the viewing and voting public that was being cheated on, since the object of the debates was for people to watch and compare how the two candidates measured up against each other standing on their own two feet under pressure.

For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .
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