Thursday's winning entry in the panicked interviewee category is Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), who is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves, on CNN's Paula Zahn Now.
Buyer was intent on reciting a carefully rehearsed statement about how John Kerry "desecrated" his uniform by not continuing the Cold War arms race after the Cold War ended. ("John Kerry wanted to cut the military farther than Bill Clinton," Buyer said. He did not mention that Donald Rumsfeld wants to cut it even further.)
Here's the winning moment:
BUYER: … But [Kerry] can't run on a war record when his true record is an anti-war record. It's long and consistent anti-military, anti-defense, anti-intelligence, anti-FBI throughout the — throughout his service in the United States Senate. That's what will be focused on, I think, in the presidential campaign, Paula.
ZAHN: Let me ask you this, sir. Do you think the Vietnam War was a just war?
BUYER: Do I believe it was a just war? I don't — no, I'm not going to answer that. I'm not going to answer that, because I was too young. And I'm not going to go back and try to relive the Vietnam era.
That transcript doesn't do the moment justice. Two hyphens cannot convey the full awkwardness of the moment and the look of Munchian screaming panic. A more accurate transcript would read something like:
BUYER: [eyes widen, pupils dilate, nostrils flare, he seems to have stopped breathing] Do I believe it was a just war? [beat … beat] I don't — [tick, tick, tick, tick — he is frozen, he is not moving at all — tick, tick] — no, [eyes roll toward the ceiling] I'm not going to answer that, I'm not going to answer that [now he semi-recovers, is looking at the camera again] And I'm not going to go back …
This was in response to a predictable question from slo-pitch interviewer Zahn.