Now that I know James Wolcott is a birder, I like him even more…
Birding has been slow in Cape May. Warbler action has been weak. Even Pete Dunne, local birding deity, said the other day that it was dead out there–his most recent hawkwatch had been a dud.
But this morning as I walked to the general store to pick up the papers, there were birds everywhere aflutter. Bluejays. Cardinals. Mourning doves. Sparrows of every persuasion. A peregrine falcon or merlin (I didn’t get my binocs up fast enough) winging overhead. Later, at Sunset Beach, a quartet of pelicans floated over like a band heading to a gig. Some would attribute this to a shift in wind direction or a change in temp, but I know different.
Nature is celebrating last night’s presidential debate.
The trees are alive with the sound of Kerry.
Only a few weeks ago, things looked grim. Bleak. Even posters on the liberal blogsites seemed to be sitting on the suicide ledge peering past the slough of despond into the abyss below. That infamous Gallup Poll which had the race Bush 104, Kerry -6 had many of us rattled. A statistically impossible 110 point deficit seemed a mite difficult to overcome.
But that was before John Kerry grape-stomped Bush into a sullen mash.
In birding, those fanatical about building up the life lists of species are known as “twitchers.” But there was no bigger twitcher last night than the bird-hating Bush, who once ignorantly shot a killdeer during a photo op thinking it was a dove, according to Karen Hughes’ merde-eating memoir. Bush’s face suffered a silent outbreak of Tourette’s Syndrome; he grimaced, smirked, sniffed, rolled his eyes, and did some weird thing with his mouth that as yet has no diagnostic name. He was President Twitchy, giving a performance that critics hailed as “peevish” and “petulant.”
We’ve seen President Twitchy before. When Helen Thomas persisted in asking Bush why he was trying to tear down the walls between church and state, and wouldn’t be sluffed off with one of his standard nonanswers, Bush, as I wrote in Attack Poodles, went through a battery of irked expressions that ended with him imitating Tony Perkins in the final shot of Psycho, looking as if he had a fly on his nose.
Since then Bush has been wheeled out into forums where no one can dare question or contradict his majesty, where he can lean forward and repeat ad nauseam his patented soundbites. Last night I believe we saw the ugly comeback of the private face of Bush–the irritable expressions he flashes subordinates when he’s presented with information he doesn’t like or feels someone’s taken up too much of his time or is pressed to explain himself to people he shouldn’t have to explain himself to because he’s the president and fuck you. The notion that Bush is “likeable” has always been laughable. It takes a Washington pundit to be that dumb. He’s an angry, spoiled, resentful little big man–I use “little big man” in the Reichian sense of a small personality who puffs himself up to look big through bluster and swagger but remains a scheming coward inside–and next to a genuinely big man like Kerry, shrunk before the camera’s eyes.
Kerry achieved a lot of things last night, and one of them was shifting the focus for future debates. In the two debates to come, political junkies and media analysts aren’t going to be measuring Kerry to see if he’s “up for the job.” He proved that he was last night. No, they’re going be trained like birders on Bush’s demeanor and body language to see if we get another outbreak of the peevish twitchies.
Frankly, I’m amazed by this reversal of fortune. Bush let Kerry get to him. I truly thought Bush would stick to the Reagan playbook and genially shrug off Kerry’s criticisms with a grin and a quip, but he’s a greater mass of insecurities and arrogant entitlements than even I imagined. I pity the fools who have to prep Bush for the next debate. Because they’re sure going to have one pissy pupil on their hands.