For the first half hour or so, I really wondered what miracle they had worked on Bush. He seemed intelligent, friendly, engaging, likeable…he didn’t lapse into awkward silences, or give the camera that “chimp in the headlights” look.
Definitely no wire on him, as far as I could tell. Any kind of radio pack on his back would have been clearly visible to the audience as he walked around, and the C-SPAN coverage featured several good shots of his back. Perhaps that’s why he seemed less robotic?
So Bush was looking horribly credible; but then, around the 40-45 minute mark as I recall, he started to lose it. Before long he transformed into an angry demagogue. I could actually see his face turning slightly red as he ranted, and then he shouted down the moderator!
Then, when he calmed down again after another 15 minutes or so, he seemed to retreat into a mode where he just kept saying the same stale talking point catchphrases we’re already sick of. You know the ones, “denigrating our allies”, “pass a global test”, “most liberal senator”, and so on.
All in all, a rather bizarre performance. Maybe he really is as mentally unbalanced as some of the rumors have been suggesting. If so, I can only hope that Kerry manages to goad him as effectively in the third debate as Edwards managed to goad Cheney.
Yes, that was definitely the most amusing moment so far—Edwards saying how admirable it was that Cheney was willing to talk about his gay daughter, followed by Cheney’s face as he said “No comment”. If looks could kill, Edwards would have been eviscerated on live TV. No that’s comedy.
Also noted today that even Newsweek thinks Kerry was the clear winner of the first debate. I suspect the same concensus will emerge about this one, albeit for different reasons.