Watching the Second Presidential Debate–With the Sound Off

As my colleagues listened to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's town hall debate Tuesday night, I pushed the mute button once again and prepared to determine a champion based on pantomime alone.

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Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney participate in the second presidential debate at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, Oct. 16, 2012.

In the first ever town hall-style debate between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, a single visual cue changed history: Bush looked down at his watch while an audience member asked a question, which is about as taboo as having pizza delivered on stage. So as my colleagues listened to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney‘s town hall debate Tuesday night, I pushed the mute button once again and prepared to determine a champion based on pantomime alone.

Both candidates were all smiles as they entered. In a reversal from their first meeting, Obama wore the fighter’s red tie this time. Romney wore the placid blue, slightly askew. The President gave someone a playful little finger wave, the kind you employ when you’re greeting an adorable toddler or saying “too-da-loo.” (One hopes this was directed at his wife Michelle, or perhaps an undecided toddler in the audience.) Both candidates took to their stools with equally casual one-foot-up perches as moderator Candy Crowley turned the proceedings over to the voters in the hall–the most poker-faced group of people this side of Johnny Chan.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 5–11)

As in the first debate, the candidates diverged in the size of their gestures. Romney was an aircraft marshal, all arm sweeps and emphatic push-downs; Obama was much more contained, his movements smaller and softer. This dynamic had favored Romney when they were behind lecterns. Not so in the town hall. Where Obama had looked tired, he now seemed calm and composed. Where Romney had seemed energetic, he now looked over-the-top and a little condescending, like he was trying to teach kids how to play slow-pitch softball.

From the outset, Romney directly addressed Obama. And this time, Obama gave Romney the business, too. He interrupted his opponent; he shook his head and smirked during Romney’s responses, rather than staring at his notes like they were Magic Eye illusions. Obama more often addressed the broader audience. He confidently ambled toward Crowley as she introduced the questioners. He smiled. He laughed. At one point, I’m pretty sure he even winked at someone. That outrageous flirt almost made me think he was not having a terrible time.

Of course, the best parts were the intermittent showdowns. Early on Obama responded to what I can only assume was a rhetorical question from Romney. A back-and-forth ensued, and Romney gave up his microphone first. The next time, Romney took on Obama and the President retreated to his chair. Meanwhile, both of them kept pointing at “that crazy guy with his crazy ideas” while they explained their positions to voters. Crowley repeatedly got in the middle of things, sometimes sending the candidates to their seats like chided boys. At one point they both looked at her and, in close proximity, pointed at one another in perfect “he did it” synchronicity; if there’s a photo of that, it’ll be one for the front pages.

While Romney was talking, I was occasionally distracted by Obama’s eye flutters. Was it windy in there? Is he secretly battling glaucoma? For his sake, I certainly hope he’s not allergic to uncommitted voters. As the evening went on, I noticed Romney’s blink-rate betraying a sense of nervousness, too. For the next round of debate prep, I’d recommend a good chunk of time devoted to power-staring for both candidates, ideally at photographs of each other looking very serious.

This time there were no closing arguments. The final town hall questioner got his answers and the debate ended. Obama immediately turned to a voter and shook his hand, while Romney greeted his wife Ann. As the stream of Romney sons came forward to surround their father, Obama amassed a group of undecided voters around him. In silence at least, the second presidential debate seemed a feisty one, and the President looked like the winner.

67 comments
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b l
b l

I find it interesting that Romney and Obama agree on what Obama wants to do, they just disagree on the outcomes that would result.

But Obama is worlds apart from Romney on what Romney wants to do.

And yet, somehow, Obama thinks that he knows better.

***

You not being a fish yourself,” said Huei, “how can you know the happiness of the fish?”             “I am the Obama,"  the Obama said.  "Of course I know these things."

Pollopa
Pollopa

Everybody knows Romney's 5 point plan. I and every economist knows it won't work to balace the budget, or improve my middle class family standing. 

You seem to act like our President knows everything? He hasn't claimed that, though I can say that for sure he knows the life of a middle class person that Romney has never lived. Knows the life of a single mom trying to make ends meet, something Romney has never known. Knows the struggle of a minority to make it in the world, something Romney has never known. I could go on for much more showing that our President will definitely have more empathy and understanding of what it takes to build the middle class than Romney will ever know.  So unless you are in the 1%, you will only hurt yourself by voting for any republican.

Remember Bush was a business man as well.  Where did his administration leave our economy?  I am definitely better off now than I was 4 years ago when the recession hit.

Alex Alam
Alex Alam

Mr. President you saved this nation big time. The political system we have, without congress you did excellent. This time you will get congress and 4more year. Lets go forward. 

marisombra
marisombra

Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler The O-man, Barack Hussein Obama, is an eloquently tailored empty suit. No resume, no accomplishments, no experience, no original ideas, no understanding of how the economy works, no understanding of how the world works, no balls, nothing but abstract, empty rhetoric devoid of real substance. He has no real identity. He is half-white, which he rejects. The rest of him is mostly Arab, which he hides but is disclosed by his non-African Arabic surname and his Arabic first and middle names as a way to triply proclaim his Arabic parentage to people in Kenya . Only a small part of him is African Black from his Luo grandmother, which he pretends he is exclusively. What he isn't, not a genetic drop of, is 'African-American,' the descendant of enslaved Africans brought to America chained in slave ships. He hasn't a single ancestor who was a slave. Instead, his Arab ancestors were slave owners. Slave-trading was the main Arab business in East Africa for centuries until the British ended it. Let that sink in: Obama is not the descendant of slaves, he is the descendant of slave owners. Thus he makes the perfect Liberal Messiah. It's something Hillary doesn't understand - how some complete neophyte came out of the blue and stole the Dem nomination from her. Obamamania is beyond politics and reason. It is a true religious cult, whose adherents reject Christianity yet still believe in Original Sin, transferring it from the evil of being human to the evil of being white. Thus Obama has become the white liberals' Christ, offering absolution from the Sin of Being White. There is no reason or logic behind it, no faults or flaws of his can diminish it, no arguments Hillary could make of any kind can be effective against it. The absurdity of Hypocrisy Clothed In Human Flesh being their Savior is all the more cause for liberals to worship him: Credo quia absurdum, I believe it because it is absurd. Thank heavens that the voting majority of Americans remain Christian and are in no desperate need of a phony savior. His candidacy is ridiculous and should not be taken seriously by any thinking American.PASS THIS ON TO EVERY THINKING AMERICAN YOU KNOW !!  Anyone who pulls out the race card is desperate...just ask Stacey Dash, Condi Rice, Allen West, LL Cool J, Dwayne Johnson, Fifty Cent, James Earl jones, Coln Powell etc.

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

Moderator only allows liberal comments I see.  All of mine removed.  I'm sharing this on facebook.

Pollopa
Pollopa

Karen -

I'd love to debate you on all the posts you've made here, but it would obviously be a waste of time. I just went through this blog, and find you insane. Posting it on Facebook will insure others will see how crazy you are with the republican label attached to you, so please post.  You may try twitter and a few other blogs to post on as well.  Get the word out that the small tent the republicans have erected does include crazy people, you all need any help you can get.

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

You guys saw what you wanted to see.  Obama is losing in November.  He has proven his incompetence for four years. In the debate he looked angry and unpresidential again, calling Mr. Romney a liar, rather than trying to refute him with facts.....but facts are not his strong suit because if they were he would have to talk about his abbysmal record. 

TriciaMcMillan
TriciaMcMillan

Romney let Obama get under his skin much more than Obama let Romney get under his. Plus, Obama was able to move past whatever irritations he felt more quickly and easily than Romney was able. Romney often looked like he was sucking on lemons as he sat, waited, and listened to Obama's responses, while Obama looked calm and cool as he waited for Romney to finish his responses. Neither guy looked at each other as they walked past each other. Whenever Romney had to follow-up on Obama's responses, he looked puffy, injured, sometimes sweaty, and often slouched -- it was clear Obama got under his skin. Whenever Romney had to respond to a voter first, he looked much better. Obama looked the same whether he was following-up on a response from Romney or was taking a question from the audience.

elotrolado
elotrolado

Nice analysis.  I thought Romney looked like he was going to go over and strangle Obama.  He often fumed and had a condescending look on his face.  Obama seemed relaxed, confident, and at ease with the audience while Romney seemed like he was always trying too hard to get what always remained out of his reach.

Joe
Joe

Sadly, the content of these debates has gotten so canned and predictable that you really don't miss anything if you don't have the sound on. The "winner" is determined by how they gestured and what they looked line. Meaningful discourse is dead. Very sad!

Potter89
Potter89

Well, there is definitely no bias here. And I don't know about the rest of people, but I can't seem to figure out which way you'd vote.

Simon Nella
Simon Nella

Romney and the GOP can all burn in hell. The GOP unabashedly said from the beginning that it would thwart any attempt to reach a consensus with the Obama administration even if it harmed America. TRAITORS to America!

jjdoe
jjdoe

I did this too, half watching while I surfed. I thought Romney's head looked like it was about to explode, often.  When did I start listening? When  I noticed Romney pointing his finger at Obama, and Obama getting up off his chair to get in his face. Hmmm - this looks interesting@rafaelrobyns:disqus ...

Of course, I always find Romney so insincere. And as much as I wish Obama would stand up to congress (an impossible job, with the R's in lockstep), I know Romney would be terrible for this country! Really - this is the best they can do???

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

So you half watched but you are on here pontificating......wow, just wow.  And 13 other idiots agree with you because they are half watching too.  If you had been watching all the way for the last four years you would see that your guy is a boob.  Watch the polls All the way.  The American people are a waking up.  You will see in November.

David Strapko
David Strapko

I watched it on mute while listening to "Dark Side of the Moon" !

Simon Nella
Simon Nella

Romney's one-point plan for the wealthy: 

Listen you 47 percent loafers... I can create jobs, cut taxes, make the wealthy even wealthier, increase defense spending and balance the budget without showing you the numbers. That should be good enough for you because I'm such a "great" businessman. Just vote for me. I know what's best for you losers. 

Really? Think again,  rich D-BAG.

boonteetan
boonteetan

The debate has been vague, sometimes superfluous, other times inconsequential. Both appear to be losers, but one will turn out a winner in November. US is being dragged down by the two-party system, it needs a strong third party to check and balance, now.  (vzc1943, btt1943)

drjackbrown
drjackbrown

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2152: 

Second Presidential Debate - 16 October 2012 - 

Barack Obama's Duping Delight - 

Benghazi, Libya Attack was an "Act of Terror" - 

Alpha, Beta, Confidence amp; Acquiescence ....

http://www.bodylanguagesuccess...

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

How many times during the debate was Mitt asked to explain how his economic policies would magically work, and he always resorted to "I have a 5 point plan, and I have the experience to make it work."  He must have said that at least three times.

Make WHAT work, Mitt?  Let's say we accept your claim that you have the experience to make it work.  That makes you even more dangerous.  You refuse to tell us WHAT you are going to "make work", but you're assuring us that you can make this unknown thing work.  Frankly if I have no idea what you're going to make work, I'd much rather know you can't make it work.

In the 2000 Bush v. Gore debates, Bush said his tax cuts would be deficit neutral.

In the 2012 Obama v. Romney debates, Romney is saying his tax cuts would be deficit neutral.

What about the deficit, Mitt?  Your tax cuts are "deficit neutral"?  So why bother?  Wouldn't it be better to eliminate all the deductions you want to eliminate for the wealthy, but NOT lower their tax rate?  Wouldn't that be "deficit improving" rather than "deficit neutral"?  Don't you keep saying we need to reduce the deficit?  Why is your plan only "deficit neutral"?

And what's up with Medicare, Mitt?  You say you want to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher system, but yet that doesn't do anything about the cost unless you short-change everyone on the vouchers.  So then you say, we'll cut back voucher benefits for the wealthy.  Okay, so why do we need vouchers?  Why not just cut back benefits for the wealthy and not destroy Medicare?  Sure seems like we'd end up with the same result.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

The visual I most noticed was when Obama called Romney out on politicizing Libya ("that's offensive"), and he stared at Willard the entire time. Not the audience, not Crowley, only Willard. It was personal, and he was pissed.

And I loved it.

TriciaMcMillan
TriciaMcMillan

That exchange fundamentally changed my view of Obama. He was always the nice guy with the bright eyes and the big ideas -- the guy who dreams big and wants to make the world a better place. But when he was pissed, and he flashed those blazing eyes at Mitt, he turned into Barack the Osama-killer. He looked like he really meant it when he said he will do whatever it takes to protect this country, and you challenge him at your own risk.

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

HE didn't kill Osama.  It's offensive to us veterans that he takes credit for this.  He is a pencil necked geek, face it.

0369MSgtUSMC
0369MSgtUSMC

Us veterans know that the President of the United States is also the Commander in Chief of ALL armed forces as well. Our boss! You are allowed your opinions warrior but don't use your so-called veteran status to validate disrespectful comments. Carry on!

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

I think Romney was actually left entirely flat-footed when Obama refused to play the typical politician, and Obama out-right took responsibility for Libya.  Romney, being nothing but a hollow politician, was completely unprepared for that.  Standing up at a debate and honestly taking responsibility wasn't something Romney could ever envision himself doing.  That isn't even unique to Romney.  MOST politicians from either side of the aisle never would have had the maturity to do what Obama did.

The highest marks all night from the CNN "dial meters" came when Obama did that.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

I may actually have cheered when Obama did that. And you're right, I can't remember the last time a politician did that, much less a president. It's certainly not something I can see Romney doing. He just doesn't have the character for it.

Marie Billano Stratas
Marie Billano Stratas

yes, Pres. Obama was seething as he defended  his team (Hilary amp; Susan Rice) amp; called Romney's attack "offensive". It was the best put-down of Romney.

puppycat77
puppycat77

Not sure how Obama won this one. All I noticed before I fell asleep was that Obama was on the defensive and trying to show his bad ass side. Just because he got mad does not mean he won. Obama in the first debate looked like he did not want to be there and needed a cup of coffee. Last night, it looks like someone called a fight after school and he wanted to look like the tough guy. TOUGH GUY DOES NOT EQUAL ANOTHER TERM

Ob1Sage
Ob1Sage

The Pres won hands down. Romney was lost with his attacks which the Pres parried many times. Pres also took Willard to task about Benghazi. Willard is not used to being questioned and challenged and his CEO demeanor showed. 

OBAMA '12

TriciaMcMillan
TriciaMcMillan

I thought the exact same thing -- Mitt doesn't take criticism from his opponents well.

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

Are you kidding me?  Obama looked like a red faced mad man, just as Biden did. 

Maryofthehills
Maryofthehills

A picture is worth a thousand words. The fact that Obama stuck around to chat with the people, shows he is not afraid of the people. That picture of him a couple months ago, of him getting bear hugged by a guy in a pizza shop, says a million words, Obama had a huge grin on his face. He was not the least bit, shocked or scared or taken aback by the fact that a stranger picked him up. Romney would have been freaked out. He would not have known what to do. I want a president who would not be freaked out talking to me. Obama adores people. It is evident everytime he is in a crowd. He is invigorated. Romney always looks like he is just trying to hurry up, talk to the commener, then get back to his office so he doesn't have to be around the filthy masses of dirty people.  

ERenger
ERenger

I watched with sound on, of course, but there were some visually interesting sequences. One of the most visually striking moments was when Romney thought he had caught Obama on whether he had called the Libya attack an act of terror in the Rose Garden speech. Romney repeats the statement Obama had made in a questioning tone, and then he locks eyes and kind of raises his eyebrows to ask if that was statement was right. This is right before he makes his own statement that Crowley corrects him on. That little exchange and the way he used his eyes and expressions reminded me so much of an A-hole CEO trying to dominate someone in a tense business meeting. I thought it was completely off-putting, and I was so glad it backfired on him. 

km4candles
km4candles

What you do not understand is that Crowley has now come out and said that Romney was technically correct.  Obama lied again.  And what the author of this article did not mention was the fact that Romeny did stay afterward and talk to the audience.  My friend was in the audience and had her picture made with Romney.  So again this author only tells one side of the story.

Marie Billano Stratas
Marie Billano Stratas

How true, Romney's look amp; eyebrow lift challenging Obama (over the statement in the Rose Garden) was godawful insulting. Romney was signaling to Obama he'll regret the outcome. Romney was so sure that he had Pres. Obama cornered and he was going to deliver the coup de grace amp; Pres. Obama will be disgraced. It wa reminiscent of a court room drama when Pres. Obama said "Please proceed governor" and boom bam Romney was lost.

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

Ummmm.....how do I put this delicately ...HE LIED, and so did Candy Crowley. The proof is all over the news and internet.  Definitely gonna come back to haunt him.  Actually it already has.  Have you seen the latest Gallup poll results.  Americans hate it when someone thinks that we are too stupid to see through their lies.  His fatal mistake is that the Benghazi incident wasn't that long ago.  Granted, Americans have very short memores, but not that short!

Francisco Neto
Francisco Neto

Karen, He did not lie. The proof IS all over the internet that Obama DID in fact say it. What TV channel are you watching? And not only that, but ALL OVER the INTERNET, they are showing proof that Obama mentioned it was an act of terror more than 3 times And he did IN FACT mention it for the next 2 days. Obama does not have to repeat what he said. Actually he only had to say it once and it was at the Rose Garden. That is the only important place that matters. Romney was lost and not only that Obama showed Romney that he still is the Commander in Chief and it gave that silent moment that Obama Showed that he was BIG, the President of the United States of America, and made the Governor Romney really small. Obama is the boss and made America proud. Romney is not even close to where Obama is, and he does not even have a job. Romney has not had a job for a while now. All he does is try to run for something. Must be nice to be living off investments, and then try to compare himself to 98% of Americans who has no idea how it is to be THAT rich.

Romney wakes up, all he has to do is run for presidency. Obama IS the PRESIDENT while running for presidency. And winning.

Feliciene
Feliciene

 Crowley should be ashame of herself because she was wrong amp; said so afterwards.  Why can't we ever have a moderate moderator who can actually be fair amp; not so visibly support Obama.  MSM is no longer trusted amp; for good reason.   Why are all the moderators far left.  If you can't find a moderate, at least,  get one conservative. 

Joann Verre
Joann Verre

exactly what kind of a half assed retard are you?  not only did Crowley NOT say she was wrong (because she wasn't)...the video tape of the president saying it was a terrorist attack has been playing non stop....i do believe repube heads have been exploding all day because they were so sur thay had a "gotcha" moment..they never expected to be factchecked and PROVEN WRONG in front of millions of people. if you would take your head out of your ass..not only will you get some fresh air.....that might help to not be SO ignorant, lying and stupid.

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

Yes, the poor little kid in the sandbox is cussing now.  Every discussion I hve with liberals ends this way because it's the only thing they have to fall back on.  I guess they just aren't that smart.

CenturionFalcon
CenturionFalcon

Because finding moderators that can't read, write, do math, or tell the truth are not what the public want that is why.  We already had a past President who could do none of the above, and Obama has had to deal with the results of that the last four years!

Karen Shines
Karen Shines

"Centrion Falcon", lol.....if he got four more years to flounder around would he still blame Bush.  9/11 could have been blamed on Clinton's flaccid responses to numerous terror threatsprior to that day.  But he didn't get blamed now did he?  Liberals are big cry babies, that's all there is to it. 

ShawnLa
ShawnLa

 She did not say she was wrong afterwards, that is an outright lie.

km4candles
km4candles

Do you not read or listen to anything other than CNN??  It's all over other newspapers and news channels that she has come out and said that technically Mitt was correct.  Take off your rose colored glasses of Obama and actually look at reality.  Besides that why did Crowley just happen to have the transcript out there to look at??  And how did Obama know that she had the transcript when he looked right at her and said "check the transcript Candy"?  Explain that please.

CenturionFalcon
CenturionFalcon

Well said ShawnLa, but speaking truth to a republican, is like banging your head against a wall.

mike0404
mike0404

I have been in business meetings where this happens.  A CEO will stare at you and walk up to you to try an intimidate you.

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

Yes.  Me, too.  Same business situations.  People try to play little head games.  It doesn't work when your first reaction is "this guy is trying to play little head games with me."  It only works on the weak minded who don't realize the games are being played on them.

I prefer to use mental karate. Find the other person's weakness, then exploit it. A lot of CEOs (not all) have over-sized egos they can't keep under complete control. You can get a whole lot done by stroking the egos of some CEOs. I've been a consultant on and off during career. Learning to stroke the egos of CEOs makes it easier to extract more money out of their wallets.

TriciaMcMillan
TriciaMcMillan

Yeah, I'd noticed that before. Another interesting technique is to get them to think your idea is really their idea while your stroking their egos. It may deny you credit of coming up with the idea, but at least you'll have the satisfaction of having it implemented.

Feliciene
Feliciene

 Union guys just slug you  that is worse.

Smeagel4T
Smeagel4T

A lot of union bosses do tend more toward physical intimidation.  While I don't approve, I find it more honest than what top executives will often try.