What's going on with his brain?
December 7, 2005 8:19 PM   Subscribe

I find the Bush Jaw Thing incredibly creepy. What the hell is behind it, and has he always done it?

I keep watching videos of him on Fox News, and he does it pretty much after every sentence. I watched a speech by him two nights ago where the sentences were written to be longer, and he didn't do it so much; instead, after every (long) sentence, he'd do it--consistently--three times in a row. What's going on with this, and why isn't the press all over this?
posted by interrobang to Health & Fitness (31 answers total)
Meth mouth.
posted by Rothko at 8:21 PM on December 7, 2005

I have jaw issues (I forget what the medical term is, but it "clicks" when moved certain ways and it's kind of skewed) and I do this every now and then. But man, that is creepy.
posted by phrontist at 8:24 PM on December 7, 2005

Ha! Swing jaw!
posted by jennyb at 8:26 PM on December 7, 2005

By which I mean that one side effect of stimulant ingestion for some people is that they swing their jaw back and forth, just as it appears GWB is doing in this video.
posted by jennyb at 8:28 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: It's not just this video; he does it in every video.
posted by interrobang at 8:31 PM on December 7, 2005

Um, the link to the video doesn't work for me.
posted by stopgap at 8:36 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: Try this one.
posted by interrobang at 8:40 PM on December 7, 2005

I don't know if it could be substance-related or not, but it doesn't have to be. Before I had braces, my jaw was misaligned, and it frequently popped or slid a little while I was talking or chewing. I'd do a similar movement -- although I hope it was less obvious -- to get it back in. My teeth and jaw looked totally normal the whole time; I wasn't one of those kids who desperately needed braces.

Thanks to my braces' rearrangement, I now pop my jaw like that maybe three times when I first get up in the morning, and then I'm perfectly normal all day -- it doesn't slide anymore, and I don't have to pop it back in like that.

If I'm stressed, I'm more likely to hold my jaw funny or even to clench it. These odd positions make popping out more possible in the very short term, and I assume if the stress persisted for a long time, clenching could cause long-term problems. I think being POTUS would cause me some significant long-term stress.

Did Bush ever have braces? If not, or if he didn't have an awesome dentist, it could be just simple misalignment. It might also be worth checking out TMJ, aka TMJ-D.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:57 PM on December 7, 2005

Well, if he does do it all the time, it could be a byproduct of all the binge drinking and cocaine he did in the past. Or he could just have a nervous tick. This really isn't that big of a mystery.
posted by puke & cry at 8:57 PM on December 7, 2005

Oh yeah, I have the jaw-misalignement booksandlibretti mentions. And do the the same jaw sliding he talks about, even though I've had braces.
posted by puke & cry at 8:59 PM on December 7, 2005

I know that with my TMJ, I go out of my way to avoid needing to do any maneuvers to readjust my jaw, and that's just when I go to a grocery store - I'd have no problem not readjusting during a press conference if I were the leader of a country.
Sorry, TMJ just doesn't wash for me. Especially since it's the same movement in a rhythmic way. When my jaw locks or is tight, it's not a smooth motion. I'd like to see how often he does it - does anyone have a link to a speech with him doing it intermittently? The video here is great, but you can't tell how often he's doing it. Is it every sentence, or every 7 minutes?
posted by Iamtherealme at 9:12 PM on December 7, 2005

It's a nervous tick motion of the head to the left.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:12 PM on December 7, 2005

I do similar occasionally, one side of my jaw gets itself 'locked' in a bad place and I have to swing it a little to get it freed again for speaking clearly.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:14 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: I'd like to see how often he does it - does anyone have a link to a speech with him doing it intermittently? The video here is great, but you can't tell how often he's doing it. Is it every sentence, or every 7 minutes?

I can't link to any videos on Fox News, but if you go there (ugh) and watch any video of him speaking, it happens about every ten seconds. The compilation by Harry Shearer is in no way taking a couple of isolated incidents out of context.
posted by interrobang at 9:18 PM on December 7, 2005

Looking at this movie, it's a tic, but it's not pathological. Lots of folks have mild little tics like this.

That said, if you crank someone up on L-dopa, cocaine, amphetamine, or whatever your stimulant du jour is, you can see jaw, mouth, tongue, and lip movements like this; in their florid form they are much more pronounced. These are called 'extrapyramidal movements' because of their origin outside the pyramidal tracts of your brain's motor system.

You can also see them in folks who have been treated with tranquilizers that antagonize the action of dopamine, after those drugs have been withdrawn. This idiosyncratic reaction is called 'tardive dyskinesia' and the specific mouth movements that are invariably seen given various names like 'orobuccolingual dyskinesias'.

Again, Mr Bush's tic is pretty mild and stereotyped and I doubt it's pathological.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:32 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: All right, thanks, ikkyu2. But, has he always done this?
posted by interrobang at 9:44 PM on December 7, 2005

Playing POTUS's advocate here, but could he be chewing something, like a piece of gum?
posted by emelenjr at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: emelnjr, go to Fox News and click on any video of George Bush talking, please.
posted by interrobang at 10:04 PM on December 7, 2005

Checking out the videos in a bit......wonder how much of an open mind I"m going to have with it, though....I worked in the club scene for a while, and it anyone was chewing on a straw, there was a wink for you knew they were either on coke or extacy exactly because you grind your jaw (as ikkyu2 explained.) Can't wait to check out the videos and perhaps dig up an old one to see if he has always done this but perhaps not as pronounced.
posted by Iamtherealme at 10:26 PM on December 7, 2005

(uggh - why am I suddenly confusing post and preview?)
if anyone was chewing....
and not that it was EACH time, of course, but that combined with other behaviors.
posted by Iamtherealme at 10:29 PM on December 7, 2005

I tend to "crack" my jaw a lot throughout the day. Hopefully it's not overly noticeable when I'm speaking. I don't think it is, but then again, it's been a while since I carefully scrutinized a video of myself giving a speech.

