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That box in Bush's suit jacket

David Shuster/MSNBC | October 14 2004

After a weekend of reading about it on the web, and hearing my very own relatives discuss it... this afternoon I conducted a "formal investigation" into the mysterious box that appeared in the middle of President Bush's back during the first presidential debate. "The Shuster commission" considered this story with an open mind. "The commission" (comprised of "me, myself, and I") was open to the possibility the president "was wired electronically or otherwise," but also open to the claim that the photos were "a hoax." The Shuster commission report has three sections: (1) Methods, (2) Results, and (3) Conclusions.

Methods: Armed with a cool bottle of cranberry juice, I locked myself into an NBC News edit bay for an hour with a videotape containing the entire first presidential debate from Sept. 30, 2004. (As a pre-emptive shot against some of you... I "scrolled through" parts of the debate... thus I spent an hour and not 90 minutes.) First, I examined every "two-shot" of President Bush and John Kerry in that debate. (A "two-shot" or "wide shot" if you want to call it that, is one where you see the back of the person who is talking and you also see the person they are talking to— in this case it was the moderator Jim Lehrer sitting at the table.) Secondly, I looked at every two shot in slow motion. Third, I watched (also in slow motion and by freezing the videotape) the arrivals on stage of both President Bush and John Kerry, including a telling shot where both men had just shaken hands and had to turn their backs to the audience to get around their respective lecterns. Fourth, I carefully examined the end of the debate where President Bush and Senator Kerry shake hands and are then greeted by their families. (Both Sen. Kerry and President Bush turn their back at different times on this section of the videotape as wellto the audience.)

Results: At several points on the tape, most prominently between approximately 9:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., there does appear to be some "mysterious object" in the back of the president's suit jacket. However, when the tape is slowed down, you see the object changing form depending on the president's movement and how the light hits the back of his jacket. In addition, the object appears to be long and narrow when Mr. Bush is hunched over, but short and wide when he is standing taller a few minutes later. As for John Kerry, at one point around 9:30 p.m., the Senator also appears to have an object in the back of his suit jacket... but to the Shuster commission, it had the shape of one of those wooden spaghetti mixing forks. (*Exclusive, must credit to MSNBC "Hardblogger"). Said "spaghetti fork" seems to disappear a short time later. In examining the President and John Kerry at the beginning and end of the debate, no objects or "bunching up" can be seen in either men's suit jacket.

Conclusions: The image of a "mysterious box" or "form bunching up" under the president's suit jacket was likely caused by a COMBINATION OF (1) sweat; (2) a heavily starched shirt under the suit jacket, (3) Mr. Bush's "leaning over" and "angled" posture; (4) the angle of the lighting on stage that illuminated the president's head and back; (5) the sheen of the fabric in Mr. Bush's suit jacket.

The "Shuster commission" concludes the mysterious form on President Bush CAN NOT be some sort of electronic device because of the way it changed shape as the President leaned a few inches to either his right or left. The mysterious form also seems to disappear at times... and is not detectable at the beginning or end of the debate. Furthermore, a close examination of videotape showing the president's head turned to both sides revealed no hearing aid or other type of listening device in either ear.

The "Shuster commission" also concludes the mysterious form (aka "spaghetti fork") that appears briefly underneath Senator Kerry's jacket was likely caused by (1) sweat; (2) a heavily starched shirt under the suit jacket; (3) momentary bad posture by Senator Kerry; (4) the angle of the lighting on stage; (5) the sheen of the fabric in Mr. Kerry's suit jacket (which was arguably not as likely to create mysterious forms as the sheen on Mr. Bush's jacket.)

So, conspiracy theorists, take heart... you weren't entirely crazy. You did see something that wasn't a faked picture. But, the picture was not of a candidate who was "wired,"... just one who was sweating, wearing a starched shirt, and using bad posture.

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