(As appearing in Mother Jones online-www.motherjones.com) A leading NASA scientist who normally spends his days analyzing and enhancing photo images sent across the depths of space by the Cassini and other space probes has turned his expertise to images of the president in his three debates. His conclusion: "George Bush is obviously wearing something -- probably a receiver of some kind -- under his jacket for each debate."
Robert M. Nelson, who has worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology for some three decades, provided a dramatic photo of the bulge under the jacket at the first debate to Salon.com which posted it Oct. 29. Now -- working at home and using his own computers -- he's done the same analysis for MotherJones.com on images of Bush's back taken during the second two debates. Nelson, a top-ranked senior research scientist at JPL and past chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, says that by enhancing the contrast and the edge definition in digital photographs taken of video broadcasts of the three debates, the object under the jacket can be clearly delineated.
Nelson told MotherJones.com, "In the first debate the bulges create the impression of a letter T with a small feature which appears similar to a wire under the jacket running upward from the right. In the second and third debates the jacket has a generally padded shape across a large part of the entire back which tapers inward toward the spine in a downward direction. This is consistent with the hypothesis that a pad was inserted to conceal the T-shaped device seen in the first debate." (To link to the Mother Jones site with all the amazing photos go to Nelson's Debate Photos.)
The new photos, together with the image from the first debate, strikingly refute the series of contradictory explanations that have come from the White House, from the Bush/Cheney campaign, and from the president himself -- explanations that only addressed the obvious bulge in his jacket that was noticed at the first debate. Bush and the White House have not acknowledged -- nor has the mainstream press even asked about -- the other two debates.
The White House position on the issue of the bulge has shifted over time. When the bulge was first reported by this writer in Salon on Oct. 8, the White House claimed that it didn't exist -- suggesting that photos depicting a rectangular bulge had been doctored. When it was explained that in fact the photos had been taken directly off of broadcasts of the debate, and that the bulge could be clearly seen in stop-frames of the Fox News pool broadcast, the White House fell back on the claim that the bulge was a "pucker" in an ill-tailored suit -- the explanation given to the New York Times, which ran one news report on the issue, on Oct. 9.
While the mainstream media for the most part failed to press the matter further, Charles Gibson of ABC"s "Good Morning America" show, in an interview with the president, did ask him for an explanation. Bush replied that the bulge had been the result of a "poorly tailored shirt." Gibson didn't press the matter, and didn't ask about the bulges that were evident during the subsequent debates.
A call to the Bush campaign press office on Oct. 29 elicited the same response: it was a badly tailored shirt.
The problem, of course, is that with photos showing that the bulge was apparent at all three debates, this would mean that the president either wore the same bad shirt on all three occasions (he changed jackets and ties), or that he has a whole wardrobe of similarly ill-fitting shirts.
Besides, it would be hard to imagine any shirt, however outsized, making the prominent bulged-out shapes disclosed by Dr. Nelson's investigation of the photos.
Nelson's work makes one thing abundantly clear: the White House, the Bush campaign, and the president himself have been lying about the bulge in his suit.
Nelson's photo analysis raises a number of questions, chief among which is this: What was the president wearing?
Alex Darbut, technical and business development vice president at Resistance Technology, Inc. of Arden Hills, MN, a company that makes back-mounted transceivers that link to wireless earpieces hidden in the ear canal, says he is certain the president was wearing such a device. Darbut, whose company sells such a device to ""he military and to professionals," including actors and people in communications, says, "There's no question about it. It's a pretty obvious one -- larger than most because it probably has descrambling capability."
If the president were wearing a wire, the second question would be: was he cheating and getting help with his answers? His behavior during all three debates left many viewers wondering. During the first debate, there were those two uncomfortably long pauses after questions were asked of him, when he just stared out at the camera with a blank expression, saying nothing and looking for all the world like he was waiting for an answer to be explained to him. There was also the peculiar moment when, midway through a 90-second answer period (during which no interruptions were allowed, and well before his warning light would have been flashing), the president interrupted himself, blurting out with an expression of annoyance, "Now let me finish!"
In debate number two, there were also odd pauses, and several occasions when he would appear detached only to leap up and shout out something -- on one occasion even interrupting the moderator.
In debate three, the president was much more reserved, but again there were the long pauses in his speech, before and even during answers.
Bloggers have been pretty much alone in dogging this story (see www.isbushwired.com), and some have suggested that the president may be hiding a medical device -- the prevailing theory is an external atrial defibrillator. But at least one physician, Dr. Stephen Tarzynski of Pasadena, CA, says most such devices are worn on the front of the body, closer to the heart. Another suggestion is an electrical impulse machine that could be designed to relieve chronic pain. In either case, the public has a right to know the health condition of the man they are considering as a candidate for the next four years -- particularly as the vice president, Dick Cheney, himself suffering from a serious heart condition, is far less popular among voters than the head of the Bush/Cheney ticket.
(Remember, the U.S. media have been criticized in the past for covering up President Franklin Roosevelt's leg braces and President Kennedy's Addison's disease, as well as President Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's in office.)
A third big question is why the media -- and the Kerry campaign -- have stayed away from this story, refusing to press the president for an explanation of the bulges in his three suit jackets. Several calls to the Kerry campaign press office for a response to this and earlier articles on the topic went unanswered.
Nelson says that for several weeks he has tried to interest the major media outlets in photos he had worked on from the first debate, to no avail.
He says he offered the photos at no charge to the Los Angeles Times, which "sat on them for four days" and never returned his phone call. He claims he also offered them to the New York Times, "and they promised a story which was ready to go last Thursday when it was yanked at the last minute by higher ups." Finally, he says he offered his photos of the first debate to the Washington Post. Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, he says, called him personally. "He said it would take too long for him to clear these images with his editors and he encouraged me to go to Salon."
"I'm just really ticked that editors are saying they have to know what it is before they'll ask the White House about it," says Nelson. "That's way too high a threshold for pursuing this story."
Jeffrey Klein, a former Mother Jones editor, says, "The current fear factor among American political reporters is greater than anything I've ever witnessed. Having spoken with more than a dozen journalists, I've heard a variety of excuses for why they won't or can't pursue this story. The excuses range from `Kerry isn't making an issue of this so how can I?' (Time magazine) to `The paper has clamped down on anti-Bush stories. Nothing about the bulge is going to run here before the election.' (The Wall Street Journal)."For the rest of this column, AND TO GET A LINK TO ALL THE NASA SCIENTIST'S PHOTOS please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .