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For President Under Duress, Body Language Speaks Volumes

For President Under Duress, Body Language Speaks Volumes

By Dana Milbank

Wednesday, October 12, 2005; Page A07

It's only 6:17 a.m. Central time, and President Bush is already facing his second question of the day about Karl Rove's legal troubles.

"Does it worry you," NBC's Matt Lauer is asking him at a construction-site interview in Louisiana, that prosecutors "seem to have such an interest in Mr. Rove?"

Bush blinks twice. He touches his tongue to his lips. He blinks twice more. He starts to answer, but he stops himself.

"I'm not going to talk about the case," Bush finally says after a three-second pause that, in television time, feels like a commercial break.

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. Laura Bush, by contrast, delivered only three blinks and stood still through her entire answer about encouraging volunteerism.

Perhaps the set itself made Bush uncomfortable. He and his wife stood in casual attire, wearing tool belts, in front of a wall frame and some Habitat for Humanity volunteers in hard hats. ABC News noted cheekily of its rival network's exclusive: "He did allow himself to be shown hammering purposefully, with a jejune combination of cowboy swagger and yuppie self-consciousness."

Perhaps, too, the president's body language said nothing about his true state of mind. But the White House gave little other information that might shed light on this. A White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, entered the press cabin on Air Force One to brief reporters at 1:58 p.m. He left two minutes later, after answering the only question by saying, "We don't have anything to announce."

The one newspaper reporter allowed to travel with Bush as part of the White House's "pool" system reported back to her colleagues after the "Today" event: "we were at a distance and could not hear what was being said (a theme of the day)." Other than the "Today" appearance, Bush delivered a one-minute talk to military recovery workers ("I'm incredibly proud of the job you have done") and a two-minute statement outside a school ("out of the rubble here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is a rebuilding").

Certainly, Bush retained many of the gestures that work well for him: the purposeful but restrained hand gestures, the head-tilted smile of amusement and the easy laugh. But he seemed to lose control of the timing. He smiled after observing that Iraqis are "paying a serious price" because of terrorism.

As Lauer went through his introduction, the presidential eyes zoomed left, then right, then left and right again, then center, down and up at the interviewer. The presidential fidgeting spiked when Lauer mentioned the Democratic accusation that Bush was performing a "photo op." Bush pushed out his lower front lip, then licked the right corner of his mouth. Lauer's query about whether conservatives "are feeling let down by you" appeared to provoke furious jiggling of the right leg.

Bush joked about his state of mind when Lauer asked Laura Bush about the strain on her husband. "He can barely stand!" the president said, interrupting. "He's about to drop on the spot." But the first lady had a calming influence on the presidential wiggles. When Laura Bush spoke about her husband's "broad shoulders," the president put his arm around her -- and the swaying and shifting subsided.

The president, now on more comfortable terrain, delivered a brief homily about "the decency of others" and "how blessed we are to be an American." Through the entire passage, he blinked only 12 times.



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Bush is a flunky and Laura Bush is an enabler. They BOTH are guilty or mass murder. I have no sympathy for either. They and their ENTIRE family belong in hell.

You express my feelings precisely. These two codependent personalities belong in some serious therapy......NOT in the White House. What a disgrace to this entire country. It is being dragged down by the most dysfunctional, ignorant, deluded and ruthless members of its population.

Did anyone notice BUSH today had his TOOLBELT on Backwords?

The bush admin. has caused on going suffering for tens of thousands of people. They are without conscience. They have only accumulation of wealth and consolidation of power in mind. They are as single minded as pit bulls. They are not to be trusted for one instant.

They own and control most of our media; they have a majority in both houses of Congress. They are very wealthy with billions at their command. They are replacing not only judges, but also officials at the highest levels of every branch of the govt. such as the FBI, CIA, FEMA, HUD, FAA etc. They are currently attacking Public radio and television with radical right wing appointees. They want to control the Internet. Bush appoints Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank and Boulton our Ambassador to the United Nations. They have been passing laws for four years which are nothing but destructive to our way of life. The record is overwhelming and can produce despair. They lie all day every day. The war continues.

Bush and his group of criminals must be held accountable for their crimes. We have to work non-stop until they are out of office. Given the chance to regroup they will. Right now they are scrambling. You can bet there are late nite strategy sessions among the powermongers who pull bushcos strings. Humanistic compassion and other moral values have no effect with these people. They are truly criminal. They will do whatever is necessary including illegal wars, theft, felonious lying to Congress and the American people. They are using a highly sophisticated, effective Goebellistic propaganda machine unlike anything ever experienced in America.

They have assaulted and continue to attack every single area of our lives. There have been 400 environmental laws rolled back according to Robert Kennedy Jr. in an article reprinted in They will continue to defund public education and all our social programs to help people at the bottom of the ladder. They will continue to feed the ultra rich. Housing, education, medical care, senior care, veterans benefits and rehabilitation programs for the disabled are all on the repuglican chopping block

If this sounds extreme go to the Thomas Register available at the Library of Congress and review the Legislation passed (sometimes in the dead of night) by this 'republican' majority. Two days ago they passed more subsidies for oil companies as well as legislation which will make it harder to hold them responsible for wrongdoing. These types of laws, which take away the rights of individuals and give power to nonhuman corporations, are the norm now. They have done the same for drug companies and industrial polluters of all kinds.

While promising millions to restore the gulf area, a lie which defused the public's outrage, very little has been done other than more corporate no-bid contracts to Halliburton and their ilk. They don’t even try to hide it. The onslaught of theft and corruption is so overwhelming people are tuning out. Two days ago it was admitted that one of our puppet govts. in Iraq stole 1.2 billion. This news received less airtime than the baseball playoffs. It barely made the news at all. How many homes could be rebuilt in Louisiana with this kind of money? How many schools or hospitals? Tonight, as I write this, I see the devastation in our Gulf, Pakistan, and Central America.There are injured men,women and children going without medical care, food or shelter. Why cant we use our resources to help people, instead of feeding a massive military budget and invading countries? I know our military men and women would rather do this. What if we used our people and resources to help people? How would that affect our national security? War is more profitable, but for whom?. Who benefits from Bush’s policies? How much longer can this insanity go on?

The radical reich is consolidating their power day and night; 24/7. There is not one shred of decency, compassion, honesty or mercy in these people. It’s about money and power and nothing else.We have to present a united front. We have to press for impeachment and prosecution of all the indictments pending. We cannot trust these people for one instant. It is no exaggeration to say our democracy hangs in the balance. What is so painful is the realization that there are millions of Americans who remain ignorant, apathetic, or complicit in the destruction of our country and our culture.

This degradation at the top is spilling down into all of our nation's institutions.
Bush's party has set a new all time low for immoral,and criminal behavior. They have no intention of stopping. The Democrats will not stand up until a sufficient number of Americans unite and make their truth known. Let’s get to work.

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