Baffling Bumiller on Bush's "Bulge" - October 29, 2004

October 29, 2004
Baffling Bumiller on Bush's "Bulge"
"The bulge - the strange rectangular box visible between the president's shoulder blades in the first debate - has set off so much frenzied speculation on the Internet that it has become what literary critics call an objective correlative, or an object that evokes large emotions and ideasThe bulge is in many ways related to the bubble, which is the word Mr. Bush himself uses to describe the isolation of the presidency. In this case, Mr. Bush's critics argue that he has so walled himself off from dissent in his bubble that he was ill-prepared to take on the challenge of Senator John Kerry in their three debates. Therefore, Mr. Bush had to make use of the bulge, which is most popularly rumored to be a radio receiver that transmitted answers from an offstage adviser into a hidden presidential earpiece." - Elisabeth Bumiller, October 18, passing on a left-wing Internet-based conspiracy theory.

One Voter Guide, Two Starkly Different Perspectives

"President Bush greeting Senator John Kerry after the debate on Oct. 13 in Tempe, Ariz. On issues, Mr. Bush reaches out sparingly." - Photo caption accompanying Richard Stevenson's October 26 profile of Bush in the NYT's Voter Guide.

"Democrats argue that Mr. Cheney is one of the most divisive figures in American politics - a man whom they hold largely responsible for what they call the right-wing extremism of the Bush administration." - From Raymond Hernandez's October 26 Voter Guide profile of Vice President Dick Cheney.


"Time and again, he has proved himself most focused in the crunch." - Cut-out line from Todd Purdum's October 26 profile of Kerry in the NYT's Voter Guide.

"Polls said he outperformed the president." - From a photo caption accompanying a picture of Kerry arriving in Arizona for the last presidential debate, October 26 Voter Guide.

"If Mr. Kerry's relationships are complex, so are his ideas. Based on his roll call votes in 2003, The National Journal ranked him the most liberal member of the Senate. But his lifetime voting - and speaking - record is considerably more complicated than that ranking would suggest." - Todd Purdum, from the Times' October 26 Voter Guide.

"In His Rapid Rise, Edwards Carries A Common Touch." - Headline to October 26 story by Randal Archibold from the NYT's Voter Guide.

"The odds are against him? The son of a mill worker likes those odds." - Cut-out line to October 26 Archibold story on Edwards.

"Senator John Edwards's ability to connect helped him in the Democratic primaries." - Photo caption to October 26 Archibold story on Edwards.

And Don't Forget to Hit Kerry-Threat Ralph Nader
"To his followers, he is the embodiment of political principle, the counterweight to a dishonest two-party system that sneers at minor-party candidates. To his critics, he is an anachronistic, dangerous buttinsky, motivated more by ego than civic good." - From the October 26 Voter Guide profile of Ralph Nader by Michael Janofsky.

Kerry Not All That Liberal, Just "Complicated"
"Mr. Kerry's entire Senate career has been equally complicated. While The National Journal ranked Mr. Kerry the Senate's most liberal member based on his roll-call votes in 2003, his career voting - and speaking - record is more eclectic and less predictable than that rating would imply. Mr. Kerry has been a reliable advocate of environmental regulation, gay rights and gun control, but he also joined with Republicans to press for reduction of the federal deficit in the mid-1980's, long before that was popular with most other Democrats." - Todd Purdum, October 27.

Bush's "Intolerance of Doubters"

"The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility - a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains - is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House." - Author Ron Suskind, from the cover story of the October 17 Magazine.

Not-That-Liberal Kerry
"Some Democrats will no doubt be tempted to remember the aftermath of Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988, after which Mr. Clinton put the party back in the White House by pulling it to the center on such domestic issues as welfare reform and crime. Yet the pattern does not fit the election. Mr. Kerry is more liberal than Mr. Clinton, but, Mr. Bush's attacks on him notwithstanding, not by much." - Chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney speculating on a Kerry loss in the October 24 Week in Review.

vs. "Clear Conservative" Bush
"But on the central question of whether a [Bush] loss would shift the party more to the center, Republicans say no.Republicans say that a defeat of Mr. Bush would not usher in a moderate new era.But if Mr. Bush goes down on Nov. 2, it would be the first time that a clear conservative candidate who Republicans had expected to win was defeated." - White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller speculating on a Bush loss in the October 24 Week in Review.

"Extreme Policies" from Republicans
"Republicans have proved far more disciplined in recent years than Democrats, the party leadership has been able to convert smaller minorities into more effective control - and more extreme policies. Should Kerry win, Hastert and Tom DeLay should have little trouble blocking his domestic agenda, especially the rollback of tax cuts to the rich and increased spending on education and health care." - Contributing writer James Traub, October 24 Magazine.

"Hard-Right Conservative Patriarchs"
"It is a question that would have shocked the old line, hard-right conservative patriarchs of the clan begat by Adolph Coors: Is Pete Coors, nationally famous beer magnate, scion of old money, and now candidate for the United States Senate, Republican enough to win in Colorado?" - Kirk Johnson, October 16.

Making Ted Kennedy Look Moderate
"Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear." - Editorial Board member Adam Cohen, October 18.

Bush, the One-Syllable Dude
"The other day, in southern Oregon, George W. Bush greeted the crowd by saying it was great to be in a place 'with more boots than suits.' It was a typical line from a president who likes words of one syllable. Mr. Bush, child of wealth, campaigns as regular guy and anti-establishment dude." - International edition columnist Roger Cohen for the October 24 Week in Review.

The Return of the King
"With the drama of an injured player coming off the bench in the final moments of the big game, Bill Clinton is emerging Monday just seven weeks after quadruple bypass surgery to campaign for Senator John Kerry." - Opening sentence of Katharine Seelye's Oct. 25 story, "Clinton Is Up And About To Hit Trail."

"Skewed" Tax Cuts
"The tax reductions enacted during [Bush's] presidency, totaling at least $2 trillion over 10 years, are heavily skewed toward the wealthy." - David Rosenbaum and Robin Toner, October 24.

Bush's Judicial Philosophy: All About "Reaping Political Benefit"
"First, the new president and his aides turned to the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers' group, to help select candidates. Of Mr. Bush's first batch of nominees, 8 of 11 were proposed by the society. There could have been no clearer signal that Mr. Bush intended to follow the pattern set by his father and President Ronald Reagan of shifting the courts rightward and reaping the political benefit of pleasing social conservatives." - Neil Lewis, October 22.

Anti-Michael Moore Documentary a "Didactic Screed"

"A didactic screed that has all the verve of a PowerPoint presentation and all the subtlety of a Homeland Security red alert, 'Celsius 41.11' is finally interesting only because it represents another unconvincing effort on the part of conservatives to mount a viable critique of Mr. Moore. It also suggests that the right's gifts for spinning ideology into compelling narrative, so evident during the Reagan administration, have gone missing." - Movie critic Manohla Dargis, October 22.

There They Go Again: "Unsubstantiated" Swift Boat Vets
"Republican 527's sprang up in reaction to the Democratic groups or around specific issues and appear short-lived. For example, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has run searing and sometimes unsubstantiated commercials challenging Mr. Kerry's military record, intends to disband." - Katharine Seelye, October 17.

No Pro-Kerry Media Types?
"Sinclair executives have been among the largest media contributors to President Bush and the Republican Party. And the company has made a number of polarizing news judgments in the past." - Bill Carter, October 20.

Gorbachev the Hero

"Once Red, 'Mr. Green' Is a Hero Anywhere but at Home." - Headline to Warren Hoge profile of former Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, October 23.

A Ridiculous Rant from Frank Rich
"The current White House has been practicing pre-emptive media intimidation to match its policy of pre-emptive war. Its F.C.C. chairman, using Janet Jackson's breast and Howard Stern's mouth as pretexts, has sufficiently rattled Viacom, which broadcast both of these entertainers' infractions against 'decency,' that its chairman, the self-described "liberal Democrat" Sumner Redstone, abruptly announced his support for the re-election of George W. Bush last month. 'I vote for what's good for Viacom,' he explained, and he meant it. He took this loyalty oath just days after the '60 Minutes' fiasco prompted a full-fledged political witch hunt on Viacom's CBS News, another Republican target since the Nixon years. Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas, has threatened to seek Congressional 'safeguards' regulating TV news content and, depending what happens Nov. 2, he may well have the political means to do it." - From Arts editor Frank Rich's October 14 column.

Rich's Ridiculous Rant, Part II
"It's hard to imagine an operation more insidious than Mr. Murdoch's, but the Sinclair Broadcast Group may be it.It has ordered all its stations, whose most powerful reach is in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, to broadcast a 'news' special featuring a film, 'Stolen Honor,' that trashes Mr. Kerry along the lines of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads.Democrats are screaming, but don't expect the Bush apparatchiks at federal agencies to pursue their complaints as if they were as serious as a 'wardrobe malfunction.' A more likely outcome is that Sinclair, which already reaches 24 percent of American viewers, will reap the regulatory favors it is seeking to expand that audience in a second Bush term." - From Arts editor Frank Rich's October 14 column.

"Arrogant" Americans
"Some of the letters from the States seemed to bolster the widespread European view that Americans, whether because of inattention or arrogance, do not care much about the world beyond their own borders. Speaking of the entreaty from Mr. le Carr, the best-selling writer of thrillers, one American correspondent wrote: "People will read these letters and say, 'John le Who? Never heard of him, but who is he to tell me who to vote for?'" - Sarah Lyall, reporting from London October 20 on an attempt by the left-wing Guardian newspaper to persuade Ohioans to vote for Kerry.

Troop-Killing "Insurgents" as Iraqi "Victims"?
"A weeklong effort to tally Iraqi casualties shows soldiers, insurgents, politicians, journalists, a judge, a medic and restaurant workers among the victims." - Norimitsu Onishi, October 19.