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For President Under Duress, Body Language Speaks Volumes
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, October 12, 2005; A07
It's only 6:17 a.m. Central time, and President Bush is already facing his second question of the day about Karl Rove's legal troubles.
"Does it worry you," NBC's Matt Lauer is asking him at a construction-site interview in Louisiana, that prosecutors "seem to have such an interest in Mr. Rove?"
Bush blinks twice. He touches his tongue to his lips. He blinks twice more. He starts to answer, but he stops himself.
"I'm not going to talk about the case," Bush finally says after a three-second pause that, in television time, feels like a commercial break.
Only the president's closest friends and family know (if anybody does) what he's really thinking these days, during Katrina woes, Iraq violence, conservative anger over Harriet Miers, and legal trouble for Bush's top political aide and two congressional GOP leaders. Bush has not been viewed up close; as he took his eighth post-Katrina trip to the Gulf Coast yesterday, the press corps has accompanied him only once, because the White House says logistics won't permit it. Even the interview on the "Today" show was labeled "closed press."
But this much could be seen watching the tape of NBC's broadcast during Bush's 14-minute pre-sunrise interview, in which he stood unprotected by the usual lectern. The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts. Bush has always been an active man, but standing with Lauer and the serene, steady first lady, he had the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere.