Fidgeter in Chief

White House Briefing News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration
Let's start with President Bush himself. How is he holding up?

“He can barely stand, he's about to drop on the spot,” Bush said, with several of his trademark chuckles, when Matt Lauer asked on the “Today Show” yesterday morning.“He's doing great. He's got big, broad shoulders,” insisted the first lady.

But maybe Bush was closer to the truth than his wife. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank's close inspection of Bush's body language in the video of the interview exposed any number of signs of strain -- including blinking and twitching.

“Only the president's closest friends and family know (if anybody does) what he's really thinking these days, during Katrina woes, Iraq violence, conservative anger over Harriet Miers, and legal trouble for Bush's top political aide and two congressional GOP leaders. Bush has not been viewed up close; as he took his eighth post-Katrina trip to the Gulf Coast yesterday, the press corps has accompanied him only once, because the White House says logistics won't permit it. Even the interview on the 'Today' show was labeled 'closed press.'

”But this much could be seen watching the tape of NBC's broadcast during Bush's 14-minute pre-sunrise interview, in which he stood unprotected by the usual lectern. The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts. Bush has always been an active man, but standing with Lauer and the serene, steady first lady, he had the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere.

“The fidgeting clearly corresponded to the questioning. When Lauer asked if Bush, after a slow response to Katrina, was 'trying to get a second chance to make a good first impression,' Bush blinked 24 times in his answer.

When asked why Gulf Coast residents would have to pay back funds but Iraqis would not, Bush blinked 23 times and hitched his trousers up by the belt.

”When the questioning turned to Miers, Bush blinked 37 times in a single answer -- along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling.“

Milbank also touches on Bush's habit of making inappropriate facial expressions. At one point, he writes, Bush ”seemed to lose control of the timing. He smiled after observing that Iraqis are 'paying a serious price' because of terrorism.“

And Milbank doesn't even mention the tic that has been the subject of intense speculation in the blogosphere for several months: Bush's bizarre, shifting lower jaw movement that increasingly punctuates the ends of his sentences.

Ah, yes, the famous GWB cocaine jaw. The Huffington Post has a (quicktime) compilation of the jaw movements, taken from the Miers press conference, and from the Roberts nomination. I mean, maybe there are other causes of his grinding (tooth decay, mental illness, side effects from other drugs), but it is certainly an odd affectation. I wonder if it has anything to do with the weird device on Bush's back during the 2004 Presidential debates with John Kerry?

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on October 12, 2005 8:12 PM.

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