Bush’s bulge

No, I don’t mean the sock he stuffed in that flight suit, but rather the odd boxy-shape under the back of his suit jacket during the first debate. (Also note the snaky cable-like shape that appears to run up to his neck).

If he had a transmitter of some sort, it would at least explain that strange moment in which he barked out, “Let me finish!” — even though he had time left on the clock and, well, no one had interrupted him. No one we could hear, at any rate.

Salon picks up the story:

Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That’s the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush’s shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer.

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it’s safe to say he wasn’t packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?

— snip —

Was it possible the bulge had been Photoshopped onto Bush’s back by a lone conspiracy buff? It turns out that all of the video of the debate was recorded and sent out by Fox News, the pool broadcaster for the event. Fox sent feeds from multiple cameras to the other networks, which did their own on-air presentations and editing.

To watch the debate again, I ventured to the Web site of the most sober network I could think of: C-SPAN. And sure enough, at minute 23 on the video of the debate, you can clearly see the bulge between the president’s shoulder blades.

— snip —

So what was it? Jacob McKenna, a spyware expert and the owner of the Spy Store, a high-tech surveillance shop in Spokane, Wash., looked at the Bush image on his computer monitor. “There’s certainly something on his back, and it appears to be electronic,” he said. McKenna said that, given its shape, the bulge could be the inductor portion of a two-way push-to-talk system. McKenna noted that such a system makes use of a tiny microchip-based earplug radio that is pushed way down into the ear canal, where it is virtually invisible. He also said a weak signal could be scrambled and be undetected by another broadcaster.

Mystery-bulge bloggers argue that the president may have begun using such technology earlier in his term. Because Bush is famously prone to malapropisms and reportedly dyslexic, which could make successful use of a teleprompter problematic, they say the president and his handlers may have turned to a technique often used by television reporters on remote stand-ups. A reporter tapes a story and, while on camera, plays it back into an earpiece, repeating lines just after hearing them, managing to sound spontaneous and error free.

Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up — and broadcast to surprised viewers — the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site MediaChannel.org, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies — notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush’s appearance. “They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera,” Schechter said. “The Democrats weren’t doing that at their convention.”

There’s more at the isbushwired site.

My guess is, even if he is wired, they’ll be hiding it better tonight. Still, it might be fun to see if you think he’s listening to voices only he can hear. And — assuming for the moment that this is true — if I were on the Kerry campaign, I’d be working doubletime today to figure out a way to either jam the signal or to break in on it. Imagine Bush trying to stay focused while someone recited old Beat poetry in his ear, or maybe just read names out of the phone book. What could he do? Complain that someone was unfairly interferring with the system he’d set up in order to cheat?

This is, of course, why I am a cartoonist and not a paid political advisor.