Outside, the pale green Gulf of Mexico rolled languidly onto the brilliant white beach of this one-stoplight panhandle vacation town. Inside their beachfront cottage, behind closed blinds, Ann and Bill Dent had been intently watching since before breakfast, oblivious to the sun, their four chattering children and the dog.
"I think he's a convincing witness. You can tell he's really a Marine officer," said Ann Dent, 31, a college biology teacher from nearby Panama City. "He's definitely holding his own. He's been impressive."
The principal business here is relaxation, and the principal concern is the daily concentrations of seaweed and jellyfish in the water. Elsewhere along this stretch of coastline, vacationing Georgians, Alabamans and Louisianans said they did not plan to watch North's testimony.
New Orleans lawyer Brian Begue gazed over the ocean from under a beach canopy and reached into a cooler for a beer. The star witness "outclassed" congressional committee members, he said. "They're playing for the cameras, and he's playing for real. Time magazine will give me a weekly synopsis, so who needs television?"
At Doc's Seagrove Restaurant & Oyster Bar, the television was tuned to the hearings -- but no one was watching. "We didn't even have it on yesterday," waitress Denise Angelini said. "I didn't even know he was on until I got home from work. He has such a baby face, doesn't he? He looks so innocent."
The Dents have followed the hearings all summer and say they believe that North acted with "good intentions." But their vacation viewing has left them with a negative impression of Nields, the House counsel.
"Too emotionally involved," Ann Dent said. "He had pure hatred on his face."