Dana Milbank

In today’s Washington Post:

ALLENTOWN, Pa., Oct. 1 — As Democratic nominee John F. Kerry criticized President Bush in Thursday night’s presidential debate, Bush scowled, squinted, clenched his jaw and appeared disgusted as he hunched over his lectern — images that were beamed into millions of American home.

For the current president, the performance could be particularly damaging, because part of his advantage over Kerry is voters’ perception that he is likable while Kerry lacks the common touch. Democrats on Friday moved quickly to maximize the damage. The Democratic National Committee posted on the Web a video titled “Faces of Frustration,” showing Bush in various stages of consternation as he listened to Kerry. “He was defensive, annoyed, arrogant, even angry, and showed it,” said DNC Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe.

Historically, I’m not a big fan of body language and demeanor pieces, and I think Milbank (one of my favorite reporters) would normally be above such trivialities. (On the other hand, I suppose clearly bewildered expressions should certainly be fair game.) For whatever reasons, people have cared about these things since at least the time of Reagan, so I guess it’s news. And in this instance, good news for Kerry.


UPDATE: In a related note, Giblets issues this challenge:

Giblets refuses to “analyze policy” or “look at facts.” He evaluates world leaders based on how entertaining, personable, and manly they appear on TV! But now that Almighty Cable itself has grown fickle and feckless, Giblets has no choice but to challenge John Kerry directly – for the good of boob-tubers everywhere!

Giblets will debate John Kerry himself while repeatedly punching a rhinocerous in the face to prove Giblets’s superior manliness! John Kerry will probably feel compelled to also bring an animal to punch but he will resort to something like an emu or a chicken.