Lessons Learned from Watching the Presidential Debate–On Mute

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We’ve all heard the tale of how Richard Nixon looked pale and sickly in 1960, when he took part in the first televised presidential debate against sun-kissed John F. Kennedy. Since that fateful night, pundits have never let us forget that debates are as much about what the voters see as what the candidates say. The mannerisms. The facial expressions. The pallor of their skin. So while my colleagues were busy monitoring and analyzing the substance of last night’s remarks, I pressed the mute button and gave my full attention to the visual cues.

Luckily, I had some background on the issue. In the hours leading up to the debate, I learned all about the effects of tie colors from Fox News. “Blue softens an otherwise harsh personality,” said one pundit. “I think women like blue.” Obama came on stage wearing a blue tie, surely a ploy for the female vote. Romney, on the other hand, wore red—the power color, a sign of aggression. (He wore blue ties in the primary debates, leaving himself open to charges of sartorial flip-flopping.)

(PHOTOSPolitical Photos of the Week, Sept. 20-27)

Both men wore American flag lapel pins, though Romney’s was larger, which may mean he loves America more. Or perhaps that his presidency would involve more daring accessories. The overall optics were a far cry from the Kennedy-Nixon match-up. Both men appeared tall and svelte, with a little dignified silver lingering around their ears. Pretty presidential stuff.

The New York Times had previewed the candidates’ gestures, such as President’s Obama’s signature “waving a ball”—apparently a ploy to get people to embrace a belief—and Mitt Romney’s empathetic “tilt and nod.” These gestures made appearances. More notable was the size of their gestures. Obama’s arms were generally constrained, like someone bet him he couldn’t keep his hands inside of his shoulders. “You must be this tall to ride,” his hands said. “I caught a small fish that was this big.” Romney’s movements were sweeping and energetic; his favorite seemed to be a sort of reverse raise-the-roof. At this point I have no idea what anyone said, but this leads me to believe Romney told Obama to pump the brakes on many important policy issues.

From the start, Romney tried to make eye contact with Obama. He wagged his fingers, shook his head and smirked at the end of his statements, much like he did when he was being the adult during the Republican primary debates. He counted things, forcefully. Perhaps it was “brass,” as Bill Clinton might say, derived from the deep redness of his tie. Regardless, Romney appeared to be spoiling for a fight. Obama, meanwhile, seemed determined not to give him one. He preferred to direct his speeches to host Jim Lehrer, while Romney more often appealed directly to the camera. The President seemed calm but exasperated, like a parent having an argument with their kid for the hundredth time, determined not to lose his temper. He closed his eyes slowly, blinked often and lowered his head. He wasn’t mad; just disappointed.

Perhaps the most important lesson for me was that watching a presidential debate without the sound is a true test in dedication. Just for the record, I did not fall asleep—though I may or may not have eaten enough sugar to put an entire kindergarten class into a coma. My prediction is that the American voters who haven’t yet decided might think Obama seemed weary, where Romney–who has been remarkably unexciting during the campaign–appeared vigorous. But the big question, of course, is what will happen in the following two debates: What color ties will the candidates wear then?

MORE: Special GOP Issue: Party of No

88 comments
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Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Nixon-Kennedy debate made Kennedy popular overnight. In the same manner Romney became a hero of millions immediately after the debate. Team Obama’s aggressive

propaganda gave a bad picture of Romney -- that he is politically immature,

that he has poor knowledge of American economy and that he is a bumbler in

foreign policy. One liberal media financed by Islamists went to the extent of

saying that his mental ability is weak.  But viewers who are seeing Romney

on the stage for the first time were surprised to see a

dynamic leader, a leader of substance, of ideas and ideals

and with sound mental alertness By indulging in personal attacks and character

assassination, Team Obama and liberal media brainwashed American people by giving

a wrong image of Romney. So it was a real surprise for millions of Americans to

see a Romney with a vast knowledge of international affairs firm grip on

economic issues.  His practical ideas to save America from political

turmoil that we see today in the Middle East due to the inept handling of

foreign policy by Obama and his formula to redeem the country from deep

recession and mammoth unemployment, reminded the viewers that he is another

Reagan who can pull the country out of the current economic chaos and restore

the prestige of America in world affairs.

Kate Hannon
Kate Hannon

Normally I would have been glued to the TV, but I was on the road returning from a workshop. And, so I listened on NPR. But what I really wanted to know was: What do they look like? I called my sister to ask. Listening on the radio, Obama -- who I favor politically -- "sounded" like he was holding his own ground whereas Romney had an edge to his voice as he went on the attack. 

SOMFOM
SOMFOM

Hey mantisdragon91,

I noticed you never post an original thought. 

You are posting continuously. 

Do you have a job or are the taxpayers paying for your idol time?

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

THERE IS AN IMPOSTOR USING MY HANDLE AND PICTURE, THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS

THAT HE HAS AN UNDERSCORE BETWEEN BENEVOLENT AND LAWYER.  PLEASE

BEWARE.

sacredh
sacredh

Somebody did that to me too before we switched to DISQUS. They said some off the wall stuff and then left. It sounded like something I'd say so I just ignored it. The imposter you have is taking the opposite approach. I hope it gets sorted out BL.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Thanks Sacred. Do you know the right person to contact here about this sort of lunatic. I have been told it is the charlatan "Mildred Gillars" who indulges in this sort of insane acts. Do let me know if you have any idea of the proper contact for me to pen a complaint about this matter.

Cheers.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Thanks, I already reported to discuss but it might take them a little while to get back to me.

outsider2011
outsider2011

 You can flag - but if you look up disqus online, you can find the site and send an email directly to disqus.

Or you know, email Adam directly. He puts his email address under his profile.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Did you report to anyone? It is Midred Gillars and he should be thrown off this site. He is a nut job.

sacredh
sacredh

Outsider2011's options are your best bet. I didn't report mine because I got a laugh out of it, but your imposter isn't posting things even close to what you believe. I'd e-mail Adam or contact disqus like outsider said. maybe even email each writer that the other Bl posted on using your name.

peacock2828
peacock2828

Unless this is another imposter, trying to throw us off the trail!

(I'm kidding.  I know it's really you.)

sacredh
sacredh

How can you come back as someone else?

outsider2011
outsider2011

 Dave tends to do that when he gets annoyed with someone; and he was not getting along with BL this past week..

Amin Mohamed III
Amin Mohamed III

Seriously, there is nothing the president could do. Romney came out saying he will do everything the president is going to do (Pay for education, put money back into SS, reform healthcare, cut taxes for the middle class, provide for the unprivileged Americans , you name it...) but differently. When asked how differently and what are the specifics, he doesn't know. He lied so much you would not think he was the Rmoney who talked about the 47 % few weeks ago. He lied so much the president couldn't believe what he was hearing.

:-)

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

A few years ago red ties became a statement and every man wore one, especially politicians.  I have ever since watched for red ties as a sign of phoniness and other colors (except yellow, which also carries a statement) a sign of authenticity and independent thought. 

Obama rarely wears a red tie.  Most Republicans do.

Same with the criticism of Obama's pauses and uhs, you knows, etc.  He's sharing real thought, not following a script like Romney.

bebo
bebo

Katy.  Go back to high school journalism.  Your observations, even on "mute", are ridiculous and bias.  Maybe you should stick to "What I Did Last Summer"  Why is this in TIME magazine?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Is it in TIME magazine or is it on a political blog sponsored by TIME magazine? Check the print edition when it comes out.

Rachael Paige Kreitz
Rachael Paige Kreitz

Of course Romney was wearing a red tie and Obama a blue.  They're going to remind people which party they represent every chance they get.

SOMFOM
SOMFOM

What you saw in Obama (while muted) was a man without principle and without confidence in his own rhetoric. With nothing more than worn out sound bites and slogans he was defeated before the debate began. He knew what was coming and there was nothing he could do about it. Why? Because he has no core. He is a fabrication of a man, a mirage if you will. He might be the worst president of all time which says a lot about where America is today.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Yes worst president of all time... in the eyes of the party that would like to take us back to the 50's, redistribute wealth to the top 1% percent and restrict women's rights on pay and reproduction.

SOMFOM
SOMFOM

The 50's might have been the best decade in American history with the exception of the Korean war. You'll never know how beautiful America can be because obviously you have been formed by the current counter culture. Like I said, nothing but sound bites and slogans. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Sure if you were a white man. For minorities, people of alternative lifestyles or religions not so much. Thankfully those days of bigotry are never coming back. Deal with it or move elsewhere.

Diecash1
Diecash1

 

The 50's might have been the best decade in American history

Yeah, except for that whole "separate but equal" thing.  Other than that, it was nirvana.

Jordan Lawrence
Jordan Lawrence

Don't forget the part of wanting to nuke our enemies, shove grandma over the cliff, kill all minorities, re-institute slavery, stone to death all homosexuals, restrict women to the bedroom amp; the kitchen, ship ALL jobs overseas, impose draconian spending cuts to benefit their plutocratic allies, make the poor poorer amp; the rich richer, force all students to pay for an education that only teaches bible studies amp; creationism, rape single liberal women amp; force them to keep the babies, imprison political dissenters, roll back miranda rights and protections amp; impose oligarchical power from the central authority.  The war on women, the war on immigrants, the war on minority rights, the war on gays, the war on free speech, the war on civil liberties, the war on the poor (note: I didn't say the war on poverty). 

Did I miss any of your essential talking points about those evil conservatives? Any memes we need to further explore? Please, can you now define and defend President Obama's record? He seemed unwilling or unable to do so himself, so I turn to my learned friend mantis on the time.com blogs for his all powerful knowledge of the issues. The floor is yours my friend...

SOMFOM
SOMFOM

You missed one...the war on mother earth. LOL

Diecash1
Diecash1

 The "your" in mantis' statement (to which you're referring) refers to SOMFOM's obvious right-wing affiliation, not yours, Jordan.

Jordan Lawrence
Jordan Lawrence

You are mistaken, friend. Where did I claim any party affiliation? Where did I absolve Republicans of their hand in things? Where did I do any of those things? I didn't. Assumptions are nice. Comforting, like a warm blanket on a crisp fall evening, or coffee on a winters morn, but ultimately as useful as a wet fart. But go on, tell me more about my assumed political affiliations... it is easier than defending President Obama's record... A pesky thing to be sure. If only he could run on hope amp; change again- then the seas would stop rising, the world would know absolute peace, every American would be lifted up and prosperous, and we could commence adding his likeness to Mt. Rushmore.

By the way, I encourage you to google Gary Johnson. Democrats amp; Republicans seem to be convinced they have all the answers, yet they exclude half the voices. Keep it classy, guy. Keep it classy.  

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Thanks Jordan,

You may have exaggerated things a tad, but the point has been made. The one part you may want to mention is the brass it takes to complain that a president isn't doing a fast enough job of cleaning up the mess your parties policies have created.