Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 7/10/2004As a fan of all things wireless, I thoroughly approve when radio technology gets a mention in the mainstream media. So I perked up when Salon, the mildly quirky online magazine, ran a long piece on whether George W Bush is being prompted by remote control during debates.

Thursday 7/10/2004
As a fan of all things wireless, I thoroughly approve when radio technology gets a mention in the mainstream media. So I perked up when Salon, the mildly quirky online magazine, ran a long piece on whether George W Bush is being prompted by remote control during debates. The main point of discussion is an outline of a paperback-sized bulge under the back of the man's suit during his last debate with Kerry -- a radio receiver?

It's horribly plausible: there have been reports of mysterious voices, picked up by radio mic receivers, apparently prompting the Prez; times when Dubya has broken off in mid-speech and snapped at an invisible someone; even rumours that in the business 'everyone knows' that Bush wears an earpiece during speeches. "It's just like a teleprompter, really" is the excuse. And there's no doubt that Bush's way with words can veer from let's say charmingly homespun to the alarmingly disconnected.

Well. Is the leader of the Western World so unable to think on his feet that he needs a shot of Marconi in the lug-hole to keep his brain ticking over? That, I cannot say -- but the bulge under his jacket is almost certainly not a radio. Unless the Republicans were using some incredibly powerful cryptographic system with acres of gubbins and a laptop-sized battery, any secret receiver would be the size of a matchbox and could be stashed anywhere -- you wouldn't strap it to the upper torso. The really good stuff fits entirely inside the ear. That bulge? Probably a ceramic trauma plate, say the bloggers, an extra level of body armour that protects against high velocity rounds.

Which isn't to say that he isn't being prompted from a bunker somewhere, with Karl Rove muttering tight-lipped commands into a microphone. The best way to find out would be to have a team of radio hams on standby at the next debate, with spectrum analysers, scanners and powerful frequency agile transmitters. A quick whip through the airwaves should find the channel in use, which could then be taken over: the 'official' transmitter will only be a watt or so, and any half-decent ham can rustle up 500 times that. And then we'll be the ones whispering in George's ear.

A quick plea for free cocaine for school children, compulsory gay marriage for Texans and the summary confiscation of SUVs -- to be replaced by recumbent bicycles -- should do for starters.