October 11, 2004

What's Happened to George W. Bush?

As you may remember, I advanced four theories to explain what James Fallows reported as a striking deterioration in George W. Bush's speaking skills:

  1. George Lakoff's theory: it's deliberate--these days George W. Bush wants to sound more like John Wayne.
  2. Kate O'Beirne's theory: George W. Bush is out of practice, because nobody has dared contradict him to his face for four years.
  3. The "worried man" theory: George W. Bush knows he has messed up badly, and is scared, and it shows.
  4. The "organic brain damage" theory: something is going badly wrong inside George W. Bush's brain--perhaps the result of lots of substance abuse in his youth.

Now we have a short sample of George W. Bush then and now. Based on this sample theories (1) and (2) seem impossible: nobody would undertake such a shift deliberately, and it's much more than just being out of practice.

That leaves (3) and (4). (3) is, I think, most probable. It's monkey pack dominance politics. A monkey that knows it has messed up acts submissive. George W. Bush knows that he has messed up badly. He's not a good enough actor to hide all the cues of the submissiveness that this realization generates. And the result is what we see.

(4) however does remain a possibility. Ann Marie is terrorizing the Eleven-Year-Old and the Fourteen-Year-Old, saying that people who drink themselves skunk-blind and snort enough cocaine to elevate the Queen Mary wind up like George W. Bush in their 50s. I'm told that Chris Rock used to have a routine about how hard it was to raise teenagers in DC when Marion Barry was mayor: "You tell your kids, 'You smoke crack, you don't study, you spend all your time chasing women, and what can you do?' 'Well, I could be mayor!'" This is very much the same: it's really embarrassing answering their questions about why anyone would vote for this guy to be president.

Posted by DeLong at October 11, 2004 05:31 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Let's look at it from another point of view.
Given the crushing pressure Bush must be feeling from the Iraq fiasco, so much worse than the ordinary pressure of office which grinds good men into grey-haired old men every 4 years, how likely is it that he is NOT taking some medication
to allieve the stress he feels doing this "hard work" of being a failed war president?

He did not take a physical, and the White House used deceptive timing of the announcement to make it seem as if they didn't have time in rush of campaign season to give him over for a full day's exam. The announced this in October, while in previous years he took his physical in August.
As usual, he spent several days on vacation this August, so he did have time for a physical.
They are lying.

If you think about the politics of it, it's flat impossible to believe they didn't have a physical and announce his perfect health to the world.
Given that Kerry had cancer last year, the announcement of Bush's health would have been a perfect opportunity to make an under the radar campaign about Kerry's cancer risk.
The fact they did NOT mention Kerry being a risk for recurrence of cancer is the dog that didn't bark here. Certainly such a campaign wasn't beneath them. The problem is that they didn't want to do anything that would draw attention to the question of Bush's health: ergo, he doesn't have it (health).

Posted by: marky at December 31, 1969 04:15 PM

I think the funny mouth business folks are speaking of is tardive dyskinesia. Common side effect of tricyclic antipsychotics.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at October 11, 2004 05:41 PM

I think the funny mouth business folks are speaking of is tardive dyskinesia. Common side effect of things like fluphenazine.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at October 11, 2004 05:42 PM

Why have we never seen any of George Bush's mug shots? The guy's been arrested 3 times.

Hmmmm. 3 strikes, cocaine use -- if George Bush were black or hispanic he'd be just getting out of jail right now instead of being President.

Posted by: Steve Jung at October 11, 2004 05:50 PM

....and why was his medical exam postponed until after the election? Is there something wrong with him (wrong enough to cause people to hesitate at voting against him, though presumably not enough to remove him from office)?

Posted by: dm at October 11, 2004 05:57 PM

Brad,
I think you should talk to a pyschiatrist/neurologist on your faculty about the mouth movements. I'm a layman, but those weird mouth contortions do look like drug side effects I have seen. I'm not kidding, if you happen to have the misfortune to visit a friend in a mental ward, you will see people doing things very much like what we saw Bush doing.
Outside of the debate we see so little of him it's hard to have a point of comparison.

In terms of your argument, you need to mention that Bush DID NOT TAKE A PHYSICAL THIS YEAR!
This is clearly a point in favor of (4).
In 2001-2003 he took his annual physical in August. This year, at the beginning of October, the White House announced that Bush would not be taking his physical before the election because he is too busy campaigning. He was on vacation during part of August and could have taken the physical then, at the ordinary time.

By making the announcement in October, the White House appears to be making the reasonable point that he is too busy to take a physical now.
In fact, they are trying to cover up that he did not take it in August when he had plenty of time.
Josh Marshall posted on this last week---I believe it is in Thursday's posts. Many other bloggers, including several on Dailykos, are discussing the missed physical.

The bottom line is that he appears to many people to be exhibiting some drug side effects.
In order to get a doctor's opihion on this, you will have to go looking yourself, since it would not generally be considered ethical to comment on a patient one has not examined.
In this case, perhaps some physicians reading the thread would like to comment, or to email Brad.

I am a layman, so I admit I could be completely wrong. Hence, the appeal to the physicians reading. Since Bush did not take the physical, and since the announcement of that was deceptive in its timing, it is quite reasonable to infer that something is amiss. I believe that some public figure should comment on the lapsed physical in order to draw the press's attention to the topic.

Posted by: marky at October 11, 2004 05:58 PM

Quite apart from this hypothesis, there is the fact that Bush has postponed his physical exam until after th election. Shouldn't the press be raising this issue? Also, that rectangular bulge might be some kind of medical device rather than a wire. If he is not going to have a physical and release the results (which he should do) shouldn't he at least be asked whether he is or has recently been under any kind of medical treatment, and if so asked to release the facts about this?

Tim

Posted by: Tim Scanlon at October 11, 2004 05:59 PM

Bush is a beta male occupying an alpha position. He is being challenged by a true alpha. I think you're right that he is simply overcompensating for his inadequacy with a great deal of screeching and threatening gestures, in the manner of a lower status primate under attack from his betters. He may think he looks tough, but he's really displaying his weakness and vulnerability, which Kerry undoubtedly sees and will continue to exploit.

Posted by: Donny at October 11, 2004 06:01 PM

I would argue the opposite. If he really knew in his gut that things were going poorly and knew it was largely his fault, he wouldn't be able to hide it unless he was pretty swift. So I am going to say it was (1) or (2), with the possibility that he's just oblivious or deluded thrown in.

Posted by: Brian at October 11, 2004 06:07 PM

Your logic is accurate IF you compare only the 1994 and 2004 debates. However, if you factor in the 2000 debates then possibility 3 is eliminated. His speech was much more like 2004 than 1994 in 2000.

Posted by: Observer at October 11, 2004 06:08 PM

The Neo-Con Supremacy is just another form of Puritanism, Calvinism, Bolshevism, Nazism, or Reaganism. The return of plutocracy. The Ollie and Poindexter show. Whether you view their New World Order as another military coup, a hostile takeover, a leveraged buyout, or just another howdie doodee show, one thing remains clear.

The Neo-Con cabal is composed of winners, not losers. The Neo-Con cabal runs deep, deeply embedded at the very core of power. The Neo-Con cabal plays to, and is in sycophantia with a growing ruling elite in America who would sell out their own mothers. And the Neo-Con cabal has its own version of the SS and its Brown Shirts, its HUMINT's and its brick-bat LUIGI's.

So don't ever let yourself fall into a habit of chuckling over a puppet's foibles. It's what's going on behind the shadow screen that matters.
Bush is just another character in an ancient play: the strong over the meek, the evil over the good, the rich over the poor, the beautiful over the ugly, the landed over the homeless, the patricians over the mob of drunk proletarians.

If Neo's lose this battle, they'll win in 2008. You can be assured of that. They own Kerry and they own the Congress and they own the Supremes. They own the markets, and the infrastructure, they own your mortgage and your credit.

To poke fun at Bush is diversion for the rabble. He only stammers and stutters because he knows that he's been written out of the play already, in favor of a silver-haired patrician.

Your job is to overthrow the whole kaboodle.

Posted by: Tante Aime at October 11, 2004 06:09 PM

I still say that Bush behaved the exact same way when Al Gore dressed him down in debate 1 in 2000. It wasn't even close. Gore ran over Bush so bad in that one that they were able to make the "condescending" story line stick to Gore.

Paul Alexander writes in RollingStone:

"I wonder if McCurry has located a fatal flaw with Bush -- much like Sasso's realization that Bush is living in a fantasy world of spin. "He is tremendously insecure," McCurry says. "Any time any of his aides look like they have stature, he wants to suppress that, because it's about him. When it's not about him, he gets nervous that people will understand that he's not as good as everyone thinks he is."

"Is that his fatal weakness, then?" I ask.

"Yes, and you know who understands this better than anyone? John Kerry. The other day, Kerry said, 'I need humor,' which is why he did some of the late-night and morning shows. But the insight he had was, 'I can get under this guy's skin -- if we have the right kind of humorous barb.' " McCurry pauses. "Last night, Kerry read aloud a Bush quote" -- about how the CIA was guessing about conditions in Iraq -- "and made fun of him, which made the news this morning. So I know -- because I've been there -- that Bush was sitting in his suite in the Waldorf-Astoria getting ready for his day at the United Nations General Assembly, and I'll bet you any amount of money he watched that on TV and went nuts, because Kerry was making fun of his own words. If you saw the clip of the quote, Bush looked like his dad." McCurry takes a short pause for effect. "It was devastating."

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/6539090?pageid=rs.Politics&pageregion=single4

Posted by: bakho at October 11, 2004 06:16 PM

Proclamation 5275 -- National Alzheimer's Disease Month, 1984

November 1, 1984

By the President of the United States

of America

A Proclamation

The month of November is traditionally a time for families to come together and give thanks for their blessings. It is fitting that November also be designated as National Alzheimer's Disease Month to express our compassion for those who suffer from this heartbreaking disorder and our appreciation for the many families who devote themselves to the care of afflicted loved ones who no longer can help themselves.

Alzheimer's disease is the major cause of serious confusion and forgetfulness in old age. The death of brain cells, a mark of this devastating disease, at first causes erratic behavior and unusual memory lapses and ultimately results in the ``senility'' once thought to be a normal part of old age.

Experts estimate that some two million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, including between five and ten percent of our population over 65 and 20 percent of those over 80. If present trends continue, anticipated increases could double the number of victims in these age groups by the turn of the century.

In addition to the unhappy victims, untold numbers of others suffer the physical, emotional and financial burdens of caring for relatives who are ill with this disease. Families care for their ill relatives at home, if possible, and later in nursing homes. Between one-third and one-half of all patients in those institutions suffer from Alzheimer's disease or another serious irreversible form of dementia.

The medical research community is focusing special attention on this disease, and research is beginning to reveal many of its mysteries. Thus, research is providing the affected families with a great deal of hope. Until a cure is found, however, these families need our support and understanding. Public awareness of their problems is growing, due to the work of voluntary health associations -- notably the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association -- but much remains to be done.

The Congress, by House Joint Resolution 451, has designated the month of November 1984 as ``National Alzheimer's Disease Month'' and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this month.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the month of November 1984 as National Alzheimer's Disease Month. Let us mark this month by striving to educate ourselves about Alzheimer's disease and by participating in appropriate activities and observances.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and ninth.

Ronald Reagan

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 3:57 p.m., November 1, 1984]

Posted by: s_bethy at October 11, 2004 06:18 PM

If you take a longer view, I think there's a lot more that points to #4. It's not as if Bush started spouting nonsense just two weeks ago in the first debate. He was equally inarticulate when running for office in 2000. That was when the whole "Bushisms" phenomenon really came into existence. Who can forget such gems as: "I know how important it is to put food on your family." or "They misunderestimated me."

The circumstances of the 2000 election undercut the rationale for hypotheses 1, 2 and 3: there was no occasion to imitate John Wayne, he was not nearly as insulated and faced a fair amount of contention with the Texas legislature, nor did he really have anything to be worried about.

I can't tell if Brad is joking about the substance abuse part or not, but my own anecdotal experience (not first hand) is that alcoholism and habitual drug use do precipitate or accelerate illnesses that might not otherwise affect someone until they are elderly.

Posted by: Joe Bob at October 11, 2004 06:23 PM

If you take a longer view, I think there's a lot more that points to #4. It's not as if Bush started spouting nonsense just two weeks ago in the first debate. He was equally inarticulate when running for office in 2000. That was when the whole "Bushisms" phenomenon really came into existence. Who can forget such gems as: "I know how important it is to put food on your family." or "They misunderestimated me."

The circumstances of the 2000 election undercut the rationale for hypotheses 1, 2 and 3: there was no occasion to imitate John Wayne, he was not nearly as insulated and faced a fair amount of contention with the Texas legislature, nor did he really have anything to be worried about.

I can't tell if Brad is joking about the substance abuse part or not, but my own anecdotal experience (not first hand) is that alcoholism and habitual drug use do precipitate or accelerate illnesses that might not otherwise affect someone until they are elderly.

Posted by: Joe Bob at October 11, 2004 06:28 PM

Keep in mind that "perhaps the result of lots of substance abuse in his youth" is just a subset of #4. There was an exchange of letters in the issue of the Atlantic following the one with the Fallows piece where a psychiatrist made a pretty convincing (to the layman, and to Fallows also judging from his reply) argument for a couple of diagnoses which had nothing to do with substance abuse. Sorry, I don't have the magazine in front of me and the letters section doesn't seem to be available online.

Posted by: lemuel pitkin at October 11, 2004 06:29 PM

Another point in favor of 4 that I was thinking about earlier today, but which I forgot to put in my post because, alas, I too may be suffering:
George W. Bush was famously good with names in his youth, but now he is so bad with names that he avoids calling people by name as much as possible. Perhaps this is why he refers to John Kerry as "my opponent".. heh.
Anyway, in the first debate, he appeared to want to thank Jim Lehrer but seemed unable to remember his name. Another point in favor of 4.

This business of making up words---if this is really an example of "confabulation", then I think we should consider 4) the leading theory.

Posted by: marky at October 11, 2004 06:31 PM

Rather than babble on, why not have a cold-blooded, apolitical neurologist take a look at the tapes?

Posted by: gcochran at October 11, 2004 06:34 PM

George Bush may have been famously good with names in his youth, but not with other types of words. Remember, and this has not been denied by the Bush camp, Barbara Bush kept the 12 yr old George in on Saturday mornings to go over flash cards of very simple words with him. I'd like to know how 4 or so yrs later he got an above average score on his nonmath SATs.

Posted by: karol at October 11, 2004 06:50 PM

I suppose it's vaguely acceptable, or at least so overwhelmingly common as to be impossible to prevent, that we as a bunch of amateurs are sitting around yammering that Bush is crazy and/or has brain damage.

But I've had about enough of Dr. Joseph Price (the doctor quoted in the clip) and the like, professional or at least degree-holding psychologists, diagnosing Bush at a distance. To call this a violation of professional responsibility is to put it about as mildly as possible: it's wildly unethical to use the intellectual weight of the "Dr." in front of your name to propagate such unfounded diagnoses. I hope whatever professional organization he's a member of kicks him out, or at least censures him.

Remember how angry we all got when Krauthammer (a former psychiatrist) called Howard Dean crazy based on a couple of TV appearances? Well, we were exactly right to be, and this is precisely as bad. I think Krauthammer himself actually said it best, before his unprofessional armchair diagnosing phase, in reference to Nixon:

"As a former psychiatrist, I know how difficult it is to try to understand the soul of even someone you have spent hundreds of hours alone with in therapy. To think that one can decipher the inner life of some distant public figure is folly."

Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2004 06:50 PM

I go with 3.5. The brain-damaged primate.

Posted by: SW at October 11, 2004 06:50 PM

George Bush may have been famously good with names in his youth, but not with other types of words. Remember, and this has not been denied by the Bush camp, Barbara Bush kept the 12 yr old George in on Saturday mornings to go over flash cards of very simple words with him. I'd like to know how 4 or so yrs later he got an above average score on his nonmath SATs.

Posted by: karol at October 11, 2004 06:52 PM

I go with 3.5. The brain-damaged primate.

Posted by: SW at October 11, 2004 06:54 PM

Rob,
Bush's mental health is a matter of great public interest. Since the white House is NOT making a report of any kind on his health this year, we need to make noise so that the press starts asking questions. I wouldn't be writing anything on the topic were it not for the missed physical, which raises real alarm bells.

The device on his back (clearly there is one) raises other questions which need to be answered. It appears that either Bush is a cheater, or has a serious medical problem, or both.

Posted by: marky at October 11, 2004 06:59 PM

The way Bush-Cheney and their Neo-Con rabbis are so shrilly screaming about Kerry's dial-back on terrorism, until it's a dull roar and mild rash, makes me think Brother Bush has a little Yassar Arafat in his woodshed. Can't let the plebs get too blase about the Con's mil boom profit play! Terrorism is big business for the Godfathers.

Posted by: Tante Ratatoskr at October 11, 2004 07:34 PM

…and if I may add, Steve, poor white.

Posted by: Hughman at October 11, 2004 07:44 PM

…and if I may add, Steve, poor white.

Posted by: Hughman at October 11, 2004 07:48 PM

Brad, it's none of the above.

If you recall Bush's speech, ahh, well a year or so ago in front of a gaggle of his supporters in some tiny hall, he was so smooth and articulate, up until his aides guided him down onto the main floor for a little palm slapping, then all those strangers and grasping rough hands, honest, Bush looked like he was going to have a heart attack.

The guy's been totally insulated his whole life. He's a mamma's boy, look at his childhood. His father was absent and remote, and his chums all hand picked. The only hands he touches nowadays are smooth manicured and scented with olive oil.

So can you imagine the affrontery of some frumpy *housewife* asking the *Commander in Chief* to name three mistakes he had made in office, in front of a global live audience, and all those shieks and rich goombahs whose rings he kisses?

I think the real malaise you're grasping for is "apoplectic", overlayered on "dysphasic".

"Why aren't they all kneeling before me?"

Posted by: Harry Possue at October 11, 2004 07:51 PM

…and if I may add, Steve, poor white.

Posted by: Hughman at October 11, 2004 07:52 PM

The whole thing is bogus. THe 1994 clip is obviously stump speech talking points that Bush has memorized. He is not thinking on his feet. In 2004, he is having to respond to criticism and possibly one he has not yet heard. Nuke proliferation and Bush underfunding Nunn Lugar has not been a Kerry talking point. Bush is having a difficult time thinking on his feet. I think Kerry knows Bush is shallow and threw him a loop. It is much MUCH harder when the whole campaign depends on spin staying on topic and keeping the talking points straight.

Posted by: bakho at October 11, 2004 08:03 PM

Not all of those possibilities are mutually exclusive. The most likely combination I see would be between 4 and 3. Where the effects of 4 will exacerbate 3 creating a synergistic effect. In other words, there is some organic brain dysfunction, which however, is not so bad that Bush remains unaware of it's existence. Which leads to increased anxiety over the ability to perform in public on top of the anxiety of knowing that he's already royally screwed a veritable kennel full of pooches.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 11, 2004 08:26 PM

The Chris Rock quote is as follows:
"You can't smoke crack at McDonald's and get your job back. They'll send your ass over to Hardy's...How you gonna tell little kids not to get high, when the Man's on crack? 'Don't get high, you won't be nothing.' 'I can be mayor.'"

Chris Rock, from the comedy performance, "Bring the Pain." Genius. Every word of it.

Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2004 08:46 PM


The secret of the bulge under the suit:

"Psi-Spy Ectoclonal Pod
Price: Rm
This item is a marvel of genetic engineering and alien hybrid cloning technology! The pod is a small (palm-sized) flat gel-pocket that attaches 4 tendrils to your spinal cord. The pod sits between the shoulder blades or on the back of the neck. The benefit you get from the pod is that it's a beta-wave receiver, that is, it can read thoughts within 20 feet. The user gets the benefit of Telepathy (read only) at Rm rank. The delicate nature of the pod unfortunately cannot take extended contact with bio-electricity. The pod is good for 10 hours of use before it dies. If it is subjected to an electical shock of Gd of higher, it dies instantly."
http://www.geocities.com/jemidex/hitech.html

Posted by: vote no on (almost) all CA propositions at October 11, 2004 08:48 PM

Brad, as a ShrillBlogger, the reasons for Bush's odd speech should be obvious to you. To quote the master himself:

"When one came to think of it, it was generally only rather young people who were seen about in public, and of these the oldest were apt to be the most tainted-looking. When exceptions did occur, they were mostly persons with no trace of aberrancy, like the old clerk at the hotel. One wondered what became of the bulk of the older folk, and whether the "Innsmouth look" were not a strange and insidious disease-phenomenon which increased its hold as years advanced."

