This is the very worst kind of political reporting, from NBC’s First Read:
They really, really don’t like each other: In fact, almost all of the exchanges drove this point home: These candidates really don’t like each other. The two men constantly interrupted each other; they circled each other like prizefighters in the boxing ring; and they also even got into each other’s faces. Overall, last night showed that both Obama and Romney are fighters, but they also demonstrated the worst stereotype of why so many people hate politics.
C’mon, First Read: They’re acting! And part of the reason that politicians put on a show is because gullible reporters believe stuff like this. And stuff like, as other mind-reading reporters were telling us two weeks ago, Obama must not really want to be president after all because he had a bad night (or, for all we know, because he deliberately chose a low-key style).
Do Obama and Romney hate each other? I have no idea. We can’t get into their heads.
If we go a bit beyond that immediate question, what we do know is that debates, convention speeches, and absolutely everything else that top-level politicians do in public are rehearsed, deliberate performances. That’s not a bad thing at all. How they act is a kind of a promise to us of how they would act in office, and appears to actually constrain them if they get elected. In other words, it’s part of representation; one might argue that it’s as important a part of representation as issue promises.
But no, we don’t know what politicians are really thinking, and it’s a fool’s errand to try to read anything into their (rehearsed) body language other than that it may show how they are trying to present themselves.