There are lots and lots of things I find abhorrent about George W. Bush. A slight tick while he's speaking is the least among them.
posted by aladfar at 11:16 PM on December 7, 2005

Weird, I never noticed this.
posted by delmoi at 11:35 PM on December 7, 2005

George W. Bush debate skills: 1994 vs. 2004 [via]

If you haven't seen this before, it was put together by someone who'd read this Fallows piece [here]

This spring I watched dozens of hours' worth of old videos of John Kerry and George W. Bush in action. But it was the hour in which Bush faced Ann Richards that I had to watch several times. The Bush on this tape was almost unrecognizable—and not just because he looked different from the figure we are accustomed to in the White House. He was younger, thinner, with much darker hair and a more eager yet less swaggering carriage than he has now. But the real difference was the way he sounded.

This Bush was eloquent. He spoke quickly and easily. He rattled off complicated sentences and brought them to the right grammatical conclusions. He mishandled a word or two ("million" when he clearly meant "billion"; "stole" when he meant "sold"), but fewer than most people would in an hour's debate. More striking, he did not pause before forcing out big words, as he so often does now, or invent mangled new ones. "To lay out my juvenile-justice plan in a minute and a half is a hard task, but I will try to do so," he said fluidly and with a smile midway through the debate, before beginning to list his principles.

Seriously, it's like watching a different individual.

Unfortunately the overlay text from the 1994 video covers his jaw most of the time, but I'm reasonably certain he doesn't do one clench (there's a kind of a squint associated with it, and I watched for that, too). There's video from the Bush-Kerry debate that shows at least one slight clench. The video finishes up with a lectern stand where he does one frickin' major clench and a couple smaller ones (and where one cheek seems to be relaxed and the other not, suggesting a cognitive or medicative cause). In some video -- the Oval Office meeting with the Japanese ambassador was particularly obvious to me -- he clearly has an "S"-shaped mouth.

This suggests a stroke.

Strokes sometimes lead to falls. George Bush has had an astonishing number of facial bruises in recent months, and that's not even counting the pretzel incident.
posted by dhartung at 12:11 AM on December 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Along with the 1994 vs. 2004 Bush comparison's, the possibility of stroke and/or substances:

I read some sort of seemingly reputable article, pre-2004, and I think it was related to or referenced by that "Travels with George" documentary.

Anyway, they describe this injected drug or cocktail that he was taking that was some sort of anti-anxiety, anti-nausea and motion sickness agent - like the now banned Maraziene(sp?) OTC motion sickness pill that was recalled due to people abusing it and flipping out and whatnot.

As a some sort of drug-curious hobbyist I tend to stay aware of most common drugs, and plenty of uncommon ones besides.

I'd never heard of this drug before. It was either a cocktail of anti-anxiety and anti-nausea medicines combined with a stimulant, or it was or was related to a stimulant itself, that had anti-anxiety and anti-nausea effects.

The article described it as a fairly routine thing for someone that travelled so much, but the article itself questioned questioned the safety of having a President that was essentially whacked out of his gourd almost all the time on intramuscularly injected psychoactives.

And I've been trying to find the article ever since. I even tried posting an anonymous AskMe months and months ago so I could link it with the 1994 vs. 2004 video and make an FPP out of it.

Does anyone have any idea what I'm referring to? As far as I can tell it just about vanished from the web.
posted by loquacious at 3:45 AM on December 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not to snark, but I think loq means "Journeys with George".
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:33 AM on December 8, 2005

Journeys with George, Travels with Charley, same diff.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:01 AM on December 8, 2005

He could be having sinus problems, I tend to pop my jaw around a lot when I have a cold due to chronic sinus infection problems. I've probably done the side-to-side thing a few times this morning due to congestion.
posted by mikeh at 7:52 AM on December 8, 2005

People with ill-fitting dental appliances (anything from crowns & bridges to dentures) will do this, too. If a dental appliance doesn't fit properly, the teeth don't naturally align when you close your mouth.
posted by headspace at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2005

All the anecdotes about sinuses and jaw popping are fine, but the fact remains he is doing these things while giving press conferences. In junior high choir, we had to suppress coughs and sneezes for the sake of the performance. I would think that the POTUS would be held to even higher standards than that. Therefore, I don't think it's a voluntary movement. At least, I hope if it was a voluntary thing, somebody would've told him to cut it out.
posted by Iamtherealme at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2005

The POTUS has excellent medical/dental coverage. There's no reason for a misaligned jaw or ill-filling dental appliance to go uncorrected so long.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:24 PM on December 8, 2005

Iamtherealme, I'm a singer too; I know what you mean about being appropriate for the venue. But when my jaw popped out (this isn't TMJ, by the way), I would have to pop it back right away, even if I was singing. Otherwise it'd keep sliding farther, and hurt like a bitch, and finally I'd have to do a big pop by opening my mouth all the way. (I'm glad this was all fixed by the time I started singing seriously.)

nakedcodemonkey, TMJ can't really be fixed, from what I understand, and my condition could only be fixed by very, very skillful application of braces while I was young. If Bush has the same thing I do, well, he's got good dentists even though he's not young -- but which is worse publicity? A President who's already thought to be immature wearing braces, or one frequently doing a small motion he probably thinks is discreet?
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:11 PM on December 8, 2005

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