In other words, George is undergoing The Change. As his throat undergoes the alterations necessary to connect his esophagus with his gill-slits, he'll naturally have some trouble talking.

Alex

Posted by: Alex at October 11, 2004 09:12 PM

Alex: Your comment leads me to wonder. I'm sure you've heard about US Navy's experiments and deployment of their Low Frequency Active (LFA) SONAR which has been causing serious auditory and neurological damage, often fatal, to marine mammals, in particular cetaceans. Could it have awakened the Elder Ones who live beneath the abysmal seas?

*shudders*

Some scary food for thought.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 11, 2004 09:29 PM

Alex: Your comment leads me to wonder. I'm sure you've heard about US Navy's experiments and deployment of their Low Frequency Active (LFA) SONAR which has been causing serious auditory and neurological damage, often fatal, to marine mammals, in particular cetaceans. Could it have awakened the Elder Ones who live beneath the abysmal seas?

*shudders*

Some scary food for thought.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 11, 2004 09:31 PM

Alex: Your comment leads me to wonder. I'm sure you've heard about US Navy's experiments and deployment of their Low Frequency Active (LFA) SONAR which has been causing serious auditory and neurological damage, often fatal, to marine mammals, in particular cetaceans. Could it have awakened the Elder Ones who live beneath the abysmal seas?

*shudders*

Some scary food for thought.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 11, 2004 09:32 PM

Alex: Your comment leads me to wonder. I'm sure you've heard about US Navy's experiments and deployment of their Low Frequency Active (LFA) SONAR which has been causing serious auditory and neurological damage, often fatal, to marine mammals, in particular cetaceans. Could it have awakened the Elder Ones who live beneath the abysmal seas?

*shudders*

Some scary food for thought.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 11, 2004 09:34 PM

Would the shape and placement of the rectangle be consistent with padding on some sort of back brace? If he has some sort of back problem, he might find standing and sitting on a seat with no back for 90 minutes very uncomfortable, enough so to be peevish and have trouble focusing his attention. Clearly one would like to avoid serious pain medications, most of which would dull your wits, during a debate.

For the conspiracy-minded: it's a serious problem, one that will require him to resign, but Bush needs to get re-elected first because Cheney could never get elected on his own, so they have to put off the physical exam and announcement of the problem... :^)

Posted by: Michael Cain at October 11, 2004 10:23 PM

Bakho writes:
> The whole thing is bogus. THe 1994 clip is obviously stump
> speech talking points that Bush has memorized. He is not
> thinking on his feet. In 2004, he is having to respond to
> criticism and possibly one he has not yet heard. Nuke
> proliferation and Bush underfunding Nunn Lugar has not been
> a Kerry talking point.

I agree that they seem to have "cherry-picked" their moments, both good and bad, on this tape. But I think that if you look to tape of even stump speech stuff from this year, you'll see that it doesn't sound like this 1994 (trying to compare memorized with memorized). Indeed, the thing I found amazing was that I couldn't remember Bush sounding this good since I became aware of him running for president in 1999. The video here may over-state the change, but it's clear that Something Happened. I doubt we'll really know what that was anytime soon, though.

Posted by: Jonathan King at October 11, 2004 11:14 PM

Something Happened:
My guess:
emotional impact of realizing he might be somewhat responsible for prematurely ending the lives of 1000+ US soldiers and 10-20 K noncombatant Iraqis for no good reason in particular. Seemed to me almost like a bad science fiction movie when the Pres started yelling "this is about Iraq" during his non-response during Debate II to the question about making any mistakes.

Why did he think it had to be about Iraq? Could have been about a lot of things. He should know that, especially if the Suskind transcripts correctly report his question about the second round of tax cuts -something along the lines of "Didn't we give the folks at the top a cut already?" It IS a standard job interview question, and he could have handled it that way (eg, "I was wrong about the 9/11 commission but I am flexible and smart enough to have changed course on that and made it a smashing success -that exonerated me!" or some such thing.)

I am not a congenital Bush hater, and think he has some decency -maybe it is severe congnitive dissonance re what he has done that we are seeing.

Put me down for #3.

Posted by: jm at October 11, 2004 11:54 PM

Clearly a combination of back pain, medication, dyslexia, insularity, and guilt.

Posted by: praktike at October 12, 2004 01:29 AM

The link doesn't work anymore.

Posted by: tyronen at October 12, 2004 07:07 AM

David Brooks endorses Kerry!

(sorry to be a bit off topic...) Brooks in his column today notes:

"When Kerry talks about the world he hopes to create, he talks first about alliances and multilateral cooperation. He's really talking about a crowded world. People from different nations would gather to work out differences and manage problems." (This in contrast to Bush's so-called vision of a "decentralized world", which Brooks--from Adam Wolfson--ties closely to "sparsely populated".

Since it's objectively impossible to deny that the world is crowded with humans -- 5 BILLION and counting! -- Brooks clearly is now endorsing Kerry, though he continues to put it in typical NYT-speak as "one the one hand, on the other hand".

But I guess Brooks is not "shrill" yet!

Posted by: PQuincy at October 12, 2004 07:23 AM

He does very well when he's speaking to a group of supporters -- have you noticed? The mouth movement thing is about panic.

This isn't a whole, centered, adult man we're talking about. I think he's spent most of his life in a series of risky situations and he hasn't developed fully nor has he any real self confidence. Any kind of real difficulty would make him seriously twitchy.

Posted by: Bean at October 12, 2004 07:35 AM

The whole "Bushism" thing didn't start in 2000, or even 1994. It started in 1992, and referred to George HW Bush. Remember "Poor George, he was born with a silver FOOT in his mouth"? That was Ann Richards at the 1992 Democratic convention. The tendency to malaprop runs in families - I know it runs in mine.

George W Bush has been stumbling over words, especially in off-the-cuff remarks since forever - it isn't particularly a mark of stupidity - I've known plenty of academics who couldn't string two coherent sentences together, but could develop brilliant theoretical models. It is a mark of lack of skill with rhetoric. Rhetorical skill doesn't reflect quality of insight - when you debate, you don't know what side of the position you will be debating, you just organize the most convincing argument you can for BOTH sides, without needing to analyze and decide for yourself. Note that Bush has always been able to step up and deliver a pre-written speech, whether on the stump (like in Brad's clip) or the state of the union, brilliantly - he does have some acting talent, he just can't do improv.

I'm confident John Kerry could argue the case for Iraq and the case against Iraq far better than George Bush can. I'm less confident that the mental processes that led to Kerry taking the position he has are any prettier, more coherent, more idealistic, or more "nuanced" and sophisticated than the ones that led to Bush taking the positions he has. Kerry has never struck me as brilliant, at least not relative to other Ivies. He's qualified to be where he is, but not exceptional - not the way Clinton was.

Posted by: rvman at October 12, 2004 07:51 AM

On the other hand, Bush's speaking skills are improved over 2000. Think how much better he was in St. Louis compared to the engagement there with Gore. He has learned his lines to some extent. I think now Bush's problem is simple stupidity and a tendency to panic under pressure; he has a relatively low I.Q.

Posted by: Bob H at October 12, 2004 08:20 AM

Brad, I think you're on to something with the Marion Berry observation. Maybe this is why so many folks identify so strongly with George W. Bush.

"Do drugs, don't study, chase women ... become president! Yeah, baby! It could happen to ME!"

Posted by: Jay Gischer at October 12, 2004 09:12 AM

Where did the clip go? I was all set to show some Republican friends, and it's gone!

Posted by: John A at October 12, 2004 09:47 AM

Bush does not have tardive dyskinesia. TD pts look nothing like Bush. To get an accurate diagnosis, he would need a neurology consult, preferably with a neurologist with a special interest in neurolinguistics, as well as an MRI to look at the language areas. He might then require formal linguistic testing with a psychologist as well as some other stuff (MRA, neuropsych testing for an anxiety disorder, etc. ) All this speculation is political year bullshit.

Posted by: Jrossi at October 12, 2004 09:51 AM

The clip is available here: http://www.adbuzz.com/bushbuzz.htm.

As for Bush, I suspect that he likes the power and prestige of the Presidency but hates the work because he is not up to it. I think he and everyone else around him is forced to pretend that he *is* up to it even though he and everyone else around him (and everyone else in the world) knows that he is not.

He finds himself trapped in a wholly unsuitable but incredibly visible role and unable to find anyone willing to engage him in honest conversation.

This is damaging his mind.

Defensively, he hides in his office, projects a tough-guy image to his colleagues and lashes out when challenged.

UK readers may recognise quite a lot of Bush in David Brent from "The Office".

Posted by: Jim at October 12, 2004 10:05 AM

Both links mentioned above to the Bush video have been pulled...anybody have a cached reference URL?

Posted by: barrisj at October 12, 2004 10:20 AM

Look at this another way.
Consider the crushing pressure Bush is feeling over his Iraq fiasco, so much worse than the ordinary grinding pressure of the Presidency which routinely churns out grey old men every 4 years, and tell me that it is unlikely that Bush is taking some medicines to calm his mind.

The White House has used deception to make it appear as if Bush is too busy for the physical, neglecting to mention that in August, when he has taken his previous physicals, he again went on vacation for several days and could easily have spared a day for an examination. Given this operation, you have to be very suspicious.

From a political point of view, there is another reason it is highly unlikely that a healthy BUsh would have missed an opportunity to tout his own health: Kerry's cancer. I fully expected an under the radar campaign to suggest that Kerry wasn't fully recovered, had a high risk of recurrence of cancer, etc. (Whether such a campaign is based on medical fact is entirely irrelevant---it WOULD be effective). The absence of such a whispering campaign is the dog that didn't bark here.
The Bush campaign did not want to mention Kerry's health because they did not want to draw any attention to Bush's health. Ergo, Bush does not have it (health).

The public deserves a report from credible sources that Bush is fit for office. It's a matter of public trust, not politics.

Posted by: marky at October 12, 2004 10:57 AM

WEIRD!! I thought I lost a post, so re-wrote and re-posted. Some how the lost one got to the front of the comments. Sorry about that!

Posted by: marky at October 12, 2004 11:00 AM

As much fun as it is, I think it really has a lot to do with him not being very good under pressure. When he is presented with a real challenge in an environment that he cannot control, he's just not that good. Mark Miller's book about his language patterns sort of back that up. Depending on the subject, he can be either very eloquent or a verbal buffoon. He's good at talking about things like punishment and moral clarity-type things. When he can paint the world as good vs. evil, he's good. When he has to talk about things like Abu Ghraib (he can't even pronounce the words) he is just tongue tied. He cannot admit mistakes as we saw him ramble and drift when presented with the last question in the last debate. And when put on the defensive, as Kerry has done so well, he gets snippy. I think it's just his personality.

Posted by: Chibi at October 12, 2004 12:00 PM

Suppose Bush is still using? Or using again? I propose both candidates show us their bare arms.

Posted by: Dick Thompson at October 12, 2004 02:39 PM

marky wrote, "WEIRD!! I thought I lost a post, so re-wrote and re-posted. Some how the lost one got to the front of the comments. Sorry about that!"

Especially since the timestamp on it is "December 31, 1969 04:15 PM," just a few hours before "the epoch," if I recall correctly.

Posted by: liberal at October 12, 2004 03:48 PM

I told you it was slow loading, liberal!!

Posted by: marky at October 12, 2004 04:22 PM

If W were taking an anti-psychotic, he'd be able to afford the atypicals which don't cause tardive dyskinesia. Besides, the mouth thing doesn't look like TD, it looks more like a nervous habit.

Posted by: J Bean at October 12, 2004 06:06 PM
<