But wasn’t McCain smiling?
“Yes, but you had to watch his eyebrows,” she said. “The eyebrows went down first, which is annoyance. Our immediate facial expressions usually show our real emotions. But then, when we realize it, we often cover up that emotion quickly. And we usually cover it up with a smile. The first expression is real. The second is the coverup.”
Reiman watched carefully and noted that, on every point — from bringing troops home from Afghanistan to gun control to admonishing lawmakers to stop the brinksmanship with sequestration — Obama kept his palms parallel or down. And that’s critical. For a country that tends to elect its leaders because they are tall, or because they look good, keeping the palms down shows you mean business and you are not someone to be messed with.
“When the palms are up, that’s a sign of weakness,” she said.
Obama jutted his chin up and out, she said, usually a sign of arrogance. “But that’s just the way Obama carries himself. That’s his baseline,” she said. And within the space of the first 15 minutes of the speech, he began to thrust his left elbow out repeatedly.
“Flaring your elbow is a power move. You’re trying to take up more space so you’ll come across as powerful. It’s like puffing out your chest. It tells people, ‘Hey, I’m bigger than you think I am,’ ” she said. “He does it so often, that when you watch his speeches in fast-forward, it looks really bizarre, like he’s doing the funky chicken.”
And what of Vice President Biden’s squinty eyes? And House Speaker John A. Boehner’s sour expression. And wait, was he sucking his teeth?
“Well, Biden was rubbing his eyes, so that may not mean anything other than he had something in his eyes. It looked like he had double pink eye,” Reiman said. “But Boehner’s facial expressions and smirks registered disgust and contempt. It was just the worst. You could see Obama try to counteract that at the end with a kind of tug-of-war handshake.”
A sign, perhaps, she said, of things to come.