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Commentary :: Politics
The Media are Giving Bush a Free Pass on the Bulge
20 Oct 2004
While the story of Bushâs mystery bulge is still all over the web, and has become a source of yucks on the comedy circuit, the major media are failing to press the White House on the serious question: What is that thing and why does the president have to wear it, not just at debates, but even in his pickup truck on the ranch?
<p> Something is rotten in the American media. <br>

<p>We have read the apologies and the mea culpae of major news organizations about how they had been too credulous and insufficiently curious and aggressive in reporting on the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and on the initial phases of the war once it began. <br>

<p> Yet here they are doing it again in the case of the mysterious object that President Bush has been wearing on his back, not just during his three recent debates with Sen. John Kerry, but on other occasions as well. <br>

<p>` As a reporter for the respected and well-researched on-line magazine, I broke this story following the first debate, and followed up with several pieces that pointed to the likelihood that the president was wearing a radio-linked earpiece during all three debates, quite possibly in order to cheat and receive hints or help with his answers. There has also been subsequent speculation, including from physicians, that the object on the president's back could be a medical device--perhaps an atrial defibrillator to correct arrhythmia. <br>

<p> The initial story in Salon, which ran with a dramatic and hard-to-deny photograph taken directly from the digital version of the debate available on C-Spanâs website, was picked up by the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which pursued the matter briefly with the White House and the Bush campaign, and ran stories the following day. <br>

<p> Other than that, however, the story was treated basically as a humorous aside by most of the media (it was on Letterman, Leno and the Daily Show), and even the Times and Post quickly lost interest after running into a Bush stonewall. <br>

<p> The White House and Bush campaign brushed off inquiries, including mine, by attributing the story to "The Internet," by raising the canard of "the grassy knoll" and "conspiracy theorists," and by making the ridiculous claim that the bulge, clearly visible in all three debates as an object with a distinctly rectangular and sharp-edged profile, was a "pucker" or a "wrinkle" in a "badly tailored" suit (as if any president, and especially this one, would have a badly tailored suit!). <br>

<p> Now anyone who takes a look at the pictures which I have run with my stories, which include direct downloads from network feeds of the debate and a photo of Bush on his ranch taken from the White House official website, can tell in an instant that this is no "pucker." <br>

<p> So whereâs the mainstream media on this? <br>

<p> Clearly, whatever it is on the president's back under his jacket (or in the case of the ranch photo, his T-shirt), it is of such crucial importance to the president that he wore it for all three debates despite the controversy that its presence caused after debate number one. <br>

<p> Don't the American people have a right to know what kind of device could be of such vital importance to the leader of the country? If he was cheating at the debates, this would be a matter of great concern to the voters, who thought they were getting to see the two main presidential candidates going toe-to-toe, not toe-to-toes. <br>

<p> If it's a medical device, voters have a right to know just what the health condition is of the man they are considering for the next four years of the presidency (this is particularly true given that Bushâs vice president, Dick Cheney, is far less popular than the man at the head of the ticket, and moreover, is someone who himself has suffered multiple heart attacks already, making him a less than ideal back-up). Significantly, President Bush has not released his medical records, and reportedly skipped his last annual physical. <br>